At the start of your career, the best way to advance and succeed isn’t always clear. You may be talented at your chosen profession, but you’re still unproven to your boss, colleagues, and industry, which makes it incumbent on you to approach your career growth strategically.
Here are four steps that can smooth your trajectory to the top.
Find a Mentor
Meeting and exceeding career goals usually doesn’t “just happen”—it’s a process that builds over time (or doesn’t) depending on your choices and actions.
One of the most prudent professional decisions you can make early in your career is to benefit from key workplace relationships with people who know more and may be willing to help you out. In particular, intentionally finding and forging business relationships with a mentor can help you achieve success in your company and industry. A mentor is a senior-level colleague who agrees to coach and advise you on issues in your job, company, and industry.
Sean Nguyen, Director of Internet Advisor, explained that when he first started out in the world of online work, he found it quite daunting—he didn’t know where to start, how to manage his time effectively, or even what jobs to look out for. A mentor changed that for him.
“Luckily, when I found my first online job, the CEO of the small business was willing to mentor me and help me to grow my knowledge and skills,” Nguyen said. “I used the knowledge that he taught me to improve not only in that company but in all the other businesses that I ended up working for.”
Seek Sponsors and Other Advocates
While many are familiar with the concept of mentors, sponsors and advocates can be even more instrumental to your career growth.
Sponsors and other advocates are generally even more invested in your career progression than mentors are. They use their own executive connections to help open doors for you while also helping to promote your strengths to others in the organization to create new opportunities.
Sondra Sutton Phung, Marketing General Manager at Ford Motor Company, recommends that young professionals secure a well-respected advocate, which she explains is very different from a mentor. “Advocates must believe in you enough to break down barriers that will inevitably exist in a large corporation,” said Sutton Phung.
Join a Career-Related Community
In addition to the individual relationships you create early in your career with senior-level mentors, sponsors, and other advocates, finding a community of like-minded professionals at different levels of their career can help fuel your own growth more quickly—while helping you enjoy the process more too.
“It’s really difficult to grow your career if you’re off on an island by yourself—you need other people and they need you,” said Jo Harris, a Conversion Copywriter and Business Coach who has over a decade of experience as a remote digital marketer.
One of the easiest ways to seek a professional community is to join an online group that caters to your industry, either through a social media site like LinkedIn or Facebook, or through industry-specific associations and organizations.
Apply Your Passion
Having the best advocates and community in the world won’t advance your career if you don’t do your part to excel. Sponsors will only want to recommend you if you stand out as exceptional, and colleagues in your professional community won’t think of you for opportunities if you come across as bored or negative about your work life.
“However tempting it may be with remote work, forget about quiet quitting and doing the bare minimum,” advised Nathan Brunner, CEO at Salarship, a job search engine for candidates who want to find low-competition employment opportunities. “Pay some time to research the industry and be aware of its latest changes. Take extra time and extra projects, if it’s possible. Remember that good things never come easy, and hard work always pays off.”
Brunner believes that another smart thing you can do to grow your career is to find something you’re truly passionate about. “If you don’t love what you are doing, you will never be able to work at your full potential,” Brunner concluded.
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