15 Ways to Advance in Your Career in Times of Uncertainty

07 Sep

by: Remie Longbrake | published: Sept. 7, 2020

As many employers have cut back hours and staff to cope with the pandemic, employees are hanging on to an unknown situation while this plays out. While many businesses have faced a harsh reality, there are businesses who are advancing and evolving in these times. Just like businesses need to find solutions, so do we if we want to advance ourselves. Regardless of your specific situation, truth is, there can be no advancement for those who are in contraction. This is true everything, in any profession. While many people are facing uncertainty, that does not mean one should be reactive to the circumstances at hand.

So what can be done to take these challenges we all face and be able to come out stronger? First off we can’t rely on our employers for solutions to our problems. We need to take proactive steps that are oriented to help us move through these challenges. Employers have their own challenges and if it comes down to it, you are dispensable. That may be harsh to say, but reality is true, you are not safe, and the more difficult times become, the less safe you are when you place all your trust with an employer who must look after themselves first, not you.

These times may be unique with the specific hardships we face regarding this epidemic. The overall solution, however is the same. We must understand the big picture and what we need to accomplish and take action to advance our direction.

You can use these steps listed as a resource to advance yourself and come out stronger than before.

1. Develop a Strategy

We all need to determine what we want and self evaluate from time to time. To many of us go day to day within reason other then a paycheck and expect to advance without effort. Anything worthwhile takes effort, so first you need to determine if where you are at is meaningful for you. Times are challenging for many. 

Genuinely, most of us want to take our career to the next step. Before we do that, we must ensure that really what does that path look like. See things in the perspective of being in that new position, the responsibility, the conversations, the people impacted, those in your family, and of course yourself.

We all can do better by developing a game plan. This goes for everything in your life. When it comes to your career, what can you do to get to that dream position? Who is the person that you need to become, and what does the journey look like to get there?

I would recommend to take things a step at a time. Be resourceful and helpful and get your plan together so you can take concrete step to get where you want to be.

2. Continuing Education

No matter where you are in your educational journey, choosing to go back to school can have a tremendous impact on your career. Whether this means completing a degree, enrolling in a graduate program, or even just taking specific job skills to expand a tailored skill set, any effort you put into improving yourself and your knowledge will go a long way toward increasing your chances of advancement.

So why exactly do employers value education so highly? Companies are often looking to promote people they can invest in, who will grow with their company and become the types of employees that can actively fulfill the needs of the organization. Going back to school shows employers several qualities which make you ideal for advancement, including that you:

- Take ownership of your projects

- Are willing to work hard to achieve

- Place value on team work

- Continue to invest in yourself

Once you show an employer that you are willing to do what it takes to move up in your organization, including expanding your skill sets to better align with the career you aspire to have, they’ll begin to look at you as a prime candidate for more responsibility.

Whatever approach you choose to continue your education, making this type of investment in yourself is a great way to show your employer that you’re ready for advancement.

3. Invest in Your Abilities

Taking the time to develop the qualities valued by employers will help you advance more quickly in your role.  Work on improving your “soft skills,” such as communication and writing, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities, as well as more general qualities that make an employee easy to trust, work with, and rely on.

One way to improve these skills is by earning a bachelor’s degree. According to a 2018 Harvard study, nearly half (47 percent) of seniors said their college experience contributed ‘very much’ to their critical and analytical thinking abilities.

However, a university setting is not the only place you can hone these essential abilities. You can actually work on improving these skills from the comfort of your own desk, as long as you know how to. 

4. Be Observant

If you’re looking to develop your soft skills, your best classroom may actually be your existing workspace. Look to leaders on your team and observe how they handle conflict, organization, and prioritization of tasks.

Also, consider observing your colleagues’ daily practices and learning from how they deal with conflicts, problems, or success in the office. If you’re looking to become better at inter-office communication, for instance, pay extra attention to the format and style of the emails you receive from coworkers daily. Or, if you’re hoping to become a better problem solver, pay close attention to issues that your colleagues—or, even more beneficially, those who currently work in the role you wish to advance to—face daily, and the methods they use to overcome them.

