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Last Updated on April 16, 2020

9 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Advancement

9 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Advancement

Are you focused on career advancement, or is it not your priority?

For many of us, having a secure job to go to each week is important and career is not much of an interest. It may not be an issue until we start to feel discontent at work. When this happens, we naturally start to look for another job.

By this time, desperation has often crept in and we go into reaction mode. We become impatient for change and may jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

The more interested we are in career advancement, the less likely we are to get to that stage. This is because we make conscious and objective choices, and we are more proactive about them.

There are many benefits to advancing our career. These include salary raises, increased work satisfaction, travel opportunities, building skills, and personal growth. All of these contribute to our quality of life in general.

For many people, career advancement happens organically. I know it always did for me. It was not something I consciously pursued; my employers just saw potential in me. I guess, in a way, I was lucky.

But for most of us, if it is something we want, then we need to make a conscious choice.

If you’ve had an intention to advance your career from the onset, you possibly have a good idea where you’re heading and how to get there. But if you’re new to the concept, you may not know where to start.

Because of this, I have put together what I consider to be 9 powerful steps to achieve career advancement.

1. Set An Intention to Advance Your Career

Starting with the outcome in mind is always a good place to start when you want to achieve something.

Forbes magazine says that it is about defining what success is in your career.[1] Success is different for everyone, so it is important to make this clear from the beginning.

This can be challenging from the onset, especially if you are not really sure. But if you spend time exploring this early, it will guide you to make the right decision and help you choose the right company to work for and roles most appropriate for you.

Even more essential is to regularly check in with your intentions at different points throughout your career path. This will help you see if it is still relevant to what you want as you change and grow. Because what you want now will more likely be very different from what you want in five years.

A favorite interview question is, “What is your five-year plan?”

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This is because it is helpful to know this when your potential employer makes a decision. It is also beneficial for you because it gives you direction and helps you make effective decisions.

Imagine how you want your career to look like five years from now. Think about how this may benefit your whole life. Remember that your career is just a part of your life; it is important that it benefits your life in general.

2. Explore What You Enjoy

The more we enjoy our work, the more satisfied we feel. And increasing job satisfaction gives us more potential for career advancement. We become more productive when we see greater opportunities that lead us to be noticed.

In general, we enjoy what we are good at, but that is not always the case. Sometimes, we develop strengths just because we have been doing them for a long time, or we have been trained well.

My career is probably a really good example of this. I am strong in numbers and was a skilled bookkeeper. Yet, I have chosen a career in human services. This career is the love of my life, and I have been very successful in it.

It’s also easier to learn new skills when they are related to what you enjoy. Even out of comfort zone skills become more doable. For instance, I was a C grade student in English, and now I have become a skilled writer because I write about my passion.

We can be doing something for years without fully enjoying our work. Getting clear on what most lights you up from the inside and working with that creates fulfilment. This contributes to your prospects of career advancement.

Write a list of all the things you have enjoyed, even what you loved to do as a child. Look for a common thread that could be part of your career.

3. Be a Forward Thinker in Your Job Choice

If career advancement was not on your horizon before, you might be in the pattern of accepting a job just because it is offered. It is easy to do, especially if you are unhappy in your current workplace.

Doing this can eventually lead to more of the same; even if you are happy in the role, to begin with. This can limit your career and even set you back for a few years.

When you have a big picture outcome for your career, you can use a simple process to ensure you make choices serving that outcome. This can fast track your career success.

For each role or job that interests you, check for its alignment with the bigger picture.

Look for where it can contribute to your ultimate goal and how you can use it as a stepping-stone. For example, will it mean you have to learn new skills or open you up to new networks? Is there potential for promotion or not?

4. Do Not Keep Your Plans a Secret

In business, there is a fantastic saying:

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“You can be really good at what you do, but if it’s a secret you won’t attract clients.”

The same goes for career advancement. You can have wonderful plans for professional growth, but keeping it a secret delays your development.

When you have decided what you want to achieve in your career, it is a good idea to let the appropriate people know. This might mean being prepared for that “5-year plan” question at your interview and answering honestly. Or actually ask if there are opportunities for career advancement.

And if you are in a company you love working for, let your superior know your aims. Freely sharing this information and asking them to keep you in mind puts you on their radar. This makes them more likely to give you the chance to develop yourself or trust you with extra responsibilities.

As you take on more, it gives you a chance to show what you are capable of. And this puts you in the forefront for future opportunities.

5. Stand Out by Believing in Yourself

When we believe in ourselves, it increases our self-confidence. And we all know that confident people tend to stand out in the workplace.

