The Ultimate Career Progression Guide
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
The above quote by Confucius is often quoted, yet job happiness isn’t as easily achieved. One of the reasons behind job dissatisfaction has often been the lack of planning. But career progression and the ability to find a job that doesn’t feel like work requires meticulous research and focus.
In this guide, we’ll explain career progression and the reasons why it’s so important. We’ll provide a four-step plan to help you develop a plan that guarantees you don’t feel left behind when it comes to achieving your career goals.
WHAT IS CAREER PROGRESSION?
The concept of career progression is closely tied to the idea of career development. Career development is the lifelong process of managing your circumstances in order to move forward to achieving your personal goals. It’s the management of your education, work and leisure activities in a way that helps you achieve the kind of future you want.
As the definition of progress states, progress is “a process developing gradually towards a more advanced state”. Career progression sees you working towards your ultimate professional goals, little by little.
In essence, career progression determines and outlines the route you should follow in order to reach the career development goals you’ve set out for you.
For example, your dream career goal might be to own your own business. A career progression plan will help identify the education and work related steps you should take in order to get closer to this goal and ultimately, to achieve it.
WHY IS CAREER PLANNING IMPORTANT?
Why should you focus on career progression? Isn’t it enough to have some sort of idea and then just grab the job opportunities as they come along?
Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to feel satisfied in their jobs and rather just find themselves settled, but yearning for something different.
In 2015, a study into the labor market in the UK found 60% of employees not happy in their current job. Similar results have been found in similar studies in other countries. Yet many don’t feel they have enough knowledge to make a career move.
But career planning can change this, as it helps define and narrow down the available options.
A clear path of progression in professional life could help you:
- Gain a broader skill base.
- Help make logical job transitions.
- Improve your perspective on the jobs that bring value.
- Enhance your decision-making.
- Improve your earning prospects.
- Provides you with more job satisfaction.
STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CAREER PROGRESSION
How can you take advantage of the benefits mentioned in the previous section? Below are four key steps for mapping out your career progression.
Step One: Discover your career goal
The first step involves outlining the ultimate career goal you have. This is the dream job, the ideal career you’d like to have. You can discover your career goal by focusing on two perspectives: understanding who you are and defining your dream career.
Understanding who you are
To better comprehend your identity and personality, and how this relates to suitable careers, you should answer the following questions:
- What is my passion?
- What are the things I’m good at?
- What are my top skills, achievements and qualities?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What do other people think are my strength and weaknesses?
Defining your dream career
In order to recognize the dream career, you want to examine the answers to:
- What did I want to do when I was little? Do I still think it’s an ideal career?
- What would I like to do for a living?
- What type of job would make me smile every morning?
- What kind of jobs do I hate the most?
- What are the drivers of my career goal? Is it money, recognition or achievements, for instance?
- What would make me proud of my career?
Once you’ve answered the above questions, you need to start looking for jobs that align your personality and skills with your dream jobs. A good idea for solving this is by taking online tests. You can find career assessment tests online at Careerfitter.com and ipersonic.com, for example.
Consider also watching the below YouTube video to help you choose a career:
On the other hand, you should also study the skillset you have and compare it with different jobs. You can find job descriptions on sites like TargetJobs.co.uk, which allows you to read more about what the specific roles would entail. This can help you define the roles suitable for you and the ones you don’t like the sound of.
Finally, you need to develop a detailed career plan. This is to outline where you’d like to be professionally a year from now, five years from now and ten years from now.
Step Two: Prepare yourself for the career progression
Once you’ve created a scheduled career plan, you need to examine these roles and acknowledge how qualified you are already for each role.
The objective is to determine the type of education you might require for the roles. Perhaps you already have the right qualifications, you might need to re-train to a certain extent or you might still be looking for that perfect degree.
If you do require additional training in order to progress on to the next stage of your career, you have different options available. The options depend on your current situation and you need to either:
- Select the right university and degree subject, if you are still young and looking for your first degree.
- Consider studying a second degree either full-time or part-rime, if your current educational background is ‘wrong’ for the ideal career path.
- Seek out additional training, if you just require an update on skills.
Aside from obtaining the right skills, career progression also requires a professional resume. It’s crucial to spend enough time to fine-tuning your resume, as it can help you gain the attention of potential recruiters quicker.
The best practices to keep in mind, in terms of career progression, revolve around the skills and qualifications. It’s important to tailor your resume according to the role you are looking for and not just outline all of the achievements you’ve had. The resume you send to recruiters and employers should focus on the qualifications the specific job requires and to ensure the whole resume is simply highlighting your suitability for the role.
In order to do this the most efficiently, you should:
- List only the skills mentioned in the job description and any other transferable skills related to the role.
- Emphasize achievements that highlight your suitability to the role.
- Mention qualifications required for the role.
Furthermore, recruiters and employers are increasingly relying on social media for recruitment purposes. Therefore, you want to ensure your LinkedIn profile is perfected for seeking out the specific jobs as well. Use the above tips for creating a profile, which attracts the employers you are looking for.
Step Three: Define the ideal companies/organizations
You should also start researching the industry you are hoping to progress in and find out more about the companies in the sector.
You want to focus on:
- Finding the companies you want to work for. Think how these companies can boost your career progression. For example, what are the career advancement opportunities within the company and what is the reputation of the business in the industry?
