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5 Essential Career Advancement Tips to Reach Your Goal

19th January 2023

What is Career Advancement?

Career advancement can be defined as the act of using your skill set as an employee to achieve targets and work towards specific goals to acquire extra responsibility, a pay rise or even a completely new job role.

There is no linear approach to career advancement, and no exhaustive rulebook; much of your experience and progression in your working life will be subject to factors like the type of industry you work in, your skill set and your attitude to learning.

Although it can feel impossible to achieve your dreams of climbing the career ladder, the journey towards career advancement can be very rewarding, and there can be a great opportunity to learn many important transferable skills along the way that can be relevant to a multitude of pathways across industries.

The most important thing to remember is that career advancement can happen at any time of life. If you’re new to an industry, and have just changed careers, there is always room for you to progress, and the importance of career advancement means that you’ll get the most from your experience within the industry you work in.

Here we explore some of the most innovative ways you can get ahead on your career progression to put you a step above your peers, and several steps closer to achieving your aspirations.

1. Enrol in a Distance Learning Course with ARU

Completing a distance learning course puts you at a significantly higher advantage than your peers for a number of reasons.

Not only does studying a course online mean that you can learn at your own pace from the comfort of your own home, but it also means that you can continue your career advancement in your workplace and simultaneously learn academic content relevant to your preferred industry, without having to worry about compromising your income, or reducing your contracted hours.

This is due to the format of the course, and the entirely flexible way in which you can learn at any time of the day, from any location. This puts the control of your learning back into your hands, meaning you no longer need to take a career sabbatical to complete a degree.

Whether your interests lie in our Early Childhood Studies BA (Hons), our Healthcare Management MSc, or our Sustainability MSc, we have a variety of courses to suit every aspiration. Some require existing experience, or knowledge of the field, but others are taught from beginner level, so you can learn about a brand new industry from scratch.

With excellent support from student services, and the opportunity to learn from professionals in your chosen field, it’s never been easier to look after your wellbeing while you’re studying. 

Support is available on campus for those local to the university, or online, and our employability service can assist you in finding a suitable role once you’ve graduated, helping you brush up your CV writing skills, and advice on all-important interview techniques. 

Your employer will likely be searching for qualities that include an excellent attitude, ability, and high quality academic ability, but they will also be looking for relevant industry experience, which UCAS highlights as being part of that proactive mindset that is so desirable to employers.

2. Volunteer for Extra Responsibilities

In most workplaces, volunteering for extra duties and responsibilities can help you a long way towards promotion, or even just a pay rise in your current role. 

Going above and beyond in your daily duties shows your employer that you are willing to work beyond your existing responsibilities, and this can also highlight other key qualities like teamwork and initiative. This will ultimately communicate your willingness to progress to your employer, but it may be wise to verbalise your intention to progress directly, as this keeps your employer accountable for helping you advance.

Depending on your role, there may be many extra responsibilities, and there also may be none. However, even if there are no additional duties available currently, it’s always a good idea to express your interest at trying something brand new. 

It’s also a good idea to keep track of any achievements, or experiences you have learned from your voluntary tasks, as this will help you to be prepared for any performance reviews you have, and can also be useful to pull in to use for example scenarios during a job interview.

Alternatively, you can also take on a volunteer role outside your paid employment in order to enhance your skills. 

For example, if you have aspirations towards working in a medical environment, you could volunteer some hours to sit with elderly patients in the local hospital. To find volunteer roles in your local area, you can use resources like DoIt, the UK’s largest volunteering database. 

3. Polish Your Personal Branding

Personal branding encompasses the impression you create as an employee in your personal demeanour, and your work ethic.

Creating an effective personal brand can help you to create a mind blowing impression on your current employer, and any future roles that you undertake later on in your development.

The most effective way to create a personal brand is to focus on your key message of what you want to bring to the business, and your working relationships. To achieve this, make sure that you’re delivering what is being required of you (and perhaps even beyond this), but with a niche twist that makes you stand out from your competitors.

Employers are also fans of consistency in excellence, and will frequently scout for employees who can give consistently excellent performance against all odds, so it may also be worth brushing up on your conflict resolution and crisis management skills.

This will give you the opportunity to discuss your experiences in any performance reviews, or job interviews. Include real-life examples if you can, as this will strengthen your ability to demonstrate your competence in dealing with circumstances beyond your control.

The key to successful personal branding is to envision it the same way as commercial branding; the process is just like the skill of selling a commercial product, except you are convincing an employer of your competence, knowledge and embodiment of the company values.

You may also wish to develop personal skills as well as those relating to business. By developing interpersonal skills, communication, leadership skills, and your organisational abilities, you’re much more likely to win a popularity contest by being a real team player. This will assist you further when de-escalating conflict and managing a crisis.

You can also use these skills to help you network within your industry, gleaning precious advice from more experienced individuals that can be essential to giving you the tools you need to make a speedy progression through the ranks. 

Getting to know others in the industry may also help you to make your achievements known more informally, which could help you to be scouted for a higher position.

4. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Stepping out of your comfort zone is arguably one of the first, and most significant steps towards success and career development. 

According to a survey by the British Heart Foundation, 55% of British people are stuck in their comfort zones, and 24% of people admitted that it had been a year since trying a new experience. It’s therefore easy to see how many find it terrifying to try new things, especially in the workplace, but with so many people afraid of change, this can be an area where you can learn to shine.

By leaving your comfort zone, you can maximise your potential in new areas, however uncomfortable it may initially seem to be attempting a skill that you may not be naturally gifted at, or drawn to. This is how you may discover a new love for something outside your area of interest, and perhaps even uncover brand new skills that you were unaware you had!

Stepping out of your comfort zone may also involve being open to receiving feedback on your performance. This is a process that many professionals can find particularly difficult, as it can involve making yourself vulnerable to feedback on areas you could improve on.

However, listening to feedback can be particularly helpful to your career development, as it can outline a path for improvement in areas you may not have been consciously aware you needed to improve, and it also demonstrates your ability to take constructive criticism, and transform it into an achievement over time.

Additionally, it can open up an opportunity for you to take on additional learning opportunities, or learn some new skills.

5. Check in With Your Employer Frequently

Performance reviews are incredibly important for ensuring that you are hitting your targets and performing well to your employer’s expectations.

However, performance reviews are also an essential opportunity for you to voice your ambitions, personal targets, and passions, and these, combined with your employers own targets for your progression, can be a great way to find a middle ground between what you would like to achieve alongside the needs of the business.

It can also be a great opportunity to check in on any existing targets from a previous review, to evaluate any progress and receive some feedback on the work you’ve been doing towards achieving it.

Checking in can also come in a more informal sense, and can be just with yourself. Checking in with yourself can be a way to make sense of your own wellbeing, and to understand how you may be coping with any stress, extra workload, or even the daily routine of your job.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself are:

  • Are you happy and functioning well in your role? 
  • Is your confidence where it should be?
  • Could your employer or management be doing more to support you? 

These are all points that can be discussed during a performance review, but can also be deciding factors in whether you choose to remain in your current role, or venture towards something new.

Overall, whichever industry you work in, and no matter what your career aspirations entail, remaining in touch with your progress, maintaining a good relationship with your employer, and ensuring that you take all opportunities thrown your way will help you take the next steps towards career advancement.