5. Ask Questions

If you still find yourself struggling to understand someone’s thought process or tactical approach to resolving a problem, ask them about it. As long as you do so from a place of kindness, respect, and a genuine desire to understand and improve in your work, they will likely appreciate that you noticed and acknowledged their successful resolution of the problem, and may willingly share their approach.

When asking questions to leaders, always be sure that the inquiry is appropriately within the scope of your role. As long as you do that, your leader will likely both answer your question and positively note your observation and interest in understanding something new. Asking questions demonstrates your desire to learn and improve—qualities you’ll want them to remember when considering candidates for future advancement opportunities.

6. Get Involved

Take steps to get more involved at work. You can do this in a number of ways. One way is to not stay so reserved, talk with your co-worker, share insights on assignments and be resourceful to help each other excel. At meetings, however they happen, ask questions, share your perceptive and feedback.

If there are any after work clubs or events, see how you can get involved. If there is not much happening, see what it would take to start something that could be helpful to others.

The key is to be associated with wanting to make a difference. Your co workers and leadership will take notice.

7. Develop Your Leadership Skills

Employers promote or grant new career opportunities to workers who have shown they can handle being a leader because the higher you move up in an organization, the more people you will likely have to oversee. For this reason, one of the best approaches you can take to set yourself up for career advancement is to embrace and hone the tactics successful leaders utilize.

Some adult learners acquire these coveted skills by earning a degree in leadership or take classes on speaking. This is a popular option for professionals who already have some work experience, as these programs can provide leadership insights specific to the industry in which they work. Making such a major investment to improve your leadership skills will prepare you for a more advanced role while also demonstrating the effort you’re willing to put in to qualify yourself for such a position.

For those that are not interested in completing a full leadership degree, however, there are ways to embrace leadership from within your organization to show your employers that you have what it takes to thrive. Many leaders are collaborative, inspiring, and inclusive—all qualities you can work on within yourself as a team member even before getting the opportunity to apply them as a leader.

Successful leaders also are known for making their own opportunities. Join a new team or committee within your organization, or take it upon yourself to identify a part of your company that doesn’t have proper leadership, and volunteer to assemble a group to oversee it. Even simply spearheading the organization of the company holiday party or volunteering to help organize a company outing can go a long way in showing your employer how well you handle leadership responsibilities.

8. Network

Having a strong professional network in place is vital in today’s society, where 85% of jobs are filled through networking (U.S. Labor of Statistics, 2018). The common misconception about the practice of connecting with others in your industry, however, is that its purpose is limited to helping you land a new role.

In reality, your network can provide you with much more than that. By staying connected to others in your field, you are opening yourself up to many opportunities to improve yourself as an employee which can, in turn, help advance your career.

Some of the most common benefits of a strong network are:

The exposure to other like-minded individuals who share common professional goals

The ability to stay on top of changing industry trends

The opportunity to attend and learn from industry-relevant events  

The introduction to potential future employers, colleagues, and mentors

9. Find A Mentor

When it comes to networking, one of the most beneficial outcomes is the development of a relationship with a mentor. A mentor is someone who can guide you through your career, provide you with advice, insight, and feedback on your professional decisions and work, and help to set you up for success in the future.

A mentor will likely be someone who has already been through the stage in their career that you are currently in or are about to enter. If you’re lucky, your mentor will be in the same industry as you are, although that is not mandatory for them to be impactful. The only factors that are mandatory when picking a mentor are that they’re open to your questions, knowledgeable of the industry you’re in, and understand what you’re trying to accomplish in your career.

From a career advancement perspective, there are unmatchable benefits to having someone with this type of insight who can help you structure a plan to move up at work. If your mentor happens to be someone above you in your own organization, there are even more potential benefits, the most substantial of which is having someone on the inside who can speak for your career goals, as well as all the steps you have taken to properly prepare yourself for advancement.

10. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you’ve invested the time and energy to prepare yourself to move up in your career and there still don’t seem to be any opportunities on the horizon, it may be time to step outside of your comfort zone to implement real change.

Consider making a bold move like going back to school, applying for a role at a different company with more advancement opportunities, or even simply working up the courage to ask your boss how you can put yourself on the fast track for a promotion. No matter what you do, choosing to take control of your future in this way is the first step toward achieving the career you aspire to have.