- Understanding what are the best ways of attracting these employers. For instance, what are the extra activities and skills you should consider in order to become employable to the employer? You need to essentially understand the company culture and ambitions of the company.
You can find out about your chosen industry and the companies operating in it with the help of numerous recourses. You can use online resources such as Corporate Information and American City Business Journals for company information. National departments of labor and business also provide information, such as wage data, unemployment statistics and information on health plans, for instance.
Keep in mind your focus should be on gaining the required experience and skillset to achieve your dream career. This means you don’t necessarily want to target simply the ideal companies, but rather the organizations providing you the most experience. Certain roles and companies are likely just going to act as a stepping-stone on your career ladder.
Furthermore, with the above in mind, you should consider internships at companies, which are high on the agenda for future progression. Internships at a large media organization, such as CNN, could help you further down the line, even if you dream goal isn’t to work in a newsroom, but rather to start your own production company.
Finally, volunteering is another experience-gaining option to keep in mind. Even if the volunteering opportunity doesn’t directly relate to your industry, it’s possible to gain transferable skills through volunteering. Skills such as leadership, management, compassion, multi-tasking and problem solving can all be gained in a variety of volunteering role.
Step Four: Start Networking
The final step on career progression requires you to maximize your networking efforts. Job search data has consistently shown networking can boost your ability to find work. In 2012, Right Management conducted a study, with 46% of respondents revealing networking had helped them find new employment. This is impressive, as the use of online portals and listings came second with just 25% stating it had been helpful.
The findings are supported by data showing referrals are among the most used methods when it comes to hiring new personnel. Therefore, networking is an essential tool for career progression.
Look at your career goals and your existing contacts. Who are the key connections with whom you should foster your relationship? If you know people working in your ideal organization or have good connections within the industry, you want to ensure you stay on good terms with these people. Ask for advice, let them know about your plans and become more engaged with them on social media.
Furthermore, you want to identify the people within your chosen industry you want to impress in order to climb higher on the career ladder. Find the best ways to connect with them, whether it’s through industry fairs and seminars or simply direct contact.
You also want to grow your professional network by joining professional organizations and becoming an active member. For example, if you are a teacher, you could join TES, the world’s largest community of teachers and teaching professionals. If you were an editor, you could join a number of Editors’ Associations, such as the American Copy Editors Society.
Furthermore, you should consider blogging as an option to gain more publicity within your industry. Highlighting your talent and expertise through a blog or social media can help you connect with like-minded people and gain interest from employers.
Finally, nurturing a relationship with a good recruitment agency can also boost networking efforts. A close relationship with a high-quality recruitment agency, specializing in your chosen field, can help you at different stages of your career. It can help find that first job to get on the career ladder and help you climb up higher. If you have a close relationship with the recruitment firm, the recruiters are more likely to suggest interesting job offers for you later down the line, even when you aren’t actively looking.
RE-EVALUATE YOUR CAREER PROGRESS REGULARLY
As a final note, it’s essential to point out the continuous re-evaluation that’s required for proper career progression. You shouldn’t treat your career development plans as something you only need to think about once in your life.
In fact, it’s crucial to annually assess your situation and progress, as things might have changed in terms of your needs. You’ll be much more aware of your achievements if you assess and analyze what’s happened.
Sit down once a year to go through your career development plan. Analyze it by answering the following questions:
- Am I on the track? Assess how well you’ve followed the outline career path and the progress you’ve made. Think what has been the reason for the success and how you can use this knowledge going forward. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re stalling, examine the reasons behind it.
- Did I achieve the objectives I set for this year? As mentioned above, your career development plan should have a one-year plan with objectives you need to achieve. Go through these goals to see which ones you’ve achieved and study the reasons behind your successes and possible failures.
- Have I gained any new skills and achievements that’ll help me in my future career objectives? If so, what are they? Remember to include all the relevant new skills and achievements in your resume and update your LinkedIn profile as well.
- What do I want to achieve next year? Set out the objectives for the following year, keeping in mind your long-term plans.
It’s important to avoid following the plan like a robot. As well as simply examining the objectives and setting out new ones, you should critically think whether your career aspirations are still the same.
- Is the dream still the same?
- Do I continue to be as passionate about my industry as I was last year?
- Is the current job or role still satisfying to me?
If you find yourself unsatisfied, unsure of your dreams and feeling disinterested in the industry, it might be a good idea to re-examine your career. The answer is not always to change the direction completely. It might be that your current job is not what keeps you motivated and you should simply look for a new job at a different organization. Sometimes studying a bit further and taking time off from work can be enough to boost your energy back up and find the passion you had for the industry.
But you should also not be afraid to change course and to redefine your objectives. Perhaps your passion for the same industry remains the same, but instead of aiming to be the CEO of a big corporation, you’d rather start your own business.
The crucial point is to stay on top of your progression; to understand the methods that have helped you go forward and the things holding you back. But also to evaluate your career development as a whole; to ensure you are still heading out in a direction you truly want to go.
Making long-term plans can seem daunting, but career progression is ultimately about those little steps towards the ideal goal. You need to focus on your passions and find jobs that provide you satisfaction.
It’s crucial to spend enough time researching your options to guarantee the decisions you make, whether in terms of your studies or jobs, are aimed towards progression. By staying focused and analyzing your situation, you can feel a better sense of purpose and satisfaction in your career.
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