Just about all of us want to move forward in our careers. You might be looking for that next big promotion, hoping to switch to a better company, or just trying to get ahead bit by bit. It can be hard to figure out how to actually make that happen. Unfortunately unless you went to business school we get very little preparation for how to advance our careers. There are forms of career counseling that can help, but it can be hard to know what to do ourselves. We have put together three helpful tools you can use to that will enable you to get ahead.
1. Advocate for Yourself
It might seem bossy, pushy, or just plain scary but one of the best ways to get ahead is to advocate for yourself. We work with so many people who are petrified of asking for a raise or putting their name in the hat for a promotion. But you really need to do it because it is how you get ahead.
We have worked with people who have been at companies for years and are hardly making more than when they started. The truth of the matter is companies usually want to save money. If they don’t think they need to pay you more to keep you there they usually won’t. It takes you advocating for yourself in order to get that raise you have been longing for.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t advocate for themselves is because they think the company holds all the power. Many people are scared they will be replaced with someone cheaper and easier if they ask for more. Here is a little secret, whether you are in an entry level position or a manager it is far more worth it to the company to keep a good employee than train a new one. Although it might feel like they hold the cards, you actually have a lot of power.
2. Find a Mentor
One of the best ways to get ahead is to hitch your ride to someone who is headed for the stars. Of course it can be difficult to find the right person. But if you find someone in your company or industry who is willing to be a business mentor they will often help advocate for you. We recommend you find someone you look up to and start to build a relationship with them.
You might be wondering how exactly to go about building this relationship. Think about it much like you would any other. Put yourself in the same room as them, ask them questions, and find times to socialize with them. After a little bit of courting they will most likely be flattered if you ask them to be your mentor. We find it really helps if you set up a bi-weekly meeting or lunch with the person where you mainly ask them questions.
It serves to be interested rather than interesting. You are not trying to sell yourself to your mentor. Instead you are trying to learn about how they got where they are. Often this kind of interest means they will take an interest in you. Also, your name will be at the front of their mind the next time they think of names for promotions.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
If you want to advance your career you will need to be able to say no and set boundaries. It is easy to become the company yes man. Or the woman who is there late every day doing other people’s work. We have known many people like this who start at a new company and quickly become the person who is known for saying yes to any project.
People say yes to good reasons. They want to be liked or seen as a hard worker. However, you are equally likely to be seen as a hard worker if you say no every once in a while. One of our favorite things to say is “I would prefer to give what I am working on my full attention”. Anyone will respect your desire to provide quality work rather than quantity.
Saying no will advance your career because it will show people that you value yourself and your time. The more you convey this value, the more people will think you have it. Saying no shows a tremendous amount of strength.
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