11. Take on Challenging Projects

Part of bringing your full passionate self to work is to look for opportunities where you can take charge and be of value. Look for projects that are really meaty that some people might shy away from because of their substance or length.

Instead of focusing on the industry or the job title, focus on the problem that you want to solve and look for insights from a variety of sources. Most problems these days are best approached with a multiviewed perspective. Coming at them from a different angle can be quite valuable in the market.

Everyone likes a self-starter. Many skills, like communication and project-management, are also relevant to almost every industry. Having a few successful projects under your belt can only benefit you when you go for your next interview, particularly if there is a way of quantifying your success.

12. Put systems in place

If you want to get ahead, you need some structure. This depends on the person, but generally the more busy a person becomes, the more important it is to stay on task. I like a calendar, such a Google, because it’s on my phone, I need notifications, and I know what’s going on day to day. Some people are not tech savvy and that’s okay, but we need a schedule of some sort. That certainly can be paper if need be.

What you put on your schedule is just as important though. Don’t waste time, schedule your entire day. Get routines in place, from first waking up to dusk. Figure out what works for you and stick with it. In your career, schedule appointments in advance and give appointment the time they need. If you find yourself spending hours on end with endless talk, say something. Don’t waste time. Too many companies set up all these meetings with very little purpose other then review numbers again. Keep it to what matters, bring in dialog when needed, then get back to work.

13. Be the Go-to person

Some people are behind the screens type, and that’s okay to a point. Ultimately, if your going to advance your career you need to be the person others can count on. This goes along with adding value to others, but takes it to the next step, by being the resource. This can be in a certain quality which you may need to identify first. What is it that people tend to come to you for? The easy others is the job that you do already, but can you niche this down? Are you good at research or convincing others perhaps. These are skills that do add value, and over time you can develop into the go-to person in this area. Truth is if you’re always working behind the screen, your not standing out, and it’s going to make advancing more difficult.

You may need to practice, even outside of your job requirements to get noticed. If your working remote, ask questions during the meeting, nominate yourself to take on additional work. These same tips apply where ever you are in reality. If your unemployed, again talk with people, volunteer, get involved. If may not always be doing what you enjoy, but by putting in the work, you will be making a difference.

14. Manage Your Time

The importance of time management is fundamental to getting ahead. This starts from the beginning of our day. Most of us have a routine in place, but that doesn’t mean that it works well.

We want to start of our day with positivity. Exercising, reading, listening to podcasts, journalling, whatever it is that will pump you up, get you excite and ready to tackle the day. For those with kids, this could mean waking up before them and getting this accomplished. Don’t hit snooze, you want good energy that will carry you forward. Get a schedule in place, allow yourself to cross off tasks and events as they occur for positive reinforcement. If you need help scheduling your day, use a calender through your email or on your phone, these are a great resource to help keep you on point.

It’s important to schedule time for you however, even schedule your break as you can. Take time to refresh and allow yourself time to process the day.

15. Self-evaluate

Figure out where you wanna be and see where you wanna go. Most of us want to advance, improve our living standards, our family connections and ultimately make more money and have more impact. This is a multi-step process, but it is starts with understanding what you are about and what opportunities you can maximize on. Each day take time to highlight the good and the negative aspects. Communicate with your spouse, your boss, your coworkers and try to match what you want with you you need to become. Accept advice and possibly some criticism along the way. Don’t judge yourself based off past experiences, no do you want to judge others for theirs.

You can evaluate better by taking notes throughout the day, I like to carry a small notepad and if an idea comes to mind or a conversation that had merit, I will take a few notes. At night, it can be valuable to reflect further, how did the day transpire. What can I improve upon and who can I become to better myself and others. This all starts by having the end picture in mind, because it’s hard to evaluate anything without direction. So get clear on the career you want, the people you can help and determine a plan that is meaningful to your goals.

In Closing

We hope these steps help you improve your journey in your career. Even in time of uncertainty, we can take certain, proactive steps to find purpose in our career and continue to strive for progress. Reality is, there is always uncertainty. The best we can do is to get clear on what is important and take action. If we can assist you in your journey and career advancement please let us know, we are happy to help!

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