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9 Bulletproof Ways To Get Ahead in Your Career

9 Bulletproof Ways To Get Ahead in Your Career

With so much competition in today’s workforce, it can be tough to get ahead. Whether you’re in journalism, business, engineering or sciences, there are going to be thousands of people who share the same skill set as you. Let’s say you just got hired into a new graduate program at a large company and my cohort was made up of 25 people. How does one go about differentiating themselves from everyone else, when it comes time for a promotion after one to two years? What about when you are two other colleagues are vying for the same position five years later? What is going to set you apart from everyone else and help you get those lucrative opportunities?

Here’s a list of a few ways you can use to take your career by the horns in order to help you achieve your professional ambitions.

1. “You gotta network to get work”

One day, while on the subway travelling through downtown Toronto for work, I overheard a couple of teens catching up with each other. Halfway through their conversation, the topic of their part-time jobs came up. One of them began describing his work and was immediately questioned by his friend about how he got the job, to which the first teen replied, “You know how it is, mayn [incorrect spelling intended] – you gotta network to get work.” That simple statement blew my mind. Never had I thought such wise words could emanate from the mouth of a seemingly carefree hipster. Nevertheless, what he said became cemented in my mind, and I’ve since use this as a principle to helping me get ahead in my own career and in advising others.

Networking appears in many forms. It could be a quick and informal email to someone like a coworker, senior manager or a friend of a friend, asking them out to a coffee or lunch, a LinkedIn invite sent to the recruiter who posted a job you recently applied to, or an actual networking event intended for professionals within a certain industry or holding a certain job role (e.g. networking seminar for project managers).

I’ve personally used all of these above mentioned methods to help me expand my network, and they’ve helped in me achieving my career goals 95% of the time (the remaining 5% is due to misfortune/bad luck). The interview I most recently had with a large Canadian retailer was due to my reaching out to a recruiter on LinkedIn – who actually had nothing to do with recruitment for the role I was interested in. Nonetheless, the recruiter appreciated my message and efforts and asked me to send them a copy of my CV so they could forward it to the actual recruiter responsible for filling the vacancy.

I landed my current position solely due to the fact that I attended a networking event relevant to the role. That translated into me talking with senior managers from the organization, swapping business cards with them, adding them on LinkedIn and emailing them following the event’s completion to solidify who I was in their minds. I ended up name-dropping them on my cover letter for the job – and VOILA! Almost a year later, I have my networking skills and tenacity to thank for landing me my dream job.

Here’s my go-to formula for making a new connection:

1. Meet person.
2. Send thank-you or regular follow-up e-mail.
3. Invite to connect on LinkedIn, with a personalized invite message.
4. Maintain communication with person, whether on a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual basis.

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2. Become an expert

Subject-matter experts (SMEs) are the go-to people for a specialized job, task, or skill within the organization. An SME might be a software engineer, a helpdesk support operative, an accounts manager or a scientific researcher. In short, anybody with in-depth knowledge of the subject someone is trying to understand.

You can become a SME through a variety of methods:

– Learning: Completing education and earning certifications specific to your field of knowledge in order to add credibility to your resume and broaden your knowledge base on that topic.
– Accolades: There is nothing better than independent confirmation of SME status. Most industry organizations, as well as business journals, recognize experts and high achievers through some form of accolade.
– Networking: Meeting and talking with other professionals in your subject area, in order to share or exchange knowledge.
– Research: Doing your own research – whether it’s watching a TED Talk, a YouTube video or reading books, articles or academic papers – is a sure way to help augment what you already know.
– Experience: Plain ol’ experience – if you’ve been doing something for a while and you’ve been doing it well, people are most likely to turn to you or be pointed in your direction the moment they have a question.

As you develop a reputation of being an SME, individuals higher up the food chain (e.g. your manager’s manager, a director, VP, etc.) are sure to recognize your abilities and knowledge, or they’ll at least hear about you from someone else in the organization. Combining your status as an SME and your networking abilities is a great way to help you move up quickly.

3. Look good, feel great

“Let’s be clear: In the big picture of ultimate reality, what you wear neither defines who you are as a person nor determines your value as a human being,” says Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc., and author of ‘Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results’. “However, in the temporal realm of mere mortals, fair or not, people judge us by the way we look and that includes the way we dress.”

Especially in the workplace, clothing significantly influences how others perceive you and how they respond toward you, she says.

Dressing well and looking good don’t necessarily mean spending wads of money on your clothes. For example, I bought four high-quality tailor-made suits and seven tailor-made dress shirts on a trip to Shanghai, China. These collectively ran me a total of roughly $600 CAD. Had I bought all of these in Canada, I would’ve easily spend over $5,000 for similar-quality items. I get tons of complements on the way I dress at work, and for a great price too.

