Moving Up the Ladder: A Guide to Career Advancement

career advancement guide

Career advancement is the upwards trajectory of a professional’s career, and although most of us hope to advance our careers, the reality is that very few of us manage to achieve our goals. It requires you to invest a lot of time and energy into every single aspect of your career. Very few of us are willing to make this sacrifice because career advancement often goes hand in hand with having no work life balance.

But, the two can be combined. The following guide will help you to create an effective career development plan that will take you from being an average Joe to achieving all your professional aspirations and still have a life.

Career Advancement Opportunities

career advancement opportunities

The truth is that there isn’t a single path you need to follow to become professionally successful. On the contrary, the path you choose has a lot to do with what you hope to achieve in life, and as such it’s important to look inwardly and decide what you want to achieve before you make a decision.

There are many little paths you can take, but the three most important career advancement opportunities are:

1. Getting a Promotion

The most straightforward way to climb the career ladder is to get a promotion. If you are already in a career you enjoy, and your current employer has a lot to offer you there’s no reason to consider changing jobs. After all, you’ve probably already proven yourself in your current job, and there’s a good chance that you’ve also developed a relationship of trust with your current employer.

Although getting a promotion may seem a rather direct process, it isn’t always. A lot of effort needs to go into proving your worth. You need to demonstrate exemplary behaviour, become your boss’s confidant and the go-to person for your colleagues while performing your work duties in a way that’s above average. All of this requires a lot of effort and energy.

What you should be mindful of is not to forget about living as well. Work-life balance matters as it keeps people sane, it also helps them be more productive at work, so rather than investing all of your time in work, try to find a way to lead both a productive career and a happy life.

2. Changing Careers/Jobs

Unfortunately, not everyone is destined to want to pursue a career in line with their degree. In fact, many people finish university to find that their chosen industry is not what they wanted and although this generally leads to a lot of wrong choices you shouldn’t worry too much if you are determined to succeed professionally.

If you believe that you are in the wrong career but committed to moving forward, then you should consider changing careers. This option often seems more daunting than it really is; as long as you develop the necessary skills, there’s no reason not to change careers.

Before you start thinking about changing industries entirely consider if you are simply working for the wrong company. Lots of people who are unhappy in their current positions fail to understand that the problem lies with the specific company they are working for.

Many companies fail to push their best employees forward, and if that’s what happening with you then you need to find a work environment that allows you to reach greatness. Recognising a toxic work environment is not always easy, but generally speaking if you have skills and are stuck in the same position for over three years, or if you feel your heart plunging every time you walk into your workplace, or every time you need to discuss something with your manager, then there’s a good chance that you should start searching for a job elsewhere.

3. Starting Your Own Business

Entrepreneurs seem to be everywhere these days, and although being your own boss sounds great you should know that managing your business is difficult and requires great skill.

But, if you believe that you can achieve greatness on your own, there’s no reason not to give it a go. Going solo in the business world is possible as long as you have a well-formulated plan.

If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, then go here to read more about how you can start your own business. If on the other hand, you are more interested in changing careers then you need to learn everything you can to make it possible.

Benefits of Career Advancement

career benefits

Although you are allowed not to have any aspirations regarding work, the truth is that we all have them one way or another. Whether your goal is to be employable or to become happy, career advancement is a development path you need to follow to reach your end goal.

Apart from helping you fulfil your dreams, professional development comes with a hefty number of benefits so it should never be taken lightly. These are just some of the most important benefits you need to take into account.

1. Makes You More Employable

Career advancement means achieving your goals by developing your skills and knowledge, and this is precisely how it will keep you employable. Of course, unemployment rates are currently low, which means that you’ll be able to get a job quite easily should you stop working for your current company.

But as no one can accurately predict what’s to happen after Brexit, it’s essential for all professionals living and working in the UK to equip themselves with new skills. By becoming a valuable asset to your boss, the likelihood of losing your job decreases, while your potential to get a better position (including a better salary) increases.

2. It Goes Hand in Hand With Salary Increases

Of course, if remaining employed is not one of your primary concerns, then you should know that by advancing in the workplace, you’ll also have more power and money. Usually, promotions are accompanied by a salary increase.Keep in mind that the more effective the strategies you implement in your professional development plan are, the easier it will be to negotiate your worth.

3. It Makes You Happier

Ultimately, the reason for pursuing career advancement should be to make yourself happier. Although, the notion of being happy at work may seem foreign to you, it’s a reality for many people who are not only more productive because of it, but they are also more successful in making their work meaningful.

Of course, the number of people who manage to achieve this is limited, as 47 per cent of UK workers have said that they’d like to make a career change. But, that does not mean that happiness at work is unattainable. It just means that you need to look inwards to identify your goals and then decide how to achieve them.

