Advancing in your career means different things to different people, but career progression is something everyone should have in mind – no matter how new to a role you are. Having a goal that you can work towards, whether it’s a promotion or moving to a different team, is a great motivator. Here are the things you can do to prioritise progressing in your career.
What is career progression?
A simple definition of career progression is that it’s the act of moving forward in your career. You may hear people talking about “climbing the ladder” at work, however progressing in your career doesn’t always mean getting a promotion or securing a more highly paid role. Career progression can take many forms, including being awarded more responsibility within the role you already have, moving to a different sector or business, taking on new challenges, and increasing your skillset through training and development opportunities.
Why is career progression important?
Whichever way you look at it, career progression is something that is important to both workers and their employers. It helps with career satisfaction and staff retention, as being given the opportunity to take on new challenges makes you more likely to be engaged with your day-to-day work.
Showing progression, whether that’s through a promotion or a sideways move in your company, demonstrates your ability to adapt to changes to your workload and cope with more responsibility, which are valuable characteristics to have in any job.
Even if your career progression doesn’t result in a promotion, being able to deepen your understanding and learn new things is essential if you want to continue your professional development. Plus, if a promotion is what you really want, growing within one role puts you in a good position to be able to excel in a different team or company.
What can I do to enhance my career progression?
Some companies encourage their employees to fill in career development plans, where you are asked to write down where you would like to be career-wise in two, five, or ten years. They encourage you to look at what skills you already have that can help you achieve this, as well as what skills need further development.
Even if your company doesn’t ask you to work on a career development plan, it’s still good practice to think about your career progression in this way. Rather than saying “I want to become a deputy director at my company”, breaking your career progression into manageable chunks, where you hit smaller targets along the way, means you can steadily progress towards a more ambitious goal.
You don’t have to be as structured in your thinking as you would be with an official company career development plan, but taking some time to think about where you want to be, why and what will help you get there is a good way to set goals and reach them.
Take a look at the opportunities available to you
When it comes to looking at the practical side of what you need to do to progress in your career, make sure you know what opportunities are available to you. This includes looking at internal vacancies within your company and searching for what jobs are available outside of the business. This will help you determine whether you can stay in your current role and progress internally, or whether you need to begin looking elsewhere in order to move up the ladder.
If you find you don’t have all the required skills for the job you would like, use the job description to note down anything you need to improve on. For example, do the roles you are looking at require experience in client communication? Maybe you can sit in on a future meeting with a client or be copied into emails with them. You don’t have to be actively communicating with the client yourself, but seeing how it’s done will give you a good idea of what client communication involves – something you will be able to discuss in future job application or interviews. It also shows your current employer that you have the desire to keep learning, which can only benefit you in the long run!
Book regular meetings with your line manager
Part of your line manager’s job is to support you, so don’t be anxious about raising the topic of career progression with them. They work closely with you and understand your capabilities – and they may have even previously held a similar or the same role as you – meaning they are in a good position to help you with professional development.
If you aren’t doing so already, suggest one-to-one meetings with your manager. These should take place at least once a month, ideally weekly or fortnightly, and are a great place to regularly review your progress. Having these meetings often will hopefully lead to you feel more confident in discussing exactly what you want from your time at the company, what needs improving and any sensitive subjects that are perhaps having a negative impact on your work.
Take advantage of training and development opportunities
Companies are often looking to send their employees on training courses in order to encourage the learning and development of staff and to bridge any knowledge gaps within their workforce. Take a look at your company’s intranet, ask your line manager or someone from HR to see what training is available and whether you’re able to sign up.
If you are given the chance to take part in some training, unless you have a legitimate reason to turn it down, be sure to accept the offer. At worst, you’ll have gained some new insights and, at best, it could put you in a better position for that promotion!
Take note of your achievements
Keeping a record of your achievements is another thing that will benefit your career progression. Whether you’ve completed a training course, received positive feedback on a project, or presented at an event – make a list, save it somewhere you will remember and continue adding to it throughout your career.
Having a document that details your successes will come in handy when it comes to performance reviews and appraisals, as well as in situations where you are negotiating a promotion or pay rise, as it won’t be difficult for you to showcase your professional development and how you are an asset to the company.
If you’ve decided that your career progression lies outside of the company, a list of professional achievements will save you a lot of time when it comes to filling out an application form or writing a cover letter.
Step outside your comfort zone
Show that you are eager to progress in your career by taking on challenges that make you step outside of your area of expertise. If you’re not confident in speaking up or asking questions in meetings, then why not try getting involved in a discussion in a meeting that’s coming up? If somebody needs support with something, offer to help them out regardless of whether it’s something you’re confident in doing. If it’s possible, you could even put yourself forward to lead on a project or offer a creative solution to a problem.
The more you put yourself out there, the less nervous you’ll be about doing so in the future, and the more people will start to notice and remember you for your can-do attitude.
Looking for more support when it comes to your career? The career advice section of our website has articles to help you at all stages of your career.
Last updated on 13 June 2022Share this article