Looking good at work can also help boost your self-confidence, according to a study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Even without reading the study, this makes sense to me. When you look professional and put-together, you’re likely to be taken more seriously by your colleagues. You’re also sure to get complements on your dress and style, which is a sure way to boost your self-confidence. In the end, looking good and feeling great about yourself will put you in the “I can do it” state of mind, and will allow you to more confidently pursue your career goals and aspirations.

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4. Take time to plan

Think of your career plan as a war strategy – it takes consideration, determination and execution in order to go well. Spend time to think of your short-term (2-5 year) and long-term (5-10 years) goals and how you’ll go about achieving them.

Once you’ve got your short and long-term goals on paper and have figured out how you’ll achieve them, start facilitating the conversations and meetings needed to achieve them. This might be a meeting with your manager to discuss what you want to achieve in your current role, or where you want to see yourself in the next 1-2 years and how they may be able to help you get there. This is a great way to build rapport with your manager; they’re sure to take notice of your ambition and keenness.

As Benjamin Franklin aptly said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

5. Learn a language

How many times have you caught yourself with a huge smile on your face when coming across a great sounding job such as “Senior Business Analyst” or “Senior Reporter” and then slowly felt the smile drift off your face when you saw the word Bilingual following the position’s title? I’ve seen it happen to a lot of people.

The fact is that knowing another language is a great way to start conversations, meet people and a skill that will automatically expand your job search prospects. Let’s take knowing Spanish as an example. If you can currently speak English and recently learned how to speak Spanish, you’ve just expanded the countries you’re a candidate for jobs in from America, Canada, England, etc. to Spain, Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Costa Rica and the list goes on!

Did you recently learn Arabic? Congratulations! You’ve just expanded your prospects to the UAE, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Libya, Kuwait… it’s endless!

Acquiring fluency in a language may also put you in the ranks of an SME; you may become the go-to person for translation help when there is no one else around with the same level of knowledge as you. Let’s say my company needed someone to go from Toronto to Montreal for business and needed someone who spoke French to tag alone? I might have just won myself a plane ticket for a week of work and sight-seeing due to my fluency in the language.

6. Ask for feedback

Asking for feedback either formally or informally is a great way to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses (which I like to call “improvement areas”) and will help you direct your efforts when career planning or becoming a SME.

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A formal way to ask for feedback might be a coffee or lunch meeting with the people you work closest with and who are accountable to – your direct manager in most cases. This also might come up automatically in the form of a semi-annual or annual review that your manager will sit you down for.

I personally like asking for informal feedback more. After I’ve completed a task or project, I like asking the people I’ve worked with closely to complete those items for their feedback; their thoughts will usually mirror what your manager thinks about you.

Asking for feedback will display your eagerness to improve your current skill-set in your current role and will ultimately help you determine what it is that sets you apart from everyone else when looking to make a career advancement.

7. Put in a couple extra hours

Sick of staying late to do work? Keep it up, as long as it’s not taking a toll on your life. Someone is definitely paying attention to all the work you’ve been putting in – whether it’s a colleague, manager or a client. These people will be able to vouch for you when it comes time to take your next career leap.

Staying longer than your regular 9-5 hours is a great way to demonstrate your ambition, reliability and results-orientation. I’ve experienced this first-hand, and was told by both one of my first clients and one of my project managers how much they appreciated the work I was doing and how much of an impact I was making by putting in a couple more hours every week.

8. Find a mentor

This is definitely one of the most overlooked methods of career advancement. Finding a mentor who shares a similar interest, career path or who has extensive experience in a particular field or industry is a great way to help you fast track your career. This is someone who will provide sound advice and who you can look towards to ask all your career-related questions. A mentor will hopefully provide you no-nonsense tips and the uncensored truth about getting ahead in your career, since they’ve already been down that road. Your mentor will help you make connections and will help you reach out to people that will help you get ahead.

Since they will probably get to know you on both a personal and professional level, they will have a good idea of what you can bring to the table, so if they should hear about a position which they think would be beneficial to your career, they’ll be the first one to tell you. Since a mentor-mentee relationship is just like any other relationship, I would highly recommend trying to find someone who you have “chemistry” with. Being able to speak to someone about your future is a fairly intimate topic and one which requires openness and honestly.

9. Speak up

Speaking up can mean one of two things:

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1. Making your voice heard in meetings.