Believing in yourself and what you are capable of also leads others to believe in you too. This makes you more likely to be considered for promotion when it becomes available.

We are all very good at noticing our negative qualities. Many of us are also very talented at beating ourselves up for those things. This lowers our self-belief and in turn, our self-confidence.

When we flip this pattern and notice our wonderful qualities instead, our self-belief increases. Plus, our superiors are more likely to notice those strengths too.

One of the greatest self-confidence boosting exercises I like to do is writing a list of all your amazing qualities in a journal. Then write a list of all the things you are good at. Allow yourself plenty of time to do this and keep coming back to it as the answers come to you.

You will be astonished at how much you have on your list. And you may realize that you are a great catch for any employer.

6. Identify Your Strengths Using Profiling Tools

Profiling tools are a fantastic way to identify what we are good at. It can cut out the guess-work, and it hones in on our professional strengths. These days, there are many different types available.

Extended DISC is a tool I have used for myself and my clients for a long time. I prefer this method because it doesn’t pigeon hole us. Instead, it helps us build on the strengths and developmental areas that we naturally have.

This profiling tool is based on the works of Carl Jung and William Marston. It helps us build on our strengths and modify our behaviors to improve our performance. And when we improve our performance, we increase our opportunity for career advancement.

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We can identify our strengths by writing our own list in a journal. We can also ask our work colleagues or honest friends to help us with this. Other people close to us can often see our strengths easier than we can.

Once you know your strengths, identify ways to build on them to improve your performance. You can try to volunteer for responsibilities where your strengths can be utilized.

7. Be Prepared to Level Up Your Knowledge and Skills

For every strength, there is an underside, and we must work on those to increase our opportunities.

Einstein’s definition of insanity is:

“Doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”

This means that if we want to advance our career, we might need to do different things and learn new skills. We can also develop in areas that we are not that strong at.

Be willing to study further to support your career advancement. In many instances, the company you work for will chip in with the financial side. But if not, be happy to fund it yourself. After all, it is for your own benefit.

Also, volunteering for extra responsibilities that are out of your comfort zone allows you to learn new skills. You can sometimes do this by offering to cover someone when they are away or on holiday.

8. Show That You Want to Advance Your Career

We can have the best skills in the world, but if our outer image does not reflect our inner success, we can still be passed over when it comes to promotion.

Our image gives others an impression of our personal brand. Our personal brand is what we stand for, which includes our qualities, beliefs, and values. Therefore, it is important to look the part.

Sally Mlikota from CBC Staff Selection says it is important to dress for success. Research conducted by various career agencies showed that 65% of hiring managers say that clothes can be the deciding factor between two similar candidates in an interview.[2]

I believe this also applies when already working in a company you want to advance in. Promotion really is like applying for a new job.

Think about the new role you want and the responsibilities along with it. Consider the qualities, values, and strengths the role might require. Do you have those attributes, and if not, how will you develop them?

And once you have those qualities, how would you dress and present yourself? A personal stylist can also help you with this.

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This is not about becoming something you are not. It’ is about developing and building on who you already are. Then, acting and dressing as if you already have the role.

9. Find a Good Mentor to Help You Advance Faster

For anything we want to achieve, there is always someone else who has already done it. And if we have a successful career, we are often eager to share how we did it.

Achieving success in anything involves making mistakes and overcoming many challenges. Working with a mentor or a coach can help you minimize these and fast track your career success.

That is why many network marketers do so well. They always have mentors on hand to tell them step by step how they did it.

You can find a mentor in your current workplace, or you can meet them while networking.

In my experience, networking in appropriate circles always expands opportunities. It gives us the chance to get to know people. And this allows us to make the best choices.

When deciding on a mentor, make sure that the person has the results you want. Just because someone has the kind of role you want doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing it well. It’s essential to build the relationships first, so you can get to know the person before you decide.

Lastly, don’t be shy about it. Just ask them. More often than not, you will find they feel honored.

To Sum It Up

We spend many hours at work each week. For that reason, it is vital that we feel satisfied with our roles. Feeling happy at work has a positive effect on our health and every relationship we have both at work and personally.

There are two choices:

You can either take it as it comes and change jobs when you feel unhappy. This means leaving it to chance, and you might never feel long-term fulfillment.

Or, you can consciously choose career advancement and know where you are heading. This one has positive effects on all aspects of your life, not to mention the potential increases in salary.

Which one will you choose?

More Career Tips

Featured photo credit: Jud Mackrill via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Forbes: 5 Things You Can Do to Advance Your Career
[2] CBC Staff Selection: Dress for Success

More by this author

Deb Johnstone

Deb is a professional mindset speaker and a transformational life, business and career coach. Specialising in NLP and dynamic mindset.

