When I was little, I used to envision myself as the boss of an office space. Never a specific office–like Nabisco or anything–but always somewhere in a successful role at the office. And I secretly still hoped that I’d get to be a top dog at an office when I graduated college. But I learned quickly that you have to grow your career before you can step into a leadership role.
I know that waiting something like 10 or 15 years, sounds like forever when you’re 22. But what I’m realizing now that I’m in the “real” world, is that there’s still a lot to learn. People won’t let you take over that leadership role in the office unless you’ve put in the work to grow your career. And you wouldn’t want it before doing that anyways!
Top 10 Easy Ways to Grow Your Career:
1. List your top 3 priorities for the day.
I love to create lists, especially to-do lists. However, sometimes I struggle with completing everything on my to-do list at work, because of constant interruptions. When I focus on three specific things that I want to accomplish though, it’s easier to feel productive by the end of the day.
Maybe on your commute, or before work, think of three things that you want to accomplish for the day. It’s important to know your three before starting your day, so you’re not being reactive to everything all day. This will help you stay focused and prioritize your day.
2. Create a schedule for your day.
I used to work in the customer service industry, which (in my opinion) is the one career with the MOST interruptions. Especially as a manager of an apartment building or restaurant. However, I was familiar with my slow times, and with my workload, so I knew the best times to work on things.
No matter what industry you’re in, you need to create a schedule for the day. Know when you’re going to check email, what your three main priorities are for the day, and be prepared for any calls or meetings that day. Scheduling also allows you to look ahead to any unexpected deadlines so you aren’t rushing to finish things. This is SUPER important to help grow your career because it ensures that you’re actively accomplishing your work.
3. Ask for responsibilities outside of your daily duties.
There are many times in my job where I have downtime. Which means I have two options: sit bored out of my mind or ask for something else to do. Managers will tell you there’s always something you could be doing, even if it’s not necessarily enjoyable work.
Employers like when you ask for additional work because it shows initiative. And if you do well on the small tasks they give you, they’re more likely to give you larger tasks down the line. Asking for additional responsibilities also helps you learn the job tasks for the next position. So when it’s promotion time, they already consider your for the position since you know a little about the job.
4. Request to shadow for additional training.
This is different than asking for more things to do. Requesting to look over your bosses shoulder or sit in on a meeting that you normally wouldn’t attend, is solely for the purpose of learning something new.
I used to do this under a previous boss. She would teach me what she was doing when we had some free time. Then she started giving me more and more of her work, until I was promoted to her job. Showing the initiative to want to move up is VITAL if you want to grow your career.
5. Take extra classes or certifications to improve your skill set.
For some careers, you need additional schooling or certifications to help you move up to the next level. This means you can look into those options on your own, or you can ask your manager if that’s something your company offers. I’ve had companies pay for training across the country and offer to cover another degree, like my master’s.
Even if it’s not something you think your company offers, it doesn’t hurt to ask. If it’s a good business decision, then your company might make the exception just for you. And if you just want to take free courses, I use Coursera. It’s college level courses that you only pay for if you want a certificate.
6. Read and subscribe to things in your industry.
The only way to grow in life and your career is to study. That means after college, you’re still required to keep learning.
You should be subscribed to and reading things that are going to help grow your career. Staying on top of the industry means you know any new trends and different ways your company could improve. And if you bring valuable information to your next meeting without being asked, it means your employers are going to look at you in a whole new light.
7. Attend networking events with peers in your industry.
There’s an old saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Although, there is a lot to be said about what you know, it is important to network.
Networking allows you to meet with other people within your industry to help you problem solve and discuss things that maybe your significant other doesn’t understand. They also have super niche networking groups so you don’t have to go to a big function if you don’t want to. Even if you’re introverted, I encourage you to drag along a friend. You never know when you may need a professional contact somewhere down your career path.
8. Consider how you can serve the company, not the other way around.
We’re trained to always be thinking “how will this benefit me”, but the question we should be asking is “how am I benefiting this”.
When we flip the script, we become more conscious of the impact of our actions. This means, we will start to look for ways that we can make an impact (which is something business people keep saying is important to the Millennial generation). Once you stop making a company self-serving, the company will actually seem more beneficial to you and you will feel better about your accomplishments.
9. Be grateful for the experiences you’re receiving.
Even if you don’t have your dream job, there are still benefits to the experience you’re getting. And it’s more fun to work with a positive person, than a negative one. So practice being thankful at work.
Say thank you when someone offers you a little advice. Be happy that you’re earning experience AND a paycheck. If you read my article on why gratitude is important, you already know the AMAZING impact saying thanks can have on your life. And it’s not reserved for only one area. You can use it at work to grow your career.
10. Above all, practice career patience.
Being able to grow your career and finally land your dream job is going to take time. You need to be patient. Here’s a quick read on how to practice career patience if you struggle in this area.
You’re going to need to put in a lot of work and hours, but the goal is that it’s worth it in the end. And if you’re working for a company that you like, and are running through these steps, then it may take less time than you think!
Use these ten steps to help you grow your career every day. Remember, that we have on average over 40 years before retirement. There’s no reason to rush the process or feel bad that you haven’t landed 6-figures or partner by 30. Just know that you are actively working to grow your career each day.