3 Tips for Career Advancement from Over a Decade of Experience

Sarah Schlott

Mom | Wife | FP&A Senior Executive | PE Growth | SaaS | FINTech | Supporter of Women’s equality | #Coffee addict.

When I went back to work, we were in the middle of a recession. I took the first job that I could find with the intention of achieving higher levels of career advancement once my foot was in the door. After leading several teams and talking with several friends and co-workers, this is quickly becoming the single most discussed topic. How does one advance their careers?

What I’ve found is that there isn’t just one way to advance your career. Career advancement happens by pushing and pulling several different levers. There is no get rich quick scheme. It takes skill, hard work and dedication. And it’s not only possible it is inevitable.

Here are 3 Tips for Advancing Your Career

1. Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself:

It is common place for women to apply for a job, only when they’ve meet 100% of the job requirements. While men tend to apply when they’ve met only 40%. Why is that?

Studies show that this phenomenon contributes to the assumption that women don’t have enough ‘gumption’ when it comes to career advancement. Yet as a working mother with more than enough reasons to be serious and dangerous about my career advancement, I can unequivocally tell you that women have some of the strongest motivators existing today. In fact when we commit to a company we commit to success. But what is happening is that as natural processors and organizers, we tend to view a job description as the end all be all in the check list of required skill sets. However, by applying for jobs higher than our comfort level, and even current experience we stretch ourselves and land those dream jobs.

I was presently surprised to learn that job postings overstate requirements by atleast 20%. We should understand that job postings  are intended as a wish list of the perfect candidate. Know that a perfect candidate does not exist. If you have confidence and comfort in the amount of boxes you can check on the list of requirements, then don’t be afraid.  Stretch yourself and apply for the position!

Learn what is out there and what other companies are looking for in an in·tra·pre·neur like you. Apply, and then gear up for tip # 2.

2. Always be in the practice of interviewing:

It is always good practice to be in the practice of interviewing. My mentor would tell me that I should be interviewing monthly to quarterly if I wanted to achieve continuous career advancement.  At the time he was my boss, so I couldn’t understand why he would tell me to go interview. However, after completing the first handful of rounds, I understood.

When I went for my first Director interview I had stretched myself and applied for that next level as suggested in the first tip.  It was exhilarating to recall my fast paced career path. Better yet, I gained insight into what would be required of me in the next phase.

When interviewing you not only learn how to hone your elevator pitch, but also what skill sets are required to achieve your expected career advancement. If nothing else, you are  forever expanding your network. You then take what you learn and put it into practice in the final tip.

3. Demand of your current role what you require for career advancement:

The age old adage of “ask and it shall be given to you” no longer applies. Companies are operating on learner teams than ever before. Organic growth seems to be a thing of the past. Mergers and acquisitions are becoming the quickest way to boost revenue, while streamlining operations and headcount to supercharge EBITDA. With out the proper “promote from within” infrastructure your boss and his boss aren’t able to cater to your requirements for career advancement. They need the next level of skill and they needed it six months ago. (For example: Excel Training)

Regardless of where you choose to implement a new set of skills, the feedback you received in your interviewing rounds can give you a baseline of what you need to be doing today to raise yourself to the next level. Seize your Career advancement on your own terms.

Because of this, I interview a level up and I always ask what skills are most important to the interviewer. Since I’m interviewing a step above where I am currently employed, this gives me insight into what I need to learn. I then take that knowledge back to my current role and implement away. As captain's of our own ship we must think critically and strategically about implementing this new experience into our current rolls. For some that may mean a candid conversation with the boss.  For me, I usually just start doing the work on my own fruition. I can’t waste my time trying to waste someone's time on training me.

Wrapping up:

I will admit it is not always easy. Once you know what you need to learn; examples, training and the like are not readily available. That’s where you have to pull out your thesis work experience and start researching the heck out of what you need to know. Research what your perfect job looks like, and gain that experience right in the comfort of your current role.  It will allow for a more smooth learning curve and will provide your company with needed resources.

In the end the inevitable will happen. You will achieve career advancement through your current company due to the fact that you are functioning on a higher level than you were before. Or you will have checked off the last couple of boxes you needed to land your dream job.

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