Career advancement, on the surface, seems like a relatively easy task when thinking about what you want to do for the rest of your life. In actuality, it is much more difficult to decide what you want to do and make it a reality.

Many factors come into play as you maneuver through your career. What you may perceive to be your career when you first set out can quickly change, often to an industry or position you never thought you would consider, let alone enjoy.

When I first graduated from college, my initial goal was to become a public school teacher; a noble profession, no doubt. Circumstances dictated otherwise, and I ended up working as a registration clerk in a hospital emergency room. A worthy job, but not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Fast forward 20 years, and I am an IT Help Desk Manager. How did this happen–very carefully!!

Find a Career you Enjoy

What you want to do in your twenties may not be the same as what you want to do in your thirties or forties. Life presents many opportunities, and how you react to them can make a huge difference in how your career plays out.

Once you find a career you enjoy, run with it. Don’t be afraid to take a risk in order to move forward. The more you enjoy what you are doing, the more likely you will achieve your goals. Your enjoyment level will also have a positive effect on other aspects of your life.

Make advancement a second act of your career; enjoy it and strive for continuous improvement. Do not rest on your laurels, as success yesterday does not guarantee success today. In this day and age of “what have you done for me lately”, you have to continue to invest in yourself and demonstrate your value to the organization.

Manage Your Career 

Even if you do not desire to climb the corporate ladder, you must still manage your career.  Keep up with trends in your chosen industry, lest you fall behind your co-workers and peers.  Set a career goal and pursue it.  Then, set a new goal and pursue it.

Share your career goals with your superiors, and ask for guidance on how to advance.  Show off your accomplishments–whether it’s positive feedback from a customer, attaining a professional certification, acquiring a new skill, or something else.  As Dolly Parton once said, “If you don’t toot your own horn, ain’t nobody gonna know you’re coming.”

Steps for Career Advancement

Once you have established career advancement goals, how do you get started? Like most everything in life, it takes hard work, dedication, and desire. To acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience needed, you may engage in one or more of the following activities:

  • Training – Training can be formal, as in a classroom or online setting, or informal, as in a gathering of co-workers or peers. Many organizations reimburse for formal training and allow training to occur during normal work hours. Informal training with peers can provide significant insight into the knowledge and skills needed to advance within your current organization. Do not pass up any opportunities to participate in training that helps you achieve your career goals.
  • Initiative – Initiative refers to acting without being asked to act. Each day there are opportunities to take initiative, i.e. help in an emergency, participate on a committee, offer process improvements, or volunteer without expecting any special recognition. Do not be afraid to take initiative.  People will take notice.
  • Network – Join professional organizations, attend after-hours industry events, and meet others in your organization to grow your network. These connections can be potential sources for career advancement. You never know who knows who and can introduce you to someone who can help to advance your career.
  • Dress for Success—Appearance can impact your career path so dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Appearance includes not only attire, but grooming, hygiene, and body markings.  Be mindful of the affect piercings and tattoos can have on your career. I have tattoos strategically placed so they cover easily when I dress for work.

If someone had told me twenty-some years ago that I would work in IT management, I would have laughed.  Yet, here I am, an IT Help Desk Manager, writing about career advancement.  The opportunity presented itself, and I took a risk to try something I had never considered before.  I found I had a passion for IT and have taken every opportunity to continue to advance in the IT industry.

Sometimes you have to take a leap. Go forth, find your passion, and enjoy the career of your dreams.