How to Manage Your Career and Advance Professionally

No matter what profession or industry you’re in, most of us want to transition into a new role eventually — and it doesn’t always mean jumping ship to another company. Perhaps it’s taking on a higher leadership role or transitioning into another department. Either way, advancing ourselves professionally is something many of us aspire to do.

However, that’s where a lot of the thinking stops. We want to become the manager or work in marketing instead of sales, but we don’t do much to make it happen. For instance, let’s say you want to be a designer. To advance in the proper way, you need to know the basics: UX Design, Front End Code, branding, etc. In short, you have to know what you’re doing. The reality is, if in the next 18 months you want to be at a certain level, you have to take steps to get there because no one is going to do it for you. That is all career management is. That’s what going to get you somewhere and that’s what going to advance your career.

If we look at the career landscape today, career management is not all about execution alone. It’s a lot of talk, a lot of promises, and perhaps a lot of wishing. However, how you manage and perform today will determine your professional life five, 10, maybe even 15 years from now. You can dream all you want, but you have to get in gear at some point.

So, what are you doing about it? How are you managing your career to ensure you advance? Check out these suggestions and start moving forward!

Have the goal in mind. It’s always important to know where your career is going. It doesn’t have to be as specific as “Director of Design,” but you should still have a general idea of where you’d like to be, as well as a realistic timeframe. This will allow you to work towards something that’s personally fulfilling, not blindly towards a goal that may or may not be of interest to you.

Look around your organization. What dream team or department would you like to be in? Would you like to work on certain projects other teams are working on? Would you like to be more customer facing? Would you like more creativity in your group? Do you think you can make an impact in social media, marketing, project, or client services? Then start building relationships in those groups.

Figure out how to get there. If we continue with our example of aspiring to be the Director of Design, you may have to have certain things before you can even be considered for the role. You may need another degree. The field could require a certain number of years in a certain position. You may even have to learn programs that you’ve never even heard of.

Speak to folks who have this role today, this position, and ask them how they would get there today. Would they take a different path? Would they avoid getting a degree? They generally can recommend a couple of shortcuts in your path. Reach out to them. Join several LinkedIn Groups, follow discussions of this type of position and participate in the community discussions. Posting a question on Quora or in a LinkedIn group is often one of the best ways to get from point A to B. By figuring out what needs to be done on your end, you start to manage the way your career will eventually pan out. Plus, who knows, maybe learning code is really not your thing. Or maybe you’ll really dig it. Either way, you have to comprehend the work that needs to be done in order to reach the goal… only then will you be able to achieve it.

Tell a story. Once you’ve nabbed the degree or learned the programs, you, of course, need to pitch yourself to an employer or a new hiring manager in your organization. Here’s where career management comes in full swing. See, a potential employer doesn’t know the goals you’ve achieved, programs you know, people who have endorsed you, or how fast you can complete an objective. Managing your career with an online portfolio shows an employer what you can do for them and also advances your professional brand.

Good luck!