Expert career progression tips
Expert career progression tips & guide
Career progression can happen by chance, good luck and other external factors. However, more often than not, career progression happens by design.
Find a career sponsor
Some organisations have formal sponsorship programs, connecting management-level staff to junior or mid-level professionals. But you can find a career sponsor in many others, too.
- Identify the strengths you have that are most likely to win the endorsement of your sponsor
- Identify several potential sponsors. Look for people you admire and share professional values with
- Think about how you can add value to the relationship. Maybe your intended sponsor has knowledge or experience gaps that you can help them address. Treat the relationship reciprocally
- Reach out to your sponsor to schedule some time to discuss the potential relationship. Be clear on what you are asking them for and the value proposition you are communicating
- Have a long-term view of the relationship in mind
- Schedule regular meetings.
- Structure them and ensure you have an agenda.
Build a big picture understanding of your organisation
Irrespective of your industry or how senior or junior you are, if you know how your organisation ticks, you can play a more active role in its progress.
- Put your hand up to attend as many open meetings as you can
- Read your company’s operational plan, strategic plan, and annual report. This will help you build up strong knowledge and understanding of your organisation’s mission, vision and values
- Ask to sit in on additional meetings with your manager to understand their priorities
- Join key industry bodies, enrol in professional development and attend networking events
- Understand your organisation’s target audiences and customer journeys, so you can make decisions that align with their needs.
Build professional relationships
Positive professional relationships are essential to career progression and success.
Once you meet a new colleague, customer or external stakeholder, that’s only the beginning. Strong relationships are built on continuing communication.
To deepen your professional relationships, it’s also good practice to communicate clearly and succinctly, listen intently, have a constructive approach to problem-solving, be ready to support colleagues and other stakeholders, lead with a positive attitude and show an interest in the people you work with.
When you’re actively seeking a new role or you’re keeping an eye on the job market, the same principles apply.
Make a genuine effort to build positive relationships with employers, hiring managers and recruiters. Follow up to enquire if they need any more information from you. Ask for feedback about what you might improve upon and enquire if they can recommend you for any other roles.
Be a good mentee
As we have previously mentioned, knowing how to be a good mentee is critical to a successful mentorship. Remember, always treat your mentor’s time as important, prepare to make your meetings as constructive as possible, put your mentor’s advice into action, and be mindful of the value you can add to the mentoring relationship.
Plan your career progression
SMART is the acronym for goals that are:
- Specific: Set clear and concrete career goals without any ambiguity.
- Measurable: Set goals that you can measure. For example, in six months’ time, I want to increase my organisation’s social media following by 20 per cent.
- Achievable: Don’t set goals that are too easy. But do make sure the goals you set are genuinely achievable. Evaluate what’s required to achieve your goals in the timeline you assign to them. If you have to work hard to achieve them, and you’re prepared to do that, fantastic.
- Realistic: Make the right judgement on how realistic your goals are. This often requires you to unpack the project or activity into its component parts, and determine the time, resources and expenses involved in achieving it. Break down your overarching goals into smaller steps. Make sure you are confident your goal is realistic.
- Timely: Make sure you have key milestones, dates and timelines in mind when you set your goals.
Job search proactively
- Identify your ultimate career goal and plot out the skills, experience and promotions you will need to fulfil your goal. Take the time you need to answer questions about who you want to work for, who you want to work with, where you want to work, how you want to work and why you want to work towards this goal.
- Then identify and articulate the next stage you need to reach in your career. This allows you to clearly chart your career progression steps.
- Prepare a CV that includes important information, such as your contact details, professional summary, skills summary, your achievements, work experience, qualifications and references. For more, read our advice on writing a great CV.
- Begin your outreach efforts. Identify a list of prospective of employers, check job advertisements, get in touch with your recruiter, practice what you will say in interviews and prepare applications for your preferred roles.