How to Decide Your Next Career Step

by Jeriann Watkins Ireland | February 26, 2018

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Many employees eventually reach a point where they know they don’t want to stay where they are, but they’re not sure exactly what they want for the next step in their career. Below are some options for moving up in your professional life and steps to take in making advancement-related career decisions.

Moving Up at Your Current Company

If you generally enjoy your job and work environment, but just want more challenging work, higher pay, or more responsibilities, moving up at your current company is likely your best option. Here are a couple of tips for optimally positioning yourself for advancements:

  • Make sure you’re meeting all your performance metrics, showing up on time, and reliably communicating with your direct coworkers.
  • Volunteer for special projects and offer help when it is needed/asked for.
  • Take measurable steps to show improvement and dedication, like taking industry training classes, learning shortcuts for software you use in your job, and attending industry learning events.
  • Make sure you and your bosses know exactly how you’re performing and what your expectations are.
  • Talk with your direct supervisor about your aspirations within the company.
  • Apply for internal positions. The more familiar HR is with you, the higher the likelihood you’ll be thought of when a fitting position comes along.
  • Propose new positions that fill company needs. This won’t guarantee you’ll get these positions, or even that they’ll be created, but it will show you’re thinking about the big picture and the future of the company.

Moving Up in Your Field

Maybe you love your job, but you don’t love your current work environment, or there is no path for advancement. Here are some steps for obtaining a higher position within your field:

  • Build up a portfolio of impressive work.
  • Cultivate positive references familiar with the details of your work.
  • Network with industry professionals.
  • Keep an eye on the job market and apply for jobs even if you don’t know if they’re a perfect fit. Putting yourself out there is the only way to build connections and figure out what you want.

Going Back to School

If you’re looking to move up in your field, you’ll need to make sure you have the qualifications. For some fields, experience outweighs all, but in others, moving up is very difficult without proof of formal education. You’ll want to analyze your own field and advancement potential and decide if further education is worth it for you.

If you do decide to pursue further education, you’ll want to be strategic in how you do so. Think about what positions you want and what degrees are required for those titles. Knowing the difference between common degrees in a certain field is vital to make sure you’re learning the right information and earning the correct credentials.

You should also see if you can get the education you need with shorter term training programs, industry workshops, and other individual learning methods. This could be faster, more customizable to your needs, and more affordable. But it could also be taken less seriously by potential employers, so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons for your specific situation. 

Starting a Company of Your Own 

For some people, reaching the top means starting their own business. Before you take the leap, though, you’ll want to make sure you have a nuanced view of your industry and that you’ve been able to learn from others in the field — both from their successes and their failures. You’ll also want to make sure your background and accomplishments are reputable and impressive enough to attract clients and customers. Starting a business is a big commitment — financially, regarding time, and in the effects it has on your lifestyle, but for some people, it’s the true definition of success. If you’re one of those people, you should go for it; just do so strategically and without rose-tinted glasses about how great it will be to be your own boss.


Filed Under: Job Search | Workplace Issues

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