Pushing your career further is the best way to make your own path. In today’s world, you cannot rely on the old method of working for one company and hoping for promotions to get you to your dream job. You need to show initiative and adaptability, and you need to have a robust network. This means you need to constantly challenge yourself, improve yourself, and be willing to try new things.
Being ambitious alone isn’t enough anymore because very few employers are going to recognize that ambition and reward you for it. You need to repeatedly put your skills and expertise out there and then work for the highest bidder. Not only will this introduce you to the biggest brands, but it will also help you challenge your approach so that you can adapt and grow again and again until you’re finally in a role that works for you.
In some cases, you may want to work your way up into an executive-level role. In other instances, you may want to break away and start your own business. Some may find their dream job in a mid-level position that lets them focus on their unique skillset.
There isn’t a right or wrong dream job. That’s entirely up to you. The only requirements you should be considering are:
- What you want to do with your day
- What skills you want to use in your work
- What interests you’re passionate about
- What salary you’re happy to work for
At the end of the day, it will all boil down to your priorities. For those who want to earn the highest possible wage, your options are going to be about working towards executive-level roles, frequently negotiating salary (even if that means changing jobs), and, of course, constantly reaffirming your skillset. For those whose goal is to find a job they’re passionate about, exploring your options and establishing your skillset that you can then market to employers will be your best approach.
You need to consistently evolve, and you can do that by using these tips:
Commit to Ongoing Learning and Development
Life is a river, and if you don’t constantly learn and expand your skillset, you’ll sink to the bottom like a rock. You may be steady, but your career and industry are steadily passing you by. You’ll be stuck in your role and won’t be able to move forward.
Know When You've Stopped Learning on the Job
Every new role has a learning curve. There is a difference, however, between finally getting comfortable in a role and no longer having anything new to learn. In the first instance, you’re getting used to the workflow and what your employer expects out of you. In the second one, you’ve exhausted all the options to actually expand beyond your current job.
If your employer cannot offer you any way to improve or advance, it’s time to move on. This means they cannot offer you a promotion, a raise, or new training opportunities so that you can continue to push your expertise.
It’s okay to outgrow a company, but the trick is to notice when you have and to make the leap to a new opportunity when the time comes. It can be scary to make a leap, but if you don’t, it will only be harder to move forward.
Constantly Reevaluate Your Dream Job
There are more roles out there than you know exist, and that will always remain true. For your career’s sake, it’s important to dream job hunt. This means going to the job boards or your favorite companies that you would like to work for and exploring the roles out there. You won’t yet be able to get these jobs, but that’s okay. The goal right now is to familiarize yourself with the roles and what they entail.
Not only can this help you learn more about your options, but it’s also a good way to keep track of the experience and skills you’ll need to one day get this dream job. That way, you can direct your career with more intention and can also invest in any academic or skills-based training that will help you get the role in question.
When You Should Earn a Degree
When it comes to taking your training and education into your own hands, one of the best options today is to earn a degree. Online education really advanced during the pandemic thanks to international lockdowns. This means there have been massive investments and improvements to the online education platform and plenty of testers to iron out the kinks.
For working professionals today, online degrees have become the new go-to way to further their careers. Not every role demands a degree, yes, but if you:
- Want to expand your skillset
- Are looking to retrain in a different role or field
- Want to match or exceed your peers
- Need it to earn the necessary license
- Want to earn a master’s degree
Then earning a degree is a worthwhile investment. For most, you’ll want to consider a degree when you are changing tracks. Most of the upwards progression in business is going to be in management. You’ll have an existing skillset that then needs to be propped up with key business skills to help you advance your career.
That’s why many professionals earn MBAs. MBAs can help prepare those who have hit the ceiling with their existing skillset by expanding their foundation to include business and management.
When it comes to investigating online MBAs, however, you do need to be careful. There are many institutions out there that amount to nothing more than a diploma mill. You aren’t there for the diploma – you’re there for the education.
That’s why it’s best to find a top AASCB accredited degree. AASCB stands for the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. They audit programs to ensure that the faculty, resources, and curriculum are all up to standard. Only around 5% of business schools around the world hold accreditation from this institution, which just goes to show you how easy it is to accidentally enroll in a sub-par program.
