Everyone wants to advance their career, but how do you really get the most out of your role and employers throughout your working life? How do you maximise your potential? Sometimes career progression is easy, with the route logical and steps distinct and attainable.

Other times, career advancement seems difficult, and you can feel like you’re stagnating and without a clear path to follow. Wherever you are in your journey, use these tips to keep your career progressing through even the most challenging periods.

Planning is critical for career progression

Your career should always be guided by a plan that is ambitious, adaptable and achievable. Create a career plan accompanied by a five-year strategy establishing what you want to achieve, and the skills, experience and people required to get you there.

Make sure it’s adaptable, as the success of your plan and ability to progress hinges on being able to seize opportunities when they arise, even if they come as a surprise.

Always be an asset to advance your career

Whatever role you’re in, make the most of it by doing the following:

  • Regularly fulfil and exceed role expectations
  • Actively collaborate and assist colleagues with their jobs
  • Look for opportunities to further your skills and learn new processes
  • Embrace change and look for opportunities to add value to your team and the organisation at large
  • Participate in company-wide initiatives and working groups
  • Always act as an advocate for the business, sharing knowledge internally and externally and promoting positivity
  • Be enthusiastic, approachable and adaptable
  • Take constructive criticism on board and be able to follow direction
  • Exhibit loyalty to team members and the organisation by being consistently reliable and responsible

Being an asset in every role you have will ensure you learn as much as is possible and maximise job satisfaction. It also keeps you open to opportunities that arise, whether they are widely available to employees or offered specifically to you as a reward for your ongoing effort and commitment.

Go extra-curricular

Career progression can take place after work hours, and doesn’t necessary have to be provided by your employer. Finding a mentor outside your organisation, undertaking external training or attending classes, joining networks, and being aware of market trends and the key issues impacting your role and industry are just a few things you can do to help advance your career.

Looking outside your organisation for ways to improve and drive your career forward is all part of being proactive and seizing opportunities. It also diversifies the experiences and knowledge you’re exposed to, helping you expand your capabilities profoundly.

Mistakes are part of career progression

Advancing your career doesn’t mean having a flawless, winning run at everything you attempt. Making mistakes are a critical part of learning and an effective way of finding ways to optimise experiences throughout your professional life. Here are some tips on how to effectively learn from your mistakes:

  • Write a reflection of the mistake you made, identifying where you went wrong and what led to the error
  • Take stock of how you felt - was it anger, embarrassment, frustration? This will help you manage your emotions and responses to mistakes in the future, but also make you empathetic and supportive when your colleagues experience the same thing.
  • Note down how you resolved it. Did you enlist help from a manager? Was it a simple solution that could have been found with a more thorough review process? Whatever the resolution, have it detailed clearly and keep it somewhere accessible so that you can avoid making the mistake again. Then you can truly say you’ve turned a negative experience into something positive and long-term.

While it can feel like making mistakes slow down your career advancement, managing them diplomatically and professionally will show your colleagues, managers and stakeholders that you’re resilient and flexible, focussed on the best outcomes no matter what challenges lie in your way.

The rewards

When you commit to progressing your career, your efforts won’t go unnoticed. You’ll be seen as a proactive, committed achiever, someone with ambition and direction. Expect great references, positive feedback, a brilliant reputation and maybe even industry recognition in the form of industry awards or accolades. Working consistently on your progression also acts as a sort of insurance policy to your career, providing you with options and flexibility should you want to leave the company you’re working for and apply your skills elsewhere.

Everyone can do something every day to progress their career, no matter what their role type, seniority or industry. It should be tailored and aspirational, and a source of constant inspiration and direction throughout your working life.

Take a look at our career development hub for more career tips and advice.