How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis (The Complete Guide) Why Behavior Change Is Hard? Science Explains It 9 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Advancement How to Use the Theories of Motivation to Keep Yourself Uplifted 8 Ways to Let Go of Self-Pity for Good

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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

Think of your cover letter for a job application as an in-person introduction. Your resume outlines the facts—where you worked and for how long, along with your major accomplishments. But your cover letter also shows off your personality.

Your cover letter should outline the case for why you deserve the job without being “salesy.” How do you do that? Follow these 12 important guidelines.

1. There Is No Cookie-Cutter Cover Letter for a Job

Targeting your resume to a particular job may mean changing up your “Objective” section a bit or adding to your “Executive Summary” section. Cover letters, though, really need to focus on the particular person you’re writing to, the particular job, and the particular company. It needs to prove, with an economy of words, that your job experience fits the requirements of the position for which you’re applying.

Your letter should show that you have amassed the skills you need to succeed in that workplace. And, your cover letter should clinch your prospects by making the case that you are very excited about working at that particular company.

2. Always Opt-in to the Optional Cover Letter

Some job postings will give applicants the option of opting out of providing a cover letter for a job[1]. Don’t take the bait! Use the opportunity to further sell yourself in a personalized, well-crafted cover letter that creatively shares who you are and why your skills and personality align with the position and the company. Think of your cover letter for a job as an opportunity to describe your value proposition.

3. A Reference Goes a Long Way

Did someone recommend you for the job? Put that in the subject line of your cover letter if possible. If an online listing dictates what your subject line must be, cite the personal recommendation in the first sentence of your letter:

Dear Ms. Sanders,

Steve Smith recommended me for your Assistant Planner position. I worked with Steve at the XYZ company for four years as his assistant until he moved on, and I feel as though I learned from the best.  His high praise for you is the primary reason I am applying for this position, as I consider him an excellent judge of character. 

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You may want to bolster Steve’s recommendation with a short anecdote about working with Steve. Don’t be shy. Steve’s high opinion of you will likely mean that your resume gets a serious look.

4. Outline the Key Points You Want to Make

Company by company, your cover letter for a job application needs to be specific and bulletproof. Unless you have a great deal of practice in writing cover letters, it’s hard to just bang them out. So don’t even try. Instead, start with a list of points you intend to make. Generally, these would be a “grabby” introduction, a story or two about a particular accomplishment that is relevant to the job to which you are applying, a reason why you are the ideal candidate for the position, and a conclusion with a suggested next step.

  1. Intro – Have been familiar with the company since my father worked there in the 1980s.
  2. College Major – Majored in industrial engineering so I could get a job at CYY Building, Inc.
  3. Captain of Soccer Team – Prepared me to solve problems, promote morale, and coach a team.
  4. Ask for Informational Interview – 15 minutes to meet in person and learn more about opportunities.
  5. Compelling Close – Ask Hiring Manager to call me. Say I will call her in a week if I don’t hear from her first.

5. Moderating the Tone of Your Cover Letter

Some companies are buttoned-up. The workers wear three-piece suits to the office each day plus loafers. Other companies are more casual. The employees wear shorts in the summertime and skateboard through the hallways. In an in-person interview, you would never wear shorts to a company whose employees are sporting three-piece suits.

Similarly, your cover letter needs to strike the right note. The letter you write to a start-up should sound markedly different than the letter you would write to a white-shoe law firm.

For example, even using something as informal as “Greetings” for the salutation may not be appropriate at a more formal firm. And definitely don’t use the default “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, try to find the name of the hiring manager with an online search. If that’s not possible, you will want to begin with “Dear XYZ Hiring Manager.” The tone of your cover letter for a job starts at the very beginning.

6. Create an Attention-Grabbing Opening Line

Think of going to hear a presentation by a motivational speaker, only to have her open with, “I’m here today to present (fill in with title of the presentation).” What a let down! What if instead, she started with, “I just ran a half marathon. Now doesn’t that sound better than if I told you, ‘I tried to run a marathon but quit half-way through?’” See the difference? You want to hear more.

Craft the first line of your cover letter with the utmost care. It doesn’t need to be clever, but it needs to show your personality and your fit for the position.

Dear Mr. Stevens,

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I am committed to making the customer service experience better for people like my grandmother. At 87 years old, my Gram is lost in the digital world and reliant on customer service representatives she can reach by telephone to answer her questions and solve her problems. She regularly shares stories of frustrating dead-ends she experiences with people wanting her to “go online and make your selection.”  Yet, whenever she reaches someone willing to take the extra time to resolve her issue, she sings the company’s praises to everyone she knows. Based on Gram’s frustrations, I want to be that person who won’t give up or pass the buck with bewildered customers.  

