Many people want to advance in their professions, but they pursue these goals in an unproductive way. Rather than taking a long-term view of their professional life, they go to work with their eyes on the day to day. But if you want to move up the corporate ladder or achieve other professional goals, you need to take steps that incorporate professional development.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, marketing strategist Dorie Clark offers four pieces of advice that will put people on a path for professional development.
- Time. The once resource that everyone has in equal amounts is time. But people don’t spend time the same way and many people use time inefficiently. Clark says it’s important to set aside time for reflection. Looking back on where you’ve been will help you assess where you are and what changes you need to make to reach your career destination. This time of reflection is not necessarily time spent alone. Clark advises people to turn to trusted colleagues and form a “mastermind group” that shares long-term goals and holds group members accountable for achieving them. “Having others whom you trust and challenge can open up new ideas and possibilities you hadn’t previously considered,” Clark says.
- Clarity. After getting the assessment of others, professionals should seek to clarify their professional goals. But it’s not enough to set a goal of achieving a new position. Professionals also need to map out the path showing how they plan to arrive. Most people write resumes in a reflective fashion, looking back at previous stops in their job. But Clark advises people to pursue the exercise of “pre-writing” their resumes, imagining where they will be five years from now as well as each stop on the ladder to get there. Thinking about those career stops is the first step to getting there.
- Deep Work. New workers aim to set themselves apart by doing tasks the fastest or volunteering to take on tasks without being asked. But Clark notes that as professionals advance in an organization, the best way to distinguish themselves is to do the deeper work – tasks that not everyone can do. These valuable, distinguishing projects may not produce a return on investment in the short term, but they help professionals stand out from others in the long run, Clark says.
- Look beyond your company. Business research shows that external hires earn as much as 20 percent more than internal workers who receive promotions to similar jobs. In short, Clark says, the internal workers are taken for granted. Workers can improve their compensation and professional standing by changing jobs. But professionals who prefer to advance within the same organization should also have a reputation with those outside of the company. The best way to remind superiors of your value is to have the external reputation that shows that others value you as well, Clark explains.
Careers are marathons not sprints. Like marathons, the race path is not a straight line. In order to stay in the race and reach each milestone on the course, you need to form a strategy and make a plan. For more information on this and related topics, visit the Career Advice and Self-Improvement section of our blog.
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