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Top 7 Ways to Get Ahead in Your Career

Katelyn Powell Avatar
how to brand yourself

Whether you are looking for new opportunities, seeking a promotion, or considering a career change, professional development is critical to your success.

Here are seven proven ways to get ahead in your career:

  1. Define your professional brand
  2. Determine your career keywords
  3. Create or update your resume
  4. Establish a strong presence on LinkedIn
  5. Develop a 30-second pitch
  6. Invest in upskilling or reskilling opportunities
  7. Discover a professional network

1 – Define your professional brand

When thinking about how to describe yourself and your career goals, consider the following questions:

  • What do I enjoy doing at work?
  • When I get lost in a project, what is it that keeps me engaged?
  • Which type of work environment do I feel the most comfortable in (remote work, cubicles, large corporation, open floor plan versus closed offices)?
  • Do I prefer independent work or collaborating on a team?
  • What job function do I feel most fulfilled performing?

As you seek answers to these questions, your professional brand will form on its own. Whether you’re a marketing professional passionate about concise communication or an attorney specializing in family law, you have a unique skill set that defines you as a professional, no matter your industry or job. Tapping into and being able to articulate your personal brand will help you stand out online and in person.

2 – Determine your career keywords

Keywords are adjectives or verbs included in a job description. If your goal is to become a product manager, some keywords might be organization, communicating across a variety of channels, or critical thinking. Keep in mind these keywords describe the job you WANT, not the job you have. Determining which words to use can be done through a quick Google search. Once you have a keyword list, keep it and begin incorporating that language into your professional profile, resume, and everyday conversation.

3 – Create or update your resume

If you don’t have a resume, or you are using a template you found on the internet, it’s time to create a more professional document. Even the most expensive templates are not always industry standard. It’s best to stick to the basics – Times New Roman, bullet points, and chronological experience utilizing your career keywords. Here is a great guide to resume writing.

It’s also critical to tailor your resume to the job or role you are applying to – by looking at the job description, you can incorporate the language preferred by the company. This gives you better odds of passing through applicant tracking systems into the hands of a real recruiter.

4 – Establish a strong presence on LinkedIn

Though sometimes tedious, having an active presence on LinkedIn gives you a competitive advantage. In fact, many recruiters rely solely on LinkedIn when searching for qualified candidates. 

If you’re new to LinkedIn, start creating a strong profile with a professional headshot, “About” section, headline, and Experience (you can just copy and paste from your resume). Once you have a profile set up, consider incorporating your personal brand by choosing a creative header image, adding personality to your title, and posting content about your industry or specialty. View more tips here.

5 – Develop a 30-second pitch

A 30-second pitch, also known as an elevator pitch, is an essential part of any career development strategy. Learning how to present yourself, your accomplishments, and your goals in a short amount of time – the time it takes to enter and exit an elevator – can be a game changer for your career goals.

Practice introducing yourself, starting with your name and what you currently do, then quickly highlighting something you’re proud of, and ending with why the other person should care. Here’s an example:

“Hi, my name is Jamie Smith. I’m a project manager working for company ABC, and I recently took on the challenge of managing a team of eight contractors. I’m looking for new opportunities in the tech space that will help me further my management and communication skills, and I would love to hear about your experience in the industry.”

6 – Invest in upskilling or reskilling opportunities

Upskilling is enhancing or elaborating on existing skills like communication, teamwork, or critical thinking. Business programs like the Invited MBA are a great way to gain additional skills, business acumen, or financial literacy. 

Continuing education opportunities give you the skills you need to succeed and discuss in interviews or at networking events. When you complete a business or skills-based program, make sure to add your accomplishments to your resume and LinkedIn.

7 –Discover a professional network

A professional network, whether in-person or online, is the number one way professionals receive promotions, make career changes, and/or get chosen for interviews. Rather than applying to every job you see on LinkedIn, consider who you know (friends, coworkers, family, friends of family) that could introduce you to someone at a company of interest.

When you meet other people, add them on LinkedIn to maintain your relationship, offer help when needed, and keep the door open for future opportunities. If you’re struggling to grow your network, consider local industry groups like marketing associations, associations for young professionals, diversity groups, and other community events. There are often similar groups online, searchable at the top left of LinkedIn’s navigation bar.

Continued professional development has many benefits, no matter your experience or years at a job or company. Deliberately investing time in yourself will ensure you are staying  up-to-date on industry trends, becoming a more well-rounded employee, and ensuring your career growth for years to come. 

If you are looking for a tangible way to level up your career right now, learn more about the Invited MBA’s hands-on, 12-week business program.

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