Posted by Robert Half on 06 January 2015
Now is as good a time as any to think about your career advancement and to set professional goals for the future. If you've got ambitions to advance in your chosen field, and feel as if you've not yet achieved your potential, this might be the time to revise your jobs strategy. With more employers looking to attract and retain talent, there are various opportunities for high-calibre people to take their next step forward. But as a professional, you need to grab the bull by the horns and make the change happen. With this in mind, let's consider some of your options for your career advancement:
1. Aim for a new role
Perhaps the most obvious way to progress your career is to apply for a new job. In many sectors, demand for candidates continues to exceed supply, as employers seek talented professionals to underpin their expansion plans. As such, there may be an opportunity for you to secure a new role at a different organisation; one that offers greater potential for advancement and more attractive remuneration.
If you adopt an organised, structured approach to the application and interview process, you stand a much greater chance of being selected. First of all, you need to dedicate time to job hunting. This may involve checking jobs boards at regular intervals, speaking to your industry contacts and liaising with a recruitment agency. There's not much chance of career opportunities simply falling into your lap - you need to go and find them.
Once you've identified a suitable role - one that excites you and fosters career progress - your next task is to tailor your CV to the advertised position. Think about the skills and experiences the hiring manager is looking for; these will all be documented in the role criteria. You need to sell yourself and your abilities to the hiring organisation, but you've only got two pages in which to achieve this goal. So make sure you include all of your keys skills, experiences and achievements - plus evidence of the value you can add - in as concise a form as possible.
If you're applying for well-paid roles with important responsibilities, the chances are there will be plenty of other talented people seeking the same opportunities as you. This means you have to really shine during the interview process if you want to be selected. You need to be well-practised, organised and confident heading into the interview. Make sure you have a rough idea of how you will answer certain key questions, so that you don't get caught off guard by the panel
2. Develop your skills and knowledge
If you've only recently changed jobs and/or organisations, your initial focus might be on developing your current skills rather than securing a new role. All the time you should be thinking of ways to bolster your CV and make you a more attractive proposition as a professional. Particularly if you aspire to climb further up the career ladder, it's important to keep adding new skills and experiences, to develop greater knowledge and understanding about your chosen industry. If you aspire to a leadership and management role, your CV needs to reflect this.
Ask yourself, are there training, coaching or mentoring opportunities you can take advantage of - either internally or externally - to increase your competency? Undertaking training courses which carry qualifications can give your CV an immediate boost and help to differentiate you from other similarly-talented professionals.
Career advancement should be an ongoing focus if you are serious about climbing the jobs ladder. You should also think about seeking career advice from experienced business heads - potentially individuals who have taken a similar career path to you in the past. They may be able to offer guidance on how - and when - to take the next step in your career. Another option is to speak to a recruitment agency. Recruitment consultants have in-depth knowledge of the jobs market and wider economy, plus understanding of what employers are looking for from potential new hires.
3. Seek a promotion
It may be the case that there is scope for your career advancement with your current employer. Switching organisations may be the simplest way to develop your career and boost your income, but you should also keep an eye out for in-house opportunities. By securing a promotion, you can potentially increase your salary and benefits without the upheaval associated with moving to another organisation. Also, it never does your CV any harm to stay with an employer for longer periods of time. According to a survey of UK employees, the ideal length of time to stay with an employer is six years.
If your employer is eager to retain your services - knowing the value you can add to their organisation, now and in the future - make sure you take advantage of this. You need to be pressing them for additional responsibilities, and pushing for promotion to the next step on the hierarchy. Even if there isn't a vacancy at a more senior level, your employer may be willing to give you a new job title and improved remuneration in order to keep happy. The last thing they want is to see you hand in your notice and then go to work for a rival organisation.
4. Improve your earnings
You don't necessarily have to change jobs to advance your career - in terms of pay and benefits at least. If you're doing a great job for your employer, and adding tangible value to the organisation, perhaps you should be earning a little more. You employer will know what you are worth to them as an individual, and how much they are able to pay you while still seeing a strong return on investment. And if you're earning less than you could be, it might be time to negotiate an improved contract. You can benchmark your earnings against other people in your industry and role using the Robert Half Salary Guide.
Employers know that, from time to time, their staff members will ask for a pay rise. Sometimes they will be willing to offer a little more as a retention tool, and sometimes they won't. But as the saying goes, 'if you don't ask, you don't get'. Remember, employers are worried about losing their best people in the current job market, as new vacancies come up for grabs all the time. If they are concerned about you departing, they may try to head this off by offering a higher wage or a more attractive benefits package.
It is important to constantly look at how you can improve to avoid stalling any career advancement opportunities and achieve your next set of professional goals. In the short term, you might be focused on negotiating a pay rise or securing a promotion, while longer term ambitions may include securing a top-level job with a major organisation. Now is the time to review your strategy and set targets, so that you can work towards making another career breakthrough.