Building Your Professional Development Plan

A plan won’t just keep you more organised; it will also increase the chances of you reaching your goals.

Step 1: Identify Your Goals

identify career goals

Step one has to do with goal setting and taking ownership of your career. To do that, you simply need to come up with specific goals as these will help you achieve success easier. Questions such as ‘What do I want to achieve?’, ‘Why does this matter me?’ and ‘What impact will this have on the world around me?’ can help you narrow down your goals so take some time to consider things on your own.

Of course, it’s important is to be realistic about your career goals. To do that, it’s always recommended that you identify both your long and short-term goals. This will allow you to set milestones (or deadlines) and make your to-do list more manageable.

Keep in mind that identifying your goals will also make you a better employee as you’ll be more focused and eager to work harder so make sure that you complete this step sooner rather than later.

Step 2: Implementing Strategies

career advancement strategies

Although identifying your goals is vital, unless you can implement a few career advancement strategies that will help work towards your goals, you won’t have much luck in getting where you want to go. The strategies listed below will turn you into a well-rounded professional, and these along with your self-confidence should make you powerful enough to ask for what you deserve out of the professional world.

Continue Your Education

This is the go-to strategy if you want to boost your skills and make yourself more employable. An increasing number of professionals are adopting this strategy as part of their career advancement plan because they realise that they can’t expect a degree gained at the beginning of their career to help them years later.

This is especially true if you are an industry that’s quickly being reshaped; being up to date and current could be your ticket to achieving your career goals, so rather than letting technological advancements pass you by, think of what you can do to improve your advancement opportunities.

Getting a Bachelors Degree

This is recommended if you are considering changing careers. If you are worried about not having enough time to get a three-year degree, check out the part-time options offered or the open university.

Pursuing a Master’s Degree

Another option is a Master’s degree. It can increase your advancement opportunities as it will help make your skills more specific to a particular section of the industry. It might be a good idea to talk to your boss before you enrol in a university, as they might have something specific in mind; they might even be willing to fund your education.

Online Courses

Online courses are your third option, and it might be the most practical yet as you can learn new skills in the comfort of your home often at your own pace.

Win Over Your Boss

If there’s one person (other than yourself) that could fulfil your career advancement dreams it’s your boss which is why you need to find ways to win them over. To do that you need to show dedication and loyalty to your workplace.

  • Develop a positive relationship with them: Just because you need to be professional with your boss doesn’t mean you can’t be nice to them. You don’t need to become BFFs with them and know how many times a day their new born poops, but there’s no harm in knowing their partner’s name for example.
  • Understand their goals: Lots of people work under a manager but never really get to know what their boss aims to achieve at work. But, to be in tune with their needs you need to figure out what exactly it is they want to achieve and get on board with this vision. Usually, just asking them will do the trick.
  • Be effective: Never forget that you were hired to do a job and that your number one priority should always to do that job as effectively as possible. This means that no matter what you hope to achieve in your job, you firstly need to ensure that your tasks are completed in an efficient manner and that you are improving day by day. Remember that the key to any career advancement prospects is to outgrow your responsibilities.
  • Be the solution, not the problem: To demonstrate your real worth you should never be the bearer of bad news and if you need to be, never approach your boss without suggestions to solve the problem. Manage your time wisely so that you have time to research solutions and put your creativity to work before knocking on your boss’s door.
  • Be their most valuable asset: If you are hoping to rise in the ranks of your company, then you need to prove that you are reliable and trustworthy. To do that you need to not only do your job well, but you need to be mindful of any shifts and changes within the company, the competition and the industry in general and give a heads up to your boss so that they are always one step ahead.

Become an Innovator

As it’s becoming increasingly difficult for companies to establish themselves and get a leg up on the competition, employers are becoming interested in promoting forward-thinkers. The more willing you are to think and act outside the box, the better your chances of getting promoted so try to make all of your suggestions as unique and as authentic as possible.

Of course, being an innovator is difficult, especially if you are not in a creative profession per se, but that does not mean that it can’t be done. It just means should you succeed,  you have more chances to impress your employer.

Looking into other industries, understanding how they do things and how those ideas apply to your industry can always benefit your career, but don’t suggest something extreme just for the sake of doing it. Find evidence and proof that this idea could work and present it to your boss.

Keep in mind that even if your boss is unwilling to share your vision you should persist by continuously presenting them with new ideas. But, always have a plan B that’s more traditional as you want your boss to think of you as a solution to a problem and not as the company’s nagger.

