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How To Move Up the Career Ladder

Tips for growing in your field

If you're starting a new job, you might do well to think about it not just as a job, but as a step in your career. What's the difference? With a good job, the work may be interesting or pleasant and the pay good enough. But a career is something different. A career is a profession for which you develop skills and at which you progress over a period of time, perhaps in several different jobs, with increasing expertise and compensation. Thinking in terms of career rather than job, you probably want to advance from your entry-level position. Here are some tips to help you do that.

Mirror your company's priorities. If your company is moving in a new direction — let's say, starting to prioritize growing online sales over growth of retail outlets in strip malls — would you rather be working on scouting store locations or building brand awareness through social media? The example shows that you're not the only one thinking strategically. Your company has its own plan, and understanding that plan can help you direct your efforts wisely.

Network. When you were engaged in your job search, you probably did some networking. You let people know you were seeking employment, and you talked with them about your background and education. One of those conversations may have even started you on the path to your current position. Networking remains just as important now that you've entered the world of work. That colleague working beside you on a project now may someday be in position to hire you or recommend you for your dream job. Work hard, play nice, make connections!

Think sideways. Let's imagine for a moment that you've advanced as far as you can in your department. Your boss isn't leaving anytime soon and you're on the highest currently-available rung of your career ladder. It might be time to move sideways, that is, take a job at the same pay level but in another department where you can grow.

Accept challenges. When you take on difficult assignments — say, as project lead for a big new product rollout — you get a chance to grow your skills, and to show decision-makers that you're ready for advancement. There's some risk here, of course. What if it doesn't go well? Don't grab for more responsibility than you're ready to handle. Even so, stretching yourself is a good way to mature, and to make sure you're a strong candidate when new opportunities arise.

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