Looking for that accreditation can help ensure you get a good education, especially when looking online. When you learn more about what an AASCB accredited online MBA can offer, you’ll start to notice that level of commitment in everything from the resources you have (like a student success coach) all the way to who is on the faculty (business experts and highly regarded academics).
Other Learning Tools to Consider
Learning comes in all shapes and sizes. Watching the news is learning; reading industry-relevant magazines, books, academic articles, and reports are all ways you can directly learn and improve your career. You don’t need to force yourself to remember everything you read (or listen) to, either. Instead, make it regular. Important information will undoubtedly repeat from one publication to the next, so you can naturally absorb the information while consistently challenging yourself to expand your knowledge base.
Expand Your Employer Base
Furthering your career by investing in learning and training is a must, but it isn’t the only way to move forwards and up. You will also need to change jobs. Work until you have maxed out learning opportunities and/or promotions, and then find a new employer.
Employer jumping like this is not only good for giving you new training and learning opportunities, but it’s also how you’ll move to the upper end of the salary range. Employers know they won’t likely be able to hire you for less than you earned previously, so you can continually push your wage higher through negotiation.
Not only can you increase your wage, but you’ll also establish a robust network that you can then use to keep an eye out for new and exciting career opportunities.
Establish Your Personal Brand
Starting today, you need to start working on your personal and professional brand.
Start with an Audit
Every single person needs to search for themselves online and audit their digital presence. This is what employers will see, what clients will see, investors, and anyone else who wants to look you up. Look up your name and a few other related keywords if you don’t have a unique name, and see just what pops up on social media and search engines.
If it isn’t something you’d want your employer to see, then get rid of it. At minimum, put your private accounts on private, though you will also want to go a step further and change your name to a fake, or at least a misspelled version, so that people cannot find your personal accounts and link them to your professional profile.
Consider How You Want to Present Yourself
The next step is to actively build up a winning professional profile. You may want to create social media accounts with the intention of managing them as your professional self. These could be informative profiles or just a way to keep your network connected to you naturally.
On top of social media, you’ll also want to go through any job page that you’re on and update your resume, CV, about section, and even photo. Keeping professional profiles like this updated is important, as employers and recruiters are always on the lookout.
From there, it depends on how much effort you want to put into becoming a thought leader. If you commit to a lifelong learning approach to push your career, this can be a natural way to prove your initiative and knowledge. Share information, even if it’s just a tweet, create articles, produce short-form informative videos, and so on. All of these will help showcase your passion for the industry and your understanding of key concepts.
If you manage to grow a following, then know you have options. You can take your career independently and work as a consultant or freelancer or start your own business. You can also leverage that audience as a way to get more impressive job opportunities. After all, not only have you established yourself as a leading figure in your field, but you’ve also proven your ability to market, produce content, teach, and manage an online community.
Don't Be Afraid to Backtrack
There is no shame in going back to earn another degree or retraining in order to put yourself on a different career path. You won’t ever start from scratch; you’ll only ever expand your skillset and make yourself more valuable in the workforce than you were before. It’s also unreasonable to assume that you’ll get it right the first time. Most people get started on their career path just by chance. They apply blindly for that first job that will take them and then create their own career based on their options from there.
If you find that you don’t like your options, then you’ll need to take a proactive step to retrain and redirect. Changing careers doesn’t have to be terrifying. You can look for the same role in a different field, a different job in the same industry, or even go for something entirely different and use your retraining and transferable skills to help you get started.
Regardless of the approach, know it will be worthwhile. As you spend a lot of time working, if you aren’t feeling fulfilled in your career, that will be a huge part of your life that you just don’t enjoy. You don’t have to love working, but you do need to feel content and fulfilled. If that isn’t what you’re getting from your current career options, then make the change. It’s scary, and the beginning will be a bit bumpy, but the result will almost always be worth it. If it isn’t, just try again!
Pushing your career forward means challenging not just your options and your skillset but yourself. Your needs and priorities may change, and you may discover a whole new career path you never knew existed. It is never too late to change careers, so long as you continue to invest in yourself.