Confident professional

Seven Tips for Career Advancement

Regardless of your industry or professional title, you may wonder how to advance your career. Career advancement is about more than just earning a higher salary. While increased earning potential is sometimes a benefit of promotion, it's also about learning new skills, increasing your job satisfaction, and allowing you to try a new job or position within your field.

Whether you want to pivot into a new field or take your career to new heights, these seven tips will help you explore ways to further your professional journey.

1. Set Clear Career Goals

Before taking actionable steps to further your career, you should outline your short-term and long-term goals. You can easily do this by:

Defining Your Career Aspirations and Ambitions

Start the process by simply outlining your career aspirations and ambitions. You should write down where you want to see yourself professionally in one, five, and ten years. Consider setting a long-term goal of where to be in your career by the time you retire.

Identifying Specific Skills and Knowledge Needed

Once you know what you want to do, you need to start assessing what needs to be done. Identify the specific skills you need to hone to achieve the positions you desire within your field.

Creating a Realistic and Measurable Plan

Finally, it's time to make a plan. notes that the SMART goal method is one of the most effective ways to create a timeline for achieving your career goals. This method involves identifying the specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based steps you can take to reach the next milestone in your career. The SMART goal method can be applied to both short-term and long-term goals.

2. Identify Targeted Skills for Advancement

According to Harvard Business School Online, an industry skills gap can be a significant obstacle between you and career growth opportunities. A recent McKinsey report highlighted that 87 percent of companies worldwide have a skills gap they know.

Recognizing this, you can focus on developing the core competencies needed for your specific industry. Identifying areas that could use improvement will allow you to address those skill gaps within your company and apply for higher-level positions.

You can figure out the best skills to focus on by:

Assessing Current Skills

Acknowledge the skills that you have within the industry and how they help contribute to your overall career goals. For example, suppose you work in the communication industry. You may already have well-developed writing and presentation skills and probably know how to meet a deadline. These competencies will prove you’re an asset to your company, helping you get a promotion. Similarly, your skills will be welcomed if you apply for a related position in your industry.

Identifying Skill Gaps

Begin to look for skill gaps within your organization. In the communications sector, for instance, you may be surrounded by a team of skilled professionals who have yet to adapt to the age of AI technology. Learn more about recent advancements in your industry, and discover which skills your organization lacks.

Understanding Industry Demands and Future Trends

Analyze future industry trends, and attempt to predict which skills will be needed in the coming months and years. Forbes notes that communications professionals who are future-proofing their careers should focus on developing their inclusive communication skills and digital literacy skills.

Setting Specific and Realistic Career Goals

Use skill development opportunities to set specific and attainable career goals. A communications specialist, for instance, can focus on core competencies that can help them become a communications manager or director of communications within five to ten years.

3. Pursue Higher Education

Whether you are looking to earn a bachelor's degree to start down a new career path or you are pursuing a graduate degree to take your career to new heights, you will find that higher education opens the door to a whole new world of opportunity.

The Value of Formal Education

Pursuing a degree program is indeed a financial investment, but recent data shows it can be lucrative. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median weekly earnings tend to increase when an individual earns a higher degree. Data from May 2020 shows that the median usual weekly earnings of an individual with a master's degree were around $1,500, while those with a doctoral degree earned about $1,900 per week.

Choosing the Right Degree Program for Your Goals

A degree or certificate is a great way to stay current with the latest happenings in your field, and to keep your knowledge of your field fresh and fine-tuned to new trends and developments. The key, of course, lies in choosing a degree program that is well-suited to your career goals. It is important to select a competency-based degree program that will provide you with the foundational knowledge and skills necessary to take your career to the next level.

Gaining Hands-On Experience and Practical Learning

In addition to your coursework, your degree program should be complemented by hands-on experiences and practical learning opportunities. Internships are valuable in a degree program, particularly among modern learners seeking a new career path. Other opportunities include volunteering in your community or with a local organization.

4. Explore Certifications and Short Courses

Of course, career enhancement can sometimes require an additional degree. In many cases, you can complete a certification program or a short course that focuses on a specific set of competencies relevant to your field.

Specialized Certifications

Specialized certifications are short-term educational programs that focus on a niche industry sector. For instance, an individual with a cybersecurity degree can specialize by earning a blockchain certificate or digital forensic science certificate. These certifications help set professionals apart from other applicants and allow them to secure higher-level positions within their industry.