2. Letting those with decision-making abilities know you’re interested in a particular role.

When it comes to speaking up at meetings, this is a great way to gain recognition amongst your peers and managers. Perhaps you’re privy to particularly impactful information not many people in your meeting are aware of; sharing this information and your insights on a discussion topic is sure to turn heads. This is especially important if you’re more of a bystander in meetings and don’t regularly provide input. Keep this up and eventually your manager will assign you bigger roles in meetings, knowing full well what your abilities are.

The other side of speaking up simply means drawing your manager’s – or the hiring manager for a certain role – attention towards a job you’re interested in advancing to. No one will ever know you’re interested in a role unless you speak up and make it clear. If there’s a position you want to go for – make it known. This will allow you to gather the necessary support around your organization and facilitate the appropriate conversations needed to help you land the role. At the end of the day, your career is in your own hands. No one will go out of their way to help you advance if they’re not even aware of how you feel about an opportunity.

Now what?

After reading these tips, the first question that might come to your mind is, “When should I get started?” The answer is NOW. Mark Twain once said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

Every moment you wait to send out those e-mails asking for coffee dates, every connection you do not add on LinkedIn after meeting a fellow professional, is another opportunity missed and another connection lost.

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Last Updated on September 29, 2020

How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

Unsurprisingly enough, all businesses are online today. Considering the advances in the smartphone industry as well as the increasingly accessible internet facility, it was only a matter of time before businesses took advantage of the online environment.

This increasing popularity makes for a promising future for a lot of young entrepreneurs. And knowing how to start an online business will open up a world of possibilities for you that was not possible 10 years ago.

So, keeping the potential for exponential growth in mind, let’s dive into the article below, and explore the steps of starting an online business that will bring you success.

1. Becoming the Master of ‘ONE’ Trade

Most successful online businesses are the master of one trade. And that’s why beginning with a niche is always a good idea.

A niche market is a focused segment within a larger market. Imagine a men’s shoes market and then, imagine handcrafted brown Italian leather shoes for men. While the previous one is a bigger market, the latter one is simply a more focused segment within that market.

Knowing the niche helps a lot to start an online business and if you are feeling a bit lost, here are some self-queries that will act as a perfect guide:

What Speaks to Your Heart?

This first way of discovering the niche is perfect for those who want to do what they love. Working in a market that you love will ensure that constant excitement and drive to do better, eventually leading to ultimate prosperity.

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Decisions Based on Knowledge

The second way is perfect for those who have a lot of untapped knowledge about a specific industry. Utilizing the insights on a specific industry is a great way to find a niche. This way, you’ll already know all the ins and outs of the industry and can easily get ahead of all the competitors.

Undiscovered Potential

Lastly, conducting research into various industries and finding an untapped segment is another amazing way of finding the right niche. This practice will require you to come up with a new and unique solution for uncatered audiences.

2. When Is Your Idea Valid?

All the great ideas for starting an online business needs to be valid. And once you have found the niche, this validation process is what comes next.

Proving the soundness of the idea is not at all hard. A detailed industry examination is all you need initially to understand the value of the concept and recalibrate it to turn into a great online business.

Market research is a systematic unraveling of the target market. This research will include all the information on the product/service you are about to sell, the target audience, and how the competitors are operating in this crowded market.

This in-depth research will give you the initial idea of how the products can make an impact in the outside world. And once the small online business ideas are validated, it will be time to move on and craft a plan and start working on establishing the business.

3. Crafting the Map to Success

Having a proper plan for an online business is like having a map when you travel to an unknown city. This is a document that includes all the factual information on the business and crucial business data.

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To help you out, here’s a list of all the information online business plans must include:

  • An idea of objective – The best online business plans always have a clear outline of the business goals and intentions. Having this clear outline will increase the efficiency of business functions later on. The target demographic, business model—all kinds of information needs to be a part of this document.
  • Taking stock of available resources – A startup needs to utilize all the resources it has, and that’s why the plan needs to have an in-depth outline of the financial resources in use as well as the employees and their expertise. With a better idea of all the resources in hand, starting an online business will be an easier process.

4. The Virtual Storefront: A Process of Development

The steps of how to start an online business are incomplete without the website creation process. With the right website approach, you can easily succeed in increasing business revenue.

What does that perfect business website look like? Let’s follow these steps to create an effective business website.

Choose Your Approach

There are numerous ways of making a website and for a positive outcome, you need to choose the perfect approach. Depending on the business model, initial finances, and end goals, there are two kinds of approaches for the online storefront:

  • Third-party approach – Third-party platforms will connect you with the customers out there. For small online business ideas, Creating an account or site with these platforms will be beneficial because these platforms come with a large array of services as well as a big enough existing consumer base ready to utilize.
  • Creating a new website –  A business-specific website will help you eliminate the third party go-between and connect directly with the buyers. With this approach, you get more control over the business and how it is presented to the consumers out there and the revenue you make. Any of the above-mentioned approaches can be beneficial for easy online business startups. However, to achieve some specific business goals, having a customized website will be more beneficial for you.

