In the world of business careers, it can sometimes feel hard to stand out. Many times, your job will require you to be more of a general practitioner than a specialist or true expert in one particular field.
When this happens, it may be difficult to identify your next career move.
“I’m pretty good at a lot of things, but where do my real strengths lie?” is a common question to ask yourself.
In these times, it’s important to remember that your career is much more than your current job. Sometimes it requires you to not only perform your daily duties but also think and plan strategically for the long term. Where do you want to be, and how can you start to move in that direction?
For many people, the goal is to ultimately make it into some sort of leadership or management position. Or, perhaps to become a sought-after expert in one area of business like marketing or finance.
To accomplish this, you’ll likely need to take matters into your own hands. Shape your career in a way that only you (not your employer) truly can and position yourself for success.
If you need some ideas on how you can advance your business careers, here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Ask for more responsibility
Step one: If you want it, own it.
If you want to move up in your business careers, then you need to ask for more responsibility. This may involve asking directly for a promotion, or simply taking on additional responsibilities autonomously, which you can use as proof of your deserving a bump up later.
As they say, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”, and asking for what you want is often a simple way to make it a reality.
2. Use your network
You’ve got friends and acquaintances, right? Use them!
This doesn’t need to be as sleazy as it might sound. Many professionals relish the idea of helping their contacts by connecting people who may be able to help each other. Schedule lunch, coffee, or drinks with people who may be able to help you, and share your goals with them to see if they may be able to connect you with someone they know.
You’ll want to approach it in a friendly manner–don’t be overly demanding or expectant, but asking for help is not a bad thing.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to provide the same courtesy to others!
3. Start a blog about your business careers
Do you know how long it takes to start your own blog in this day and age? Probably about as long as it took you to read that sentence.
Even if you think you don’t have anything new to say, starting a blog will give you a place to display your knowledge and an outlet to formulate your thoughts and opinions about the industry that you’re working in. Over time, you may find like-minded individuals and develop a readership that can help you get found or grow your personal brand.
4. Do volunteer/pro-bono work
Volunteering of all types is great, but volunteering your specific professional skills can be both enriching and rewarding.
Doing this kind of work outside of your day job will also help you increase your expertise in the field, tackling similar work but in a different way. It can help you meet people who may, in turn, connect you to opportunities, and it can help you to keep your skills and experience sharp and up to date.
5. Teach a class
You don’t need to be a professor to teach a class. Sites like Skillshare allow anyone to assume the role of teacher and share their specific skills and knowledge with the world–and even possibly make a bit of money doing it.
They say that teaching is the best way to learn, and you can strongly position yourself as an expert through instructing others.
All you need to get started is a computer.
6. Get an MBA or other graduate degrees
One of the quickest ways to move up the business ladder is through education. If you already have a Bachelor’s Degree and some job experience under your belt, then it may be time to pursue an MBA.
Master of Business Administration degrees generally lead to higher-paying positions and leadership or management roles, which may not be achievable with just an undergraduate degree.
This degree is one of the most popular graduate education paths because it’s incredibly universal–everyone from marketing to engineering professionals can benefit from the increased business acumen you will learn.
7. Take free online classes
Building your skillset can be hard without formal education. But there is an incredible number of online resources now available to professionals looking to learn something new or just explore a new area of knowledge.
If you find that the course was valuable and may help advance your career, you can even receive certifications from prestigious institutions like Johns Hopkins or Stanford at a reasonable cost.
8. Get a certification
There are thousands of certifications to be earned in all facets of business careers. These certifications may lead directly to a new position. Or, they may add a nice boost to your resume for when you’re looking for your next move.
Sometimes these will require you to pay a small fee in order to be certified. But, your employer may also be willing to cover the cost as a professional development opportunity.
9. Write a book
Writers and non-writers alike can harness the power of a book to boost their profile and build a brand around their thoughts and expertise.
Just like starting a blog, the Internet and technology have made writing a book much more feasible for just about anyone. You could write a traditional, paper book that you pitch to a publisher, or it can be self-published online through a platform like Amazon.
10. Use your alma mater
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Your college would love to help you get a better job or advance your career. Why would they care? Because the happier and more successful you are–and the better you think of their institution–the more likely you are to donate back to the school.
Most colleges offer alumni networks, career coaching, and other services for graduates. Tap into those resources if you need help finding your next move or want to discuss other options like continuing education.
11. Join a MeetUp group
MeetUp.com is a fantastic resource for professionals looking to expand their personal and professional networks.
There are groups for just about anything you can imagine. You can connect with like-minded individuals around hobbies, work, politics, religion, or whatever else is important.
Who knows who you’ll meet? They might be able to connect you to the person you need to know to take the next step in your business careers.
12. Join a discussion group
Not quite ready to jump into real-world networking? No worries–the Internet makes meeting people easy, even if you never actually meet them.
Look to LinkedIn, Reddit, or other forums to find groups of people interested in the same things as you, and then become a valuable member. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start to build relationships by just talking and sharing information through a message board or discussion group.
13. Introduce your friends
You have friends that probably don’t know each other, and your friends probably also have friends who don’t know you. One of the quickest ways to grow your network is to start to introduce your friends to each other. They’ll often reciprocate by introducing you to some of their friends that you didn’t know.
You may end up making a connection that is immensely valuable for your friend. And, they may do the same for you.