The Advantages of Short Courses and Workshops

Short courses and workshops are a quick and affordable way to enhance your resume and make yourself more marketable. A workshop is an excellent alternative if you cannot commit to a degree or certification program. Workshops provide a valuable opportunity to take small steps toward your next career goal.

Nurturing a Growth Mindset Through Continuous Learning

According to WeWork, an individual with a growth mindset believes that there is always room for improvement. Organizations of all sizes and across all industries are looking for employees with a growth mindset, mainly because these professionals are known for being goal-oriented, adaptable, and resilient. Continuous learning supports the development of the growth mindset, as it allows you to pursue learning opportunities to reach an identified goal.

5. Explore Online Learning Platforms and Resources

Online learning makes career advancement more accessible, particularly for modern learners who balance existing personal and professional responsibilities with their continuous education efforts.

The Convenience and Flexibility of Online Education

The biggest perk of pursuing an online degree program, certification course, or workshop is that you can often set your schedule. In many cases, the bulk of the coursework is asynchronous, allowing you to complete it at a time and place that is convenient for you.

Accessing a Vast Array of Courses and Subjects

Online learning also expands your options, as many colleges offer programs across various topics and subject areas. For example, here at Champlain College Online, we offer online degree programs and certifications in growing industries including healthcare, cybersecurity, information technology, and business.

6. Expand Your Professional Network

Networking is a powerful way to connect with other industry professionals and discover new career development opportunities. You can expand your professional network by:

  • Using social media platforms. LinkedIn, in particular, is a valuable tool for those hoping to further their career. On this platform, you can display a professional resume with additional context and share updates about your accomplishments or any recognition you have received. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook allow you to showcase additional interests and passions and connect with like-minded individuals.
  • Attending industry-specific webinars and conferences. You may meet like-minded professionals from other parts of the country at an industry event. These experiences also offer extended learning opportunities on specific topics, providing you with benefits that extend beyond networking itself.
  • Engaging with experts and thought leaders. Not only will you enjoy meeting experts in your field, but you’ll also take away innovative ideas, new skills, and meaningful connections.  
  • Connecting with peers and coworkers at local networking events. In many cases, these are casual events that allow you to converse with professionals on a broad range of topics, potentially unlocking new opportunities for you.
  • Seeking a mentor relationship. You can seek a mentorship program through your college or at your place of employment. A professional mentor can guide you as you seek to develop new schools and further your career.

7. Engage in Self-Directed Learning Projects

Self-directed learning projects are a form of experiential learning in which you get to take control of the process. According to the Experiential Learning Depot, these meaningful experiences resonate longer with an individual than standard, instructor-directed experiences. While commonly used in the K-12 classroom setting, they can also be valuable experiences for aspiring professionals.

Personal Projects to Apply and Enhance Skills

Self-directed learning projects can be based on a topic or skill you are most interested in, allowing you to connect with the material and feel more engaged in the experience. You can design a project that will enable you to apply existing skills while simultaneously developing the competencies you think you will need.

Creating a Portfolio to Showcase Your Abilities

Completing these projects not only allows you to hone the core competencies you will need for your field but also provides you with an additional opportunity to showcase what you are capable of. Self-directed learning projects are the ideal addition to any professional portfolio, regardless of the industry you are in or the position you hope to acquire.

Seeking Feedback and Refining Skills Through Practice

During these projects, you can rely on your mentor, peers, or organizational leaders to offer feedback on your method, strategies, or progress. You can use this feedback to improve the project and refine the targeted skills throughout the entire experience.

Further Your Career With Champlain

At Champlain College Online, we are uniquely suited to support modern learners searching for advancement opportunities. Whether you're just starting or looking to advance in your field, we provide the resources and guidance you need to succeed.

Have you ever wondered, "How can I further my career? Where do I start?" Check out our online degrees and certificate programs, many focusing on core competencies and professional development. Request more information today.

About the Author

Champlain College Online

Download Online Experience Guide

Learn what you can expect from your experience at Champlain College Online.

Sunset over Lake Champlain from Champlain College campus in Burlington, Vermont

Online Experience Guide Download

Learn more about what you can expect from your online experience at Champlain.

I acknowledge that, by clicking the "submit" button, I am giving my express written consent to Champlain College and its representatives to contact me about educational opportunities via email, text, or phone, at the phone number above, including my mobile phone, using an automatic dialer, or pre-recorded message. Message and data rates may apply. I understand that my consent is not a requirement for enrollment, and I may withdraw my consent at any time.