3 Tips to Manage Your Career Progression

September 27, 2012

Do you let life just happen to you? Or do you grab the bull by the horns and make life happen?

How you answer those two questions will often determine how you attack your career progression. If your career isn’t going anywhere is it really just a bad job market or are you not doing anything on your end to propel your career forward?

How to Intentionally Manage Your Career Progression

Don’t let your career years burn by without owning part of the process. Yes, you’ll need some luck and good timing along the way. But sitting back and letting your career happen to you is not an option if you want to continue to grow. Here are three tips to help you keep your career on track:

1. Have a destination in mind.

First, you need to have a destination in mind. For some people this means they know they want to be in “X” position at “Y” firm at “Z” date.

But that’s a little specific for my taste. You wanted to be a firefighter when you grew up. Guess what? Things change. Picking out a specific position 20 years in the future is a bit of a stretch.

But aimlessly wandering through the career desert is a poor choice too. Have some short, mid, and long-term goals. Know what type of work you want to be doing in a few years and where you’d like to be in five more years. Your goals will guide you along your decision making process as you take ownership of your career path.

2. Network with others along the way.

Now that you have a general idea of which direction you would like to go, it is time to meet some fellow travelers that are headed down that same path.

There’s a career proverb out there you should pay attention to: it’s not how much you know, it’s who you know.

The bottom line is you can have all the skills in the world, but if no one knows you then your career path will be stunted in comparison to what it could have been.

Go to conferences, user group meetings, or lectures. Shake hands and come back again. And again. You’ll slowly develop a group of professional contacts that you can start to grow closer with.

But I would be remiss to mention networking without mentioning one critical aspect of it . . . .

3. Provide value to your network.

When I say shake hands and meet people, I don’t mean shake hands and kiss babies in the sleezy politician kind of way. That type of networking is transparent and your insincerity will be evident to everyone you meet.

No, proper networking has a key word in it: work.

Being a strong member of your own network requires work. It requires reaching out, follow up, and – gasp – caring!

Here’s the thing: If you never provide any value to your network you should never expect it to provide any value to you. The best networkers are those that meet people, learn about them, and let the other person talk. Then the networker helps that person in the network connect to another or simply provides some guidance on an issue.

Rinse and repeat . . . for months!

If you’re constantly giving out to your network you are building up intangible connections and goodwill with other individuals. Just like you shouldn’t wait until you are laid off to update your resume, you shouldn’t build your network the moment you need it. You want to cultivate your network over time so that when you do need it, it springs forward to help.

Bottom Line

Aimlessly coasting through your career won’t get you very far. Be proactive, engaged, and beneficial to others and you’ll find success along the way.


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Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Discover Bank, ING Direct, and many others.

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