Top Steps to Take at Every Career Stage

Posted by Calling All Optimists on Feb 12, 2020

Succeeding in your career involves more than just having a job you love, although that’s certainly a huge plus. You have to take deliberate steps along the way to develop both personally and professionally.

No matter what stage of your career you’re in, here are the top actions to take to ensure you’re always moving forward:

When you’re junior, you should:

  • Raise your hand for new opportunities. Look at every day as an opportunity for growth. By volunteering yourself for different projects, you’ll learn more and your manager will know you’re someone they can rely on. This means your name is at the top of the list for the next best opportunity or promotion.
  • Grow your core skills. At the beginning of your career, it’s essential to nail down the basics. Take time to grow the technical skills you need to get your job done and the soft skills you need to succeed, like leadership, communication, and collaboration. An MBA or master’s degree is a clear path to obtaining skills transferable across industries and job functions.
  • Track what brings you joy. Life’s too short to do things that don’t make you happy. Keep a list of the types of work you like doing and reflect on the types of environments you thrive in. Both of these things are critical in choosing the best possible career and company for you.
  • Build your professional brand. Buy a domain name and build a website showcasing your expertise, including examples of side jobs, internships, or schoolwork. If you are a grad student, don’t forget to add your graduation date to show when you will be available for full-time positions. Not happy about your brand? Discover how to build a powerful personal brand.
  • Try freelancing or a side gig. The gig economy is only going to continue to grow. Use freelance jobs as a way to hone your expertise or a side gig to explore your other interests.

When you’re mid-level, you should:

  • Refine your skillset. While the beginning of your career was about honing your core skills, this stage is about playing to your strengths. Consider going to graduate school or earning additional certifications to gain expertise in your chosen niche.
  • Discover your leadership style. Knowing who you are as a leader is critical in helping your team succeed. Take advantage of any professional trainings offered by your company and use professional assessments to learn about new leadership strategies.
  • Take networking more seriously. Join associations, attend networking events, and go to relevant conferences. You’ll not only position yourself as a leader in your field, but you’ll also grow your professional network.
  • Focus on work-life balance. It’s common to start a family at this stage of your career. If you do take a break from your career, make sure you stay connected with your network so you can more easily transition back to work.

When you’re an executive, you should:

  • Be a mentor. This is the perfect career stage to use your expertise to help others develop professionally. Not only will you help your mentee grow, but you’ll also gain a deeper appreciation for your own career path by having to explain it to someone else.
  • Find a way to give back. You’re in a great position to give back. Figure out a way to volunteer your expertise or resources to causes and companies you care about.
  • Don’t become outdated. Don’t use your seniority as an excuse to be uninformed on the latest trends and technologies that impact your industry. You should always aim to enhance your expertise, no matter what stage of your career you’re in.
  • Leave a legacy. What do you want people to remember you for? Focus on those big projects that you know will continue to impact your company or industry long after you leave.
  • Think about your ideal retirement. Retirement is an exciting step full of possibilities. Start thinking about how you might want to fill your time, whether it’s part-time work, a hobby, or a lot of relaxation.

Although your career path is unique to you, a lot of the steps we take are universal. What matters most is that you never stop challenging yourself to grow as you move forward in your career.

Ready to take action?