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Tips for Career Advancement

Updated on September 23, 2010


Dress the Part 

Working in a business casual office environment, a lot of people tend to bend the rules of the dress code at times. During the summer months, it may be the norm for employees to sneak in an occasional pair of flip-flops or a spaghetti strap tank top. Sure, you can get away with it and your boss probably won’t say anything, but it can hurt you in the long run if you are looking to move up in your company.

I have noticed, specifically in my own workplace, that our Vice President is always looking at people’s shoes. He won’t ever say anything about your flip-flops or Crocs, but he will walk by you, all the while staring at your shoes. When it comes time for you interview for a promotion, he may not know your name or anything about you, but he will remember, “That’s the girl I always see walking around in flip-flops!” .

The general rule of thumb is to dress for the position you want and not the position you are in. If you want to be a manager, look around at how the other managers dress and hold yourself to their standards. It takes the same amount of time to put on a pair of dress pants as it does to put on a pair of jeans. You don’t have to spend a fortune to dress appropriately either. Ironing your clothes is key.  It is better to wear an old pair of neatly ironed dress pants than a new pair of wrinkled dress pants.


Set goals and meet them

Most job interviewers seek out goal-oriented people. Rather than just describing your daily tasks on your resume, describe specific goals that you have accomplished. For example, instead of:

“Answers phone calls and assists customers”

Try this instead:

“Consistently meets goal of 2 minute call time and 20 second hold time”.

You don’t want your job description to look like a list of chores. You want it to look like a list of things you have accomplished and are proud of. If you are unsure of what goals or accomplishments to use, then create your own. For example, if you have a hobby of creating web pages and you know your department doesn’t have a centralized page with all of the tools they use, then take the initiative and create one for them. That would be a great addition to your resume.

Sometimes you may get asked difficult interview questions asking you describe specific events you have experienced at work. You may get asked, “Tell me about a conflict you have had at work and what did you do to solve it?”. Avoid telling them about your supervisor to much. It is a bad idea to say, “This happened and it was a problem so I let my supervisor know and he fixed it.”. Employers want to know that you can accomplish goals independently and successfully.


Form strategic friendships

Rethink the friendships you have in the workplace. Your friends at work shouldn’t be the type that you go out drinking with on the weekends and vent to about how much you hate your job. It may sound shallow, but form your friendships with people who can actually help you advance in your career. As good as you may be at your job, a big part of getting promoted is who you know. Suppose you are an employer looking to hire for an open position. You have 2 equally qualified candidates. More than likely, you will choose the one that you have seen around and is always smiling, saying “Hello”, and asking you how your day is over the one that you have never seen before.

You don’t necessarily need to become the hiring manager’s BFF. Just make an effort to get your name known and become a friendly acquaintance. Also, it is best to keep your personal life quiet, so build relationships with senior staff through work events and functions. If you hear of your manager volunteering for a charity event, show interest in it and ask if you can help out. If you know of clubs or organizations they are involved in, then you could join them also.


Get educated

In some careers, advancement is not possible without some sort of degree or certifications. For example, to become a manager or above might require a Bachelor’s degree or an IT job might require their supervisors to have certain IT certifications. No matter how long you have been with the company or how well you do the job, sometimes there is just no way around this. Look up the job descriptions for where you want to be and research the education requirements.

One important thing to remember though is that education isn’t everything and simply having a higher degree than another candidate won’t get you the job. The average Master’s degree results in about $40,000 in student loans. If you aiming for a position that states Bachelors is required, it really isn’t necessary to continue on to get the Masters. Typically, a Masters degree will only pay off in a position where a Master’s is required, for example, a doctor.

Many employers today offer tuition assistance programs. You can research different companies and find out what they offer to save money on your education.


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