Design Can Bring You Maximum Success!

For those who have decided to create their own site, the design is of paramount importance. With a great design, you will be able to engage and interact with the visitors better and encourage them to make a purchase.

The design, however, is not just a matter of aesthetics. A website’s design encompasses all aspects of it, from the visual effects to the content that’s used on the site.

To create a truly amazing design that reflects new online business concepts here are a few matters to consider:

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  • Keep it responsive – Many markets are simply skipping over the desktop phase and launching the business for mobile users around the world.[1] Considering this popularity of the mobile internet market, the business website has to be responsive. This approach will help you to reach a bigger audience and conduct business on a larger scale.
  • Users want a fast experience – Using high-quality images on the site does improve the visuals, but make sure all those images are compressed. Having a faster website will enhance the user experience on the site. Besides compressing all the media content on the site, you can also utilize an asynchronous loading technique that loads all the contents simultaneously, reducing friction. With a faster site, it will become easier to implement the online business startup ideas into reality.
  • Define the brand – The design stage determines a lot of things for the business website and one of those things is the business image. To make an impact on the world with the business, you have to create a perfect image and for that, a brand guide is necessary. The brand guide is a document that includes all the information and guidelines on various visual elements on the site that makes up the business personality. Based on the kind of image you want to create, all the elements will be outlined in this documentation.

Where the Website Becomes Reality

Since we know how website design helps to launch a successful online business, it is time to move onto development. Online business development is where the idea becomes a reality. And to make this reality perfect, you need to make sure that the development and deployment process goes well.

A high performing site always includes all the right features that enhance the user experience as well as helps you to convert more traffic. And for the best results, ensure the use of only the latest tech stack during development.

Here are some development issues you have to pay attention to while building the business website:

  • The right partner makes all the difference – For small startups who are wondering how to start an online business, finding the right development partner is going to make all the difference. However, before making a decision, there are a few things you should contemplate. The team that you are about to hire should have experience in catering to your industry, as well as an extensive portfolio and good reviews. Additionally, it will be perfect if the agency or freelancer also provides a 360-degree service, from development to maintenance.
  • How to assure the quality of the site? – Testing the site is an integral part of the answer to the question of “how to start an online business?”. An experienced partner will be able to help you the most with this. From security testing to split testing, this stage in development will help in understanding how well the site functions and what needs to change. And once the changes are made and the test results come clean, it will be time to launch the website.

5. Some Tricks to Increase Online Sales

Selling online is not easy, but not hard either. In a physical store, you can use campaigns, go door to door with pamphlets, and such. However, successful online businesses have their own style of campaigns that helps them to sell more without any problems.

So, what are these tricks?

Utilize the Magic of SEO

With an increase in quality traffic, the sales ratio will go up too. And to drive quality traffic on the website, you need to utilize the SEO tricks, and probably hire an SEO expert.

When starting an online business site, ensure all the content on the site is optimized to rank for the right queries by target consumers. With a higher rank on the SERP, the traffic will increase on the site.

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With the increase in quality traffic, it will become easier for you to convert visitors. The visitor data will help you to adjust the site performance. In brief, utilizing SEO will open the doors to a lot of possibilities for your small online business ideas.[2]

Entice With Free Value

Consumers today have lots of options to choose from. And keeping all that in mind, it will be wise to create a business plan for an online startup that provides free value to the users before asking them to buy something.

Consumers want to buy from someone who knows what they are doing, especially in the case of a curated service or goods provider. And that’s why to turn the profitable online business ideas even more effective, you need to start offering free value on the site, with free products and content.

Having a blog is also another way of displaying your expertise. With specialized content on the industry, you can easily grab the attention of the audience. And once assured of your knowledge on the matter, consumers will feel a lot safer about making a purchase.

A Killer Customer Service Is Everything

Your small online business idea needs a better service option. Using AI-based interactive features to implement better support for the global consumer base will prove to be extremely beneficial. With a 24/7 automated support channel, customers will be satisfied with your business and come back more often.

It’s an Easy Process: All You Have to Do Is to Start

And there it is, the simple five-step process of starting an online business that is bound to succeed. If you look closely, you’ll notice that there are not a lot of differences between creating a physical business and an online one. The main differences are only in the consumer and competitive landscape.

While a physical store faces and caters to local competitors and consumers, the online business has to deal with the same on a global basis. So, focusing well on the global market landscape while crafting the plan will help you succeed.

More Tips on How to Start an Online Business

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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