How to Get Ahead in Your Career

After you landed your dream job a decade ago, you headed to work each day filled with a sense of excitement, optimism and energy. Fast forward a few years. Although you may still enjoy where you work and the people who surround you, it’s possible that you’ve outgrown your role at your organization.

If you’re no longer feeling challenged at work, it’s time to seek out new opportunities that enhance your skill sets and increase your responsibilities. Here are some do-now tips that will help you take your career—and your professional satisfaction—to the next level:

Let your manager know your career goals.
Do you daydream about moving into the corner office? Do you have your sights set on a director position? Do you long to lead a team to success? If the answer is yes, does your manager know about these ambitions?

“Most employers want to retain high-value employees whenever possible, but if a worker does not let his/her boss know about long-term career goals, the boss won’t know how to help,” explains Kristin Schrader, associate director of InternPLUS and Military Career Programs at University of Maryland University College. “Your boss is likely to be more in the know about changes in your organization that may open up new projects or roles that are a fit to your long-term goals.”

Although it may seem obvious, your manager might overlook you for a promotion if she isn’t aware you want one. On the flip side, if a colleague has made his intentions known, he will be top-of mind to leadership when an opportunity presents itself.

Schedule time to sit down with your boss to share your professional goals and create a plan to reach them.

Ask for stretch assignments.
What better way to show your manager you’re ready for the next rung on the career ladder than to take on more challenging assignments? This may mean volunteering for the project no one else wants to tackle because it is time-consuming, has a broad scope or entails tough-to-navigate political waters.

“Taking on extra projects not only can make your job more interesting and less routine, but it also teaches you new skills, shows your boss that you have the capacity to do more and often allows you to build other relationships across the organization,” says Schrader.

Another way to impress your manager while taking on more responsibility is to identify an existing challenge or missed opportunity and propose a solution for the business—with you at the helm. In doing so, you demonstrate your innovative and strategic thinking, along with your willingness to take on a challenge—all leadership qualities that are valuable to an organization.

Shadow others.
No employee is an island, but it can feel that way when you have your head down and are focused on your own projects. It’s easy to settle into a siloed work environment when your job doesn’t require much cross-organizational interaction. However, it’s these very relationships that can help you get ahead in your career.

If your day-to-day duties don’t provide you with much opportunity to branch out at work, there’s a simple solution: shadow someone whose job does. Ask your boss if you can tag along to his special project meetings, or offer to attend a presentation in place of an absent colleague. Then, be sure to introduce yourself and shake hands with everyone in the room.

“In my career, I have found this to be vitally important,” Schrader says. “The next great opportunity within your current organization may come from these relationships—I have had this happen to me several times.”

When you make it a priority to connect with colleagues in different departments and in varying role, you gain a broader understanding of your organization and build the relationships you need to achieve common goals.

“This cross-department collaboration is a great way to show that you add value to the organization as a whole and that your perspective is organization-wide and not just isolated to your own department and team,” Schrader adds.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to give your stagnant career a boost. Take an active role in communicating your professional goals with leadership, developing new skills and building relationships with your colleagues—and watch your career soar.

For more information on career opportunities and resources available to UMUC students and alumni from the Office of Career Services, log into CareerQuest today. You can also contact UMUC’s Office of Career Services at 240-684-2720 or careerservices@umuc.edu for additional assistance.