Tips for Moving Forward in Your Career

“Moving your career forward” is an interesting term. For a long time, people only thought about “moving up”—getting in the door at a good company and rising through the ranks.

But working for a living has changed. Where “job” and “career” used to be more or less synonymous, today’s careers can span multiple jobs at multiple companies. A career is becoming more and more a journey through a series of working experiences than a measure of tenure within a company or profession.

If you’re in a position where you’re feeling the need to move forward—to a higher salary, a more fulfilling occupation, a job that makes better use of your overall skill set—there are some things to keep in mind about making that kind of change.

Know What’s Out There

As with so many other things, wishing doesn’t make it so when it comes to changing jobs. Think carefully about your current situation and envision what a better one might look like. After that, you can start searching to see if what you’re looking for actually exists (there are no points taken off for blue-skying a little, as long as you reel in unreasonable expectations; astronaut probably isn’t on the table).

Let People Know You’re Out There

When’s the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? The last time you clicked “Follow” for a company or industry you might be interested in? Last visit with a business acquaintance who isn’t part of your daily orbit? If the answer to any of the above is, “Who knows?” get to work on updating your resume, building your personal network and finding information streams about the kind of work you want to do.

Make Sure You’re Marketable

Experience is great, but a desire to learn is helpful, too. Is there some training that might give you a leg up on the competition? Some software it would be helpful to master? You may even consider going back to school.

Expand Your Horizons

If you’re in a position to consider relocation, it may be the way to your next chapter. The sheer volume of positions that opens up will increase your chances of success. Of course, expanding your horizons can happen locally, too. Are their opportunities you’d like to pursue at your current company? People may think you’re a great fit, but they can’t consider you if you don’t signal interest. You may be pleasantly surprised by the reputation you’ve built on the job without even realizing it.

Find a Mentor

It’s hard to get through the day in business anymore without hearing the word “mentor” at least once. But with mentorship now being recommended at all levels of corporate life, it may be very much worth your while to have someone in your corner who knows the path you’ve chosen because they’ve walked it.

Wait a Second. Should You Be Thinking About Any of This at All?

It’s a great question. Mentors and websites and blogs (Oh, my!) can help, but only you know your situation, your responsibilities and your desires. There are plenty of places to go to find out what questions to ask yourself, but the answers have to come from you.

You GET a New Job and There’s More Money Coming In …

First thing: Savor the moment. And there’s nothing wrong with a little celebratory spending, whether that’s buying yourself a new toy (within reason, of course) or finally trying that pricey restaurant you’ve been driving by for years. After that, think about how to make that extra cash part of your future, rather than your immediate present. Whether it’s money you’ve pursued or a $1,000 bonus you got in celebration of a tax break, extra dollars can work hard for you, if you make the right choices:

Start filling up an emergency fund.

One of the realities of life is that unemployment happens, even to solid employees. It’s great to know that you have a cushion, should economics ever pull the rug out from under you.

Live as if the new money isn’t even there.

Unless you pursued that higher salary because it was a must-have to meet immediate obligations, it’s a great idea to try living exactly as you did without the raise. That’ll make an emergency fund a lot easier to achieve.

When you do spend, spend smart.

You may not have your dream car, but that’s not exactly the most responsible way to think about using an income boost. There are probably things you need—like life insurance, for instance. If you’ve been relying solely on employer-provided options, it can be a good idea to look into a policy of your own that won’t disappear in the event of a lay-off.

Wherever your career takes you (or keeps you, because that’s the right move for you), here’s to you a journey you’ll look back on with pride.

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