Most people actively want to improve their careers. They want a brighter path for the future, more money, and a greater feeling of fulfillment when they reflect on the work they’ve done in the past. Of course, improving your career isn’t always easy. If you want to switch career paths entirely, you may be forced to return to school for several years. If you want to expand operations, you may be forced to invest a lot of money—and take a lot of risks.
Fortunately, there are some easier methods that anyone can use to improve their career.
Understand Yourself and Set Goals
First, understand your motivation and start setting goals. Many people find themselves in a rut, not because they don’t want to improve, but because they don’t know what “improvement” means. They want a “better” career, but they don’t know how to define that career. What are you really after? Do you want to make more money? Do you want to be in a leadership position? Do you want a fancier job title? Do you want more autonomy?
Write down your high-level goals, and try to come up with a five-year plan. In other words, where do you see yourself in five years? It’s a cliche interview question for a reason; it’s an important template for establishing your long-term goals.
Of course, long-term goals aren’t enough to lead to meaningful change in your current career. You also have to set (and strive to achieve) much smaller, more immediate goals. Consider setting small goals for yourself on a weekly basis; what can you accomplish this week that will get you one step closer to your long-term goals?
Improve Your Skillset
Next, work to improve your skillset. Depending on your current career, there may be several ways for you to do this. For example, you may be able to take classes offered by a local college, or simply attend webinars hosted by professionals in your industry. You may also be able to improve your skills by utilizing online workshops, or just by practicing on your own.
For example, you can use Excel Training to learn more about creating and managing spreadsheets—a general skill that can be valuable in almost any career. Try to focus on skills related to technology and communication if you want an all-around boost to your potential.
One of the best things you can do to improve your career is network—in other words, you have to build relationships. Meeting new people and getting to know them better can help you in a number of different ways. For starters, you’ll learn of new job opportunities, giving you the option to change careers or find a position at a different company. You might also be able to exchange tips and insights with peers, mutually supporting each other in your respective careers. If you visit the right places, you might also be able to find a mentor, which in itself is a valuable strategy for career advancement.
Find a Mentor
Try to find someone to serve as your mentor. Chances are, you can find someone in your business or at a networking session who’s willing to provide guidance and wisdom to someone still up-and-coming in this field. Ask them about their experience, and be open to their new ideas. As long as you respect their time, they’ll be willing to help you grow in many ways.
Whether you work with a mentor or not, it’s important to get feedback. If you didn’t get the raise you were hoping for, ask why. If you’re working on a team project, ask your fellow employees what you could be doing better. The more you learn about your own performance from other people, the more you’ll know what to improve. From there, you can develop an action plan to improve your strengths while compensating for your weaknesses.
Develop a Side Gig (or Backup Plan)
Finally, consider picking up a side gig, or volunteering at a different type of establishment. This will help you get experience in a different field, and get your foot in the door of another industry. In a worst-case scenario, this can serve as a career backup plan. In a best-case scenario, it will be a valuable networking opportunity, and could help you build skills you can use in your primary career.
There are countless ways to improve your career, even if you aren’t sure what this path has in store for your future. Invest proactively in your skills, your knowledge, and your experience, and you’ll begin seeing the results almost immediately. Be sure to write your goals down, so you stay motivated, and watch as you begin to progress.