7 Steps to Career Advancement

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

You can be extremely successful if you work for others if you master the following career advancement techniques. That’s right. Being self-employed isn’t the only way to do well financially. Let’s go through 7 of the most effective steps you can take in order to advance your career.

Step 1. Embrace the Capitalist

The most important concept to keep in mind as an employee is that your company is not in business for your benefit. You are employed for your employer’s benefit.

This may sound harsh. But once you understand this concept you can use it to your distinct advantage. Rather than look for (and ask for) ways the company can help you, look for ways to help your boss and contribute to your firm. Just do that well and do that often. You’ll see your career advance quickly. At the very least, you’ll find it much easier to ask for a raise.

Step 2. Dream Big vs. Be Realistic

It’s great to have big aspirations. But you should take a reality check too. Let’s say you want to be a regional manager at your firm and you are currently a branch manager. Find out what is required in order to achieve your goal. Then ask yourself if you have the time and resources to achieve your goal. Work out a realistic plan considering your current skills, time, resources and obligations.

Run your plan by a few other people who currently have the position you want. Ask them for feedback and recommendations. Have you considered everything? Did you make any false assumptions when you made your plan? Are your forecasts realistic? Make sure your plan is feasible – and then put all you have into it.

Conversely, if you see that career advancement in your industry is a non-starter, consider changing your career. There is nothing wrong with changing direction when you see a dead end ahead.

Step 3. Create Value

You can create value for your firm in many ways. But the most important skill set you can possibly acquire for career advancement is the ability to communicate well. Take courses on business writing and don’t stop. Join Toastmasters and hone your speaking skills. No matter which direction your career takes, these two skills will pay off big time.

Of course there are many other ways to make yourself more valuable to your employer. Take courses that are industry-specific if they better equip you to do your job. Talk to your managers to see what kinds of courses they recommend. Interview the people who are doing what you want to do. Find out what challenges they face and what kind of training helps them most in their position. Even if you have to pay for those courses yourself, you should make those investments.

Step 4 Go Shopping

This may sound really shallow but the truth is that attractive people advance faster than unattractive people. That’s fine. Make yourself as attractive as possible as long as it’s professional. Even when it comes to “casual Friday” – select your outfit carefully. People size you up quickly and the first information they have about you is what you wear. Put some thought into your wardrobe each day.

Step 5 Invite Competitioncareer advancement

Keep tabs on other employers who might be interested in your skills. Talk to people who work for other companies to learn about these firms and the industry as a whole. Connect with others using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But if you are using social media to find a job or just get better connected in your industry, be very careful. Social media can be a great resource or a tremendous waste of time. Be sure to use a social media strategy.

Read industry journals and attend conferences. If you can, deliver a speech and/or write papers and articles for industry magazines. This will help you network with other professionals and much more. By simply being more aware of what’s happening in your field you make yourself more valuable to your current employer.

Even if you aren’t currently looking for a new job, you never know when opportunity will knock. Keep your resume, recommendation letters and references up-to-date at all times. The last thing you want is to be invited for a job interview and not be prepared.

Step 6 Be Proactive

If your firm has a job board, review it from time to time. Visit job offer sites like Monster.com. Find out what’s happening with freelancers in your field by visiting Guru.com or Elance.com. This will help you understand how in demand you are in the market and it will help you decide about opportunities as they present themselves.

Step 7 Good Samaritan

Always help others. This is the cardinal rule of success in anything in my opinion. Look for opportunities to assist other people in your network or otherwise – even if they can’t help you. Napoleon Hill wrote a wonderful book decades ago called, “Think and Grow Rich”. He interviewed hundreds of extremely successful people and found one common theme: Successful people found a way to help others get what they want. By so doing, they ultimately became successful. But they put others before themselves.

I suppose that’s why they call it the golden rule!

Career advancement isn’t a mystery. Implement these 7 steps. Be conscientious and conscious at all times. Look for opportunity but be patient. Suit up and show up. You’ll be sitting in that corner office before you know it.

How are you managing your career? If you’ve advanced recently, how did you do it?


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick February 26, 2013 at 2:25 AM

“How are you managing your career? If you’ve advanced recently, how did you do it?”

Hi Neal, thanks for this article. Made me think of the guy who is kicking the most ass in my professional circle…. he doesn’t say much, he’s just producing some really world-class stuff and is constantly available to assist. I’d say he’s quietly brilliant.

Articles like this are good for me especially as I get a bit more seasoned in my career. Good to remember that I need to contribute everyday, and I sometimes fall into a rut of thinking I’m probably worth more than I am.

I advanced recently in my career simply by being very honest (without complaining) and by constantly adhering to the idea that I’m paid to solve. Keep it simple and focus. Ask: is what I’m doing helping right now? If not, find the person who needs it the most and do something. If you’re in a lull, then seek some sort of professional development… that helps everybody.

Thanks again!


Neal Frankle February 26, 2013 at 5:34 AM

Pat, This is awesome. You took massive action and put yourself in your employer’s shoes. As a result, you scored a sweet advance. Keep it up. Pretty soon you’ll be the go-to Pilgrim in your professional network. Nice….


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