5 Ways to Speed Up Your Career Progression

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By Marcelle Yeager

If you're relatively new to the workforce and feeling overqualified in your job, you may be thinking, "I don't want to do this grunt work for the next few years to get a promotion!" Don't fret. There are things you can do to get to where you want to be quicker. While it won't happen overnight, you can shorten the normal time frame in your given field by taking a few steps now.

1. Do good work. This is important no matter how much you feel your work is below you or your education level. When you perform well, even if you are overqualified or think it's "beneath" you, your hardworking attitude and ethics will be remembered. This is what you want when a future employer almost certainly calls to check on your performance at your previous employer.

You should also be willing to take on additional duties and help an overstretched colleague from time to time. This shows dedication and teamwork, a skill that the majority of job descriptions tout.

2. Find a mentor. Many people assume a mentor-peer relationship has to be formal. It does not. You can also have more than one mentor. Perhaps you want to have one for each of the two fields you are considering transitioning into. To garner multiple perspectives, find a mentor inside your organization and another outside your organization. These should be professionals whose opinion you respect and whose work you admire.

If you aren't sure how to identify mentors, ask your peers or a human resources representative in the office to get to know different people. You can also join one of the professional mentoring groups, which are in many cities.

3. Develop your skills. What have you been wanting to learn more about? Nowadays you don't have to spend a lot of money and time on a formal degree to gain a new set of skills. From Udemy to Coursera, there are various sites that offer free online courses. While there are certifications that cover just about every profession, you do not need to get a formal license or certificate to acquire knowledge that you can apply on the job.

You can list the courses you are taking or the self-study you're doing on your résumé, since it shows motivation and initiative. What company doesn't want that in an employee?

4. Promote yourself. Managers generally don't have the time or inclination to advocate for you, so if you do have that type of boss, congratulate yourself because it's rare.

Don't wait for other people to sing your praises. You can promote your good work in a nonabrasive manner, simply by setting up check-in meetings with your boss to review your work in detail and talk about what you need to do to get to the next level. If your boss is not willing to engage with you, speak to HR and see what can be done to move the process along.

5. Network. This is something you should be doing both inside and outside of your company. Within your firm, set up brief conversations with people in the functional areas or at the levels you're interested in, including peers and senior colleagues. Before you meet, develop a set of five or so insightful questions to ask. Take notes.

It is also beneficial to continue networking externally while you have a job. Ask your friends and connections on LinkedIn to connect you with people whose backgrounds intrigue you, and create a list of questions to ask each person with whom you're going to meet. If you or they can't meet in person, suggest a brief phone call or email exchange. If you can meet in person and the other person is also able, set up a coffee or lunch.

Another avenue to pursue is professional and social events that draw together people in the types of careers you are interested in. In-person meetings allow you to engage on a different level than through the impersonal nature of technology, and you can develop more meaningful, long-lasting relationships this way. It could mean a future referral for a job if you've really clicked with the person.

The takeaway: There are a variety of ways to move toward your career target quickly. Sitting around and waiting for praise and promotions is not an option. Take these necessary steps to help you fulfill your goals faster. You may even discover new possibilities or interests along the way.

Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet, which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn't know they had to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Marcelle holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.
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