Getting a job is the just the first step to success: now you have to start improving your career to get a better paycheck, a bigger office, and better perks. But how exactly do you go about doing that? Let’s dive into the top tips for improving your career below.

ALWAYS STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE

Firstly, the best tip for improving your career counts regardless of your industry or your experience level: always strive for excellence in everything you do. This means, in practical terms:

  • always being on time
  • being willing to put in a little extra time when needed
  • performing your duties perfectly every time
  • making small mistakes
  • improving on any mistakes made
  • listening to bosses and underlings alike

In a nutshell, this advice is general but quite useful. If you want to improve your career, you can’t be “good enough”. You need to always be pushing the envelope and doing a little bit more than the goals set in front of you.

Want a practical example? If your boss tells you to get five new clients… get six. If your boss wants a car fixed by noon… fix it by 10 AM, and so on. In time, striving for excellence won’t feel like extra effort; it will become second nature.

DEVELOP A TIMELINE

Next, develop a timeline so you can improve your career progressively. Big career jumps don’t come in spurts; they come with measured and consistent effort, and developing a timeline can help you figure out your steps in a logical manner.

Developing a timeline matters both for short-term career moves and eventual endpoints. For instance, if you ever want to become a CEO of a company in your industry, you need to come up with a plan and take steps to achieve that.

Your timeline should serve as a motivational element to help you improve your career even when you feel tired or overwhelmed. It also helps you stay on track if you start to become content with your current position.

SET GOALS AND CREATE A PLAN

Similarly, use that timeline to set goals both large and small, and create an action plan for your eventual desires.

Going back to the CEO example, you can use your timeline and the associated goals to move like this:

  • Start as a junior partner at your firm
  • Put in plenty of extra time and earn the respect of your peers
  • Become a partner
  • Become a head partner
  • Become lead of the firm
  • Move into an administrative role

You can use these goals with your timeline to come up with general timeframes at which you expect to be finished with each step. Again, this isn’t meant to make you feel inadequate or worried if you are going a little slower than expected. It’s meant as a motivational tool, so you’re always improving your career instead of taking it for granted.

ALWAYS BE LOOKING FOR PROMOTIONS OR UPWARD MOVES

Furthermore, anyone wanting to improve their career should always be looking for promotional opportunities. This is not necessarily within your current company or organization. In fact, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that looking for higher positions in competing companies is a more sure bet for upward mobility than sticking with your current company.

Regardless, if you want to improve your career, you have to progress. This can become difficult if you aren’t actively hunting for higher positions or seeking ways to take on additional responsibility. Be sure you get the job title that comes with those extra responsibilities, of course.

RESEARCH NEW INDUSTRY TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS

A good way to get the attention of your managers or superiors and show that you’re ready for a promotion is to constantly be researching new developments in your industry. By growing your knowledge and whatever sector you work in, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the curve and provide even more value to your organization.

For instance, if you’re a software engineer, learning new programming language quirks or knowing about software sector developments before your superiors will mark you as a potential asset in a higher position. Even better, it shows that you aren’t content to rest on your laurels and are looking to improve. Executives invested in the well-being of their company will always like to see this.

LEVERAGE AND GROW YOUR NETWORK

Your network is arguably just as (if not more) important in your formal education, especially in this day and age. You should leverage every networking tool you have to grow your contact list. This provides you with new employment opportunities and options for promotion, especially at ancillary organizations or competing companies.

If you don’t already have a diverse network of peers and people above and below you, you should grow one. Start small by joining sites like LinkedIn and Facebook and add your current coworkers, then go from there.

Similarly, socialize outside of work in order to grow your network and form bonds that can secure you with work positions in the future. Making friends, even today, is still the best way to get a new job. Some of the people you meet at work will be friends (or at least acquaintances) for the rest of your life.

SEEK OUT A MENTOR

Another good social move to improve your career is to seek out a mentor. This may be easier or more difficult depending on your industry, but you can leverage the above network to find someone to give you advice or take you under their wing in a professional context. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll throw a promotion into your lap, of course.

But having the advice and expertise of a mentor at your disposal will help you sharpen your skills and become an even better worker at your organization. This will make you more likely to get a promotion or be hired at a competing company.

BE USEFUL – NOT IRREPLACEABLE

It would seem to be logical to make yourself irreplaceable if you want to improve your career. But this is actually a mistake.

Companies that have irreplaceable employees will rarely try to promote them for fear of not getting the same performance out of their replacement. So you should always strive to make yourself useful, but barely replaceable. It’s a fine line between doing your best and leaving a little margin for error. This makes you valuable, and a good target for promotion since you can be replaced with an underling immediately.