With a strong, anecdotal opening such as this, you show purpose and passion behind your application to be a customer service representative.

7. Recognize the Value of Cover Letter Real Estate

Spare writing is key in the cover letter for a job. It is always best if your letter doesn’t exceed a page. Those reviewing applications appreciate a letter that is terse, yet provides useful information to evaluate an applicant. This means you have five to six paragraphs in which to work.

Repeating anything from your resume is a waste of real estate. Think in terms of describing why you are applying for the position and why you are the best candidate.

To best show your personality, avoid stale phrases such as, “I believe my experience would be a good fit in your organization.” Add punch to your statements that show off your accomplishments and your attitude.

I thrive in start-up environments where I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to make changes on the fly. In one such instance, I uncovered better results from a pilot project and in under 30 minutes had updated the CEO’s presentation in time for his meeting with a venture capitalist.

8. Getting Creative

On the surface, a requirement is a requirement. Many online ads specify the number of years, and you might think they are ironclad. But if you count the number of years you amassed a particular skill at the job and add any volunteer work where you also used that skill, you might surpass the requirement.

Say that you are applying for a position in fund development. If your career experience in putting on charity fundraisers falls a little short, it’s certainly appropriate to add in time spent organizing fundraising events as a volunteer—as long as you indicate it as such in your cover letter for the job.

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I recently passed my two and a half year mark of employment as a fund development associate with Notable Events. Concurrently, I oversaw all aspects of two annual fundraising galas as a volunteer board member of Reach for the Stars Foundation, offering scholarships to first-generation college-bound students. These involved finding sponsors for more than 70 silent auction items, renting event space, working with caterers, recruiting volunteers and MC-ing both events, which each drew more than 200 attendees and, together, raised more than $250,000. I believe this intensive hands-on experience helps supplement my years of employment.

Showcasing your community ethos through volunteering could make up for the deficit in actual on-the-job experience.

9. Making the Case that You Fit

How will you fit in at the company? With some research, you can easily figure out the corporate culture of an organization. Many companies share their core values in job recruitment ads. But even if you can’t discern a company’s mission or beliefs from its advertising, you can learn it from articles you read about the company.

Is it employer-centric or employee-centric? Is the culture more traditional or more fun? And what are you looking for? When you find a company where your needs align with theirs, that’s an indication that you would fit in well. Take care to make sure that your cover letter reflects how you fit.

If you are a recent military veteran[2], consider which civilian positions lend themselves to the regimented culture of which you’ve become accustomed. For example, your occupational specialty while in the military could dovetail well with a company’s job requirements—and you have the added benefit of discipline, following instructions, and teamwork that you can apply to any future position.

10. Always Ask for What You’re Worth

If the employer asks applicants to share their salary requirements in the cover letter for a job, disregard what you made in your former position and look into the salary ranges[3] of the advertised position. You will want to adjust up or down within the salary range depending on your prior experience in the industry or in a similar role.

The key is to not undercut yourself by asking below the minimum amount, or to overinflate your worth by asking for an amount higher than the maximum pay in the salary range.

11. Show Your Cover Letter to Three People Whose Opinion You Trust

Once your letter is out in the world, it’s too late to tweak it for that particular job. You will dramatically improve your chances of having your cover letter “land” correctly if you’re proactive. Find a few people in the field, and ask them if you can show them your cover letter before you send it out.

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If you are starting out and don’t know anyone in the field, you may want to consider paying for a professional career consultant or coach to review your cover letter and resume. Remember that the care you demonstrate in your cover letter is that employer’s first impression of you.

12. End With Enthusiasm

You want to stay upbeat all the way to the end of the letter. Let the reviewer know that you appreciate the opportunity to apply and that you look forward to hearing from (or having a chance to meet with) them in person.

It would be an honor to be part of your team, and I hope to have an opportunity to discuss this role and how I could contribute to it in person.

This acknowledges that the organization gets to make the next move, but that you anticipate it will be in your favor.

Sign off formally (“Sincerely” or “Best regards”) or informally (“Best” or “Thank you”) depending on the tone of the letter. Also, be sure to include your email address and phone number under your name. This ensures that, should the reviewer wish to contact you, the contact information is easily accessible.

Final Thoughts

The best cover letters for a job are lively, authentic, and provide a memorable result, anecdote or example of your approach to work. By tying your approach to the requirements of the job description and revealing your personality as a fit for the organization, you will give yourself a winning chance for making the cut and landing that coveted job interview.

More Tips on Writing a Great Cover Letter

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

Reference

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