Don’t you wish things were going just a little bit better for you? Even those of us who are immensely satisfied with our careers find ourselves occasionally longing for more. Maybe you want a bigger office or a higher salary. Or maybe you wish you were in a different industry altogether, with more status or more power.
The good news is, no matter where you are now or where you want to be, you can improve your career with just a few steps—many of which are simple and easy to accomplish.
How to Improve Your Career
Follow these steps if you want to improve your career:
- Define what it means to “improve” your career. Why are you trying to improve your career? What, exactly, are you trying to improve? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you’ll need to figure them out before making a move. For example, do you want to be making a certain amount of money? Do you want to be in a higher position? Do you want to start your own business? Is it several of these things at once?
- Set a long-term goal (or several). Once you have a general idea of what “improvement” means for you, you can set at least one long-term goal. This should be actionable, specific, and timed. For example, do you want to make $80,000 per year within 5 years? Do you want to earn 2 promotions in the next 10 years at this company? This is the goal that will drive the rest of your actions.
- Get certified. Depending on your career, you may strongly benefit from certification—or some other formal way to distinguish yourself from your peers. For example, if you want to make more money or reach new heights in the world of accounting, you’ll want to become a certified management accountant (CMA) by passing the CMA exam. This one move can make a huge difference in your long-term upward mobility potential.
- Enlist in ongoing education. It’s also a good idea to invest in ongoing education, no matter what your position is. New education will introduce you to new technologies, new trends, new approaches, and a model of the current collective understanding. It can make you better at any job and keep you relevant even as the years continue to pass.
- Get more experience. Most people accumulate experience passively; they continue working in a certain job and watch as the number of years they’ve spent roll over in increments of one. Instead, it’s better to work proactively to get more experience in different ways. For example, you can work in different positions and for different employers. You can volunteer. You can start or join various industry organizations. Keep adding new lines to your resume this way.
- Add new skills to your resume. You can also boost your resume by learning new skills. Take a class, sign up for a workshop, or enlist the help of a coworker to get some cross-training. Whatever form it takes, invest in new skills that you can show off to prospective employers.
- Take on new responsibilities. If you want to advance within your current company, one of the best things you can do is take on new responsibilities. Volunteer for new duties. Come up with new directives. The more you demonstrate leadership, and the more you take on, the better your reputation will become.
- Find a mentor. Most people can benefit from working with a mentor. Find someone in your field who’s more experienced, more knowledgeable, and wiser than you. If they have some extra time, they’ll be more than willing to give you advice, answer your questions, and guide you on how to advance your career.
- Network. Professional networking is one of the best ways to expand your career horizons. Talk to peers in your current industry, meet people from other industries, and build those relationships. When you’re ready to look for a new job, tap into the network you’ve built.
- Adapt. Finally, be prepared to adapt. Your goals, abilities, and perspectives on work are going to change over the years. Your career development strategy should change alongside them.
Finding What Works for You
There’s no such thing as a “perfect” career. Even if you manage to land your dream job, you’re still going to have bad days and you’re still going to find yourself wanting a little bit more eventually. Try not to set too high a bar for yourself; instead, focus on what kind of career will work best for you, then put the effort in to attain it. You might need to experiment to figure out what that career is, but once you find it, you’ll be much more satisfied.