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Having a fulfilling career can be an important part of a happy life. Steady career growth can give you more resources, greater benefits and a sense of accomplishment. If you're passionate about advancing your career, understanding how to do so in a step-by-step manner may be useful. 

In this article, we discuss what career advancement is and offer a guide for how to advance in your career in 10 simple steps.

What is career advancement?

Career advancement refers to when someone uses their skills and resources to reach career goals and enter more challenging positions. There are many ways that you can advance your career. You can:

  • Pursue promotions within the same company

  • Advance to more prestigious companies or roles by applying every few years

  • Build skills and expertise to start your own business 

  • Become an industry expert

You can build your career in a wide range of industries, from manufacturing to human resources.

Read more: What Is Career Advancement? Definition and Examples

How to advance in your career

Regardless of what your career path looks like, here are 10 helpful steps you can take to grow in your career:


1. Determine what success looks like to you

Everyone has a different image of what success looks like. Some people are aiming for a C-Suite position, while others are looking for a position that gives them a flexible schedule and emphasizes a balance between work and personal life. When you're trying to envision what success looks like to you, consider the following:

  • What your core values are and what jobs embody and foster those values

  • What work expectations are a good fit for your lifestyle

  • Which skills and interests you consider most valuable

  • Where you might like to work

  • How many hours per week you'd like to work

Related: How To Be Successful: The Ultimate Guide


2. Set a long-term goal

Once you have an idea of what success is to you, you can determine your end goal. This is the long-term goal you can use to build a career plan. You might write down your long-term goal and prepare to keep track of your progress. You can also discuss your vision of success with a career counselor, who may then advise you on which long-term career goals to pursue. 

Read more: FAQ: Why Is Career Goal Setting Important? (Plus Examples)


3. Research career paths

After determining your long-term career goal, you can research the corresponding career path. Consider reading about the careers of individuals you consider successful in your ideal field. You can also look up job advertisements for your dream role and read through the list of requirements. Specifically, you can look at:

  • Job experience

  • Educational credentials

  • Required skills

Related: How To Choose the Right Career Path for You in 9 Steps


4. Connect with a mentor

A mentor can offer you many benefits. They can be important guides to helping you understand your industry and can be invaluable for advice. Mentors can help you:

  • Recognize your strengths and overcome challenges

  • Revise your career path as you go

  • Find resources and references

  • Provide motivation for career growth

You can find a mentor through professional organizations, connecting with supervisors or other senior colleagues, building a relationship with instructors or through a networking platform.

Read more: How to Find a Mentor in 5 Steps


5. Pursue education

If your long-term career goals require more education than you've already completed, you can pursue your educational goals alongside your professional goals. These can help you become a capable senior-level professional. You can earn credentials in several ways. Each industry has its own standards, so it may be helpful to look at job postings or ask a mentor what credentials work best for your goals. Here are a few ways you can build credentials for career advancement:

Related: Learning Styles for Career Development


6. Volunteer for leadership opportunities

Looking for leadership opportunities can be a great way to advance in your career. Regardless of the industry in which you work, your manager may look for individuals who show leadership skills and prioritize them for promotions and other advancement opportunities. Engaging with leadership opportunities can also help prepare you for management or other senior-level roles later in your career. 

Related: How To Become a Strong Leader in 10 Steps


7. Build a strong network

It may be helpful to develop professional relationships with other people who work in your field or industry. A strong network can:

  • Give you many contacts for finding career opportunities, sharing information and curating professional references

  • Help you stay up to date on the latest trends in your industry

  • Provide insight into individual companies, which may give you an advantage when applying for new roles

There are a few ways you can build your network. You can join a professional organization and attend official functions with people in your field, such as conferences and luncheons. This helps you focus your networking on your industry. You can also join social media groups and pages to connect with people outside of your immediate area. There are also organizations that host more general networking events, which allows you to develop a broader range of contacts.

Related: The Complete Guide to Networking


8. Perform an informational interview

Informational interviews can be a great opportunity to learn more about how to advance your career and make important industry connections at the same time. You can contact a professional whose career you'd like to emulate and ask if they'd be willing to have a conversation on the phone or in person. Before you meet, consider making a list of questions to ask, including the following:

  • Why did you decide to pursue this career?

  • How did you get your current job?

  • What is your favorite thing about your current job? Your least favorite thing?

  • If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?

  • What skills are most important for your job?

  • Do you have any advice for me?

Read more: A Complete Guide to Informational Interviews


9. Communicate with your manager

It can be helpful to share your career goals with your manager. Once they know what you'd like to do in the long term, they may be able to help you by offering projects or clients that relate. If you're doing well at work, they may also prioritize you for promotions or other career development opportunities to help you achieve your goals.  


Related: How to Set Professional Goals for Career Advancement

10. Continue building skills and knowledge

Regardless of the point you're at in your career, it's helpful to continue building skills and credentials. This can help you keep up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies. It can also help you develop into the most effective professional version of yourself. 

Depending on your field and goals, you might develop the following:

  • Management skills

  • Software knowledge 

  • Organizational techniques 

  • Presentation skills

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Project management

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