Show Your Leadership Skills

You probably already know that being a team-player can benefit your career but being able to demonstrate leadership can make you win any promotion you are after.

Help your colleagues trust you by providing assistance and support whenever they require it, don’t be afraid to take on more responsibilities because, at the end of the day, they are what make the difference.


As the workplace becomes more competitive, effective networking skills are becoming increasingly important to professionals. But, the truth is that lots of employees give up on networking after they’ve settled into a position as they believe that the only thing that it can do is help them get a job. The reality is far from it, as networking is beneficial at every stage of one’s progress.

If you are interested in getting promoted, networking with other professionals in your industry can help you remain current with trends. But, that’s not all that it can do for you; networking could also help you increase your employer’s business opportunities by connecting with potential clients. It can also be an excellent way to make strategic alliances, and it’s a very efficient way to get the position you want.

As a professional interested in climbing the corporate ladder, it’s important to frequent conferences and seminars as you are likely to meet other industry people. Attending networking events is always a good idea, but you should always make the most of social networking tools as well as using them to meet other like-minded professionals and connect with them.

Keep in mind that if you are interested in introducing innovative ideas in your workplace, your best bet is to talk with other people in the industry and see if they’ve ever done something similar or their views on the matter.

Step 3: Set Milestones

career milestones

This section of building your professional development plan is what’s actually going to get you where you want to go. A detailed plan will help you stick to your targets, and identify any skill gaps and loopholes that will keep you from succeeding. Choose to create a vision board as it will make you more motivated.

Schedule Your Targets

Start by writing down where you see yourself in x years. Your goals can be as long-term or as short-term as you want but since new skills will need to be acquired to move up the ladder, it’s always a good idea to allow for a wide gap between your goals. The amount of time will depend heavily on what your industry is like and whether you believe you can realistically move upwards fast.

Plan Every Step That Needs to Be Taken

The most crucial part of developing your plan is to identify every step that needs to be taken. Bear in mind that although many people have career aspirations, few bother planning them and this is precisely why they fail.

Start by planning everything you need to achieve your first goal and if you can identify any strategies or steps that will help you achieve your other goals write them down as well.

Schedule Regular Self-Assessment Sessions

To ensure that you are sticking to your plan, you need to check that you are in line with your targets. After you’ve completed one of your goals, come back to your vision board and check that everything’s going to plan.

By regularly checking in, you’ll be able to add new things that you believe will add value to your career, as well as identify any strengths or weaknesses you previously thought unimportant. A chronologically detailed career development plan will allow you to identify any loopholes and find ways with which to address those problematic areas, so although it may take some time, it’s definitely worth it.

Step 4: Asking for a Promotion

ask for a promotion

Career advancement goes hand in hand with getting promoted, but although we’d all like our employers to take charge and promote us on their own, the truth is that most bosses expect employees to request promotions these days.

Present Quantifiable Results

Nothing beats being direct about your wants with your boss, but that does not mean that you shouldn’t be strategic about it. You need to prove to your boss why you deserve to get promoted and to do that you should focus on your achievements. Present quantifiable results as these sound impressive and will get your boss to understand exactly what you can do from a higher up position.

Consider for example telling them that you’ve signed up many new clients during your time in this position or telling them that you’ve increased revenue 150%. Numbers count so make sure that you have quantifiable results for everything you’ve done.

Share Your Vision

Don’t be afraid to share your vision with your boss, although you don’t need to share every detail with them either. Make sure that the goals that you do share with him or her are in sync with what the company’s vision is as it’s important to ensure that your boss understands that you plan on promoting the company on your way up.

Step 5: Create Your Own Opportunities

create career opportunities

To create opportunities for yourself, you need to be constantly aware of the going ons in your company and offer your assistance and creativity at every step. This takes a lot of time and effort, but as it will help you achieve your goals, you shouldn’t hesitate.

An effective way to create your own opportunities is to find your niche and work on developing ideas and solutions. So if for example you are in marketing and you believe that the future of marketing is to find innovative web-based strategies, you should invest in developing strategies that will allow you to make your brand more visible online.

To create your own opportunities you need to be adventurous, so don’t hesitate to dive into work head first and make sure that you display great initiative as this characteristic is always valuable


Arguably, career advancement goes hand in hand with remaining employed and no one can hope to be employable if they don’t continuously push themselves forward. This is especially true if you are in an industry that’s moving fast and that’s changing all the time.

Growing professionally might be a reward in itself, but there are also many other benefits you need to consider, such as an increase in your salary and more control over your work. But to be successful in the business world, you need to develop a plan that will allow you to map out your strategy for success.

Do you have any questions concerning your career advancement? If you do, let us know in the comment section below.