A business career can go in many directions. You may choose to focus on human resources, marketing, management, or in one of the many other different aspects of a business. There are many skills and tasks needed for a business to run smoothly and flourish. Some people start with a general idea of the area they want to specialize in, while others find themselves following a particular path by accident. Regardless of the area of expertise you want to focus on, there are several concrete steps you can take that allow you to continue to move up the corporate ladder throughout your career.
Earn Your Degree
It is possible to get a job working for a business without a college degree, but you are likely to find yourself limited in how far you can advance when you do so. For example, you may get hired as a receptionist with no degree, but moving into the position of executive assistant may be a challenge. To prevent the frustration that comes along with watching others advance while you remain stagnate, earn your degree. If financial considerations have held you back so far, you should know there are a variety of options available to pay for school. In addition to grants and federal loans, there are private student loans that allow you to cover the cost of school plus any living expenses that you need to be covered while earning your degree.
Build a Strong Network
You must develop relationships with others, both inside and outside of the company where you work. Having a large network allows you to get in touch if you find yourself unemployed or unable to secure a promotion you feel qualified for. One of the most effective ways of climbing the corporate ladder is by switching jobs. The unfortunate fact is, you often find yourself shoehorned into a particular role in your existing company. It can be difficult to push against that idea when a job opens up. Instead, looking outside your company may provide the best chance of advancement.
Create a Plan for Yourself
It is difficult to make progress if you don’t have a clear idea of what that looks like. Someone who is training for a marathon follows a plan that tells them how long and how fast to run each day as they prepare for their race. They don’t just get up each day and run if they feel like it and sleep in if they don’t. Likewise, if you want to continue making progress in your career, you need to take a look at where you are currently, and where you want to be, and determine what you need to do to close the gap between those two places. Your plan will likely include several steps and cover years’ worth of progress, but understanding the career trajectory, and then determining any specific skills you need to improve to make progress, is an important step. You can expect to update this plan regularly, so don’t consider it set in stone. Instead, consider it a guideline. Before you make any major decisions, take some time to consider whether the outcome will bring you closer to your goal.
Never Stop Learning
There are certain skills you will need to continue on your path to success. No one expects you to have upper-level skills on your first day on the job. Your mistake would be to assume you will intuitively pick up any skills you need. While you can expect to naturally improve in areas where you hold responsibility, just due to repetition, there will always be skills that you need to invest focused time in to learn. These skills can be everything from abstract, such as becoming more comfortable speaking in front of groups, to more concrete, such as becoming a wiz when working with spreadsheets. The important thing is, you will need to recognize the skills you need to learn and invest real time and effort to do so. This may mean working on personal time, but investing this time early in your career can pay dividends later. There are many online options that allow you to develop the skills you need on your own time and at your own pace.
Volunteer for New Experiences
You will not have time to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, but you should take a second before saying no. You don’t want to become the go-to person for grunt work duties, however saying yes to the opportunity to take on additional opportunities that allow you to learn new skills and demonstrate your value can be worth the time commitment. It is also important to stay up to date on new methods of doing common tasks. Once you become proficient in working a certain way, it is tempting to resist a new way of doing so. If you plan to continue up the corporate ladder, you want to have a reputation as someone ready to learn and is quick to pick up on new technologies. Resisting change does not translate well to being a leader or a progressive member of your team.