smart spending

Navigating out of a career holding pattern

Road to success
Highlights
  • If you want to move up, the worst thing you can do is hunker down.
  • Become your own PR person and trumpet your achievements to your boss.
  • Understand how the company fits in the industry, and what it's up against.

With unemployment so high, trying to get ahead may seem like pushing your luck. But it's not -- people are always climbing the corporate ladder. If you're ready to move on to the next stage of your career, it's time to bring the A-game to the workplace and stop flying under the radar.

When it comes to moving up, the absolute worst thing workers can do is hunker down, says Emily Bennington, author of "Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job."

"If you want to move up, you need to stand out. Call attention to the great things that you're doing and clearly make an effort to do great things that get you noticed," she says.

If you're ready to bust out of your cube and move up in the world, start planning well before you make your big break.

Defining 'up'

So you want to move up. But, what is up, exactly, besides the direction in which balloons, birds and restless workers all aspire to rise?

It may be the next title, or it can mean exploring the various ways to grow your career and manage it in the best way possible for you.

"Does it mean skill enrichment or reputation growth or positioning yourself so you are qualified to move in a direction you choose when you're ready?" says Pam Lassiter, principal of Lassiter Consulting and author of "The New Job Security."

It's really a two-part question: What is up, and where do you want to grow? Moving to the next title may not be the best choice. Similarly, according to Lassiter, a common career misstep is taking an open position simply because it just happens to be open and pays more.

Unless you're certain of your career trajectory, there may be other related areas you'd like to explore. For instance, "Is this the time that I'd like to test out this other division or this other department? Or maybe I'm having fun working on the budget of this project, so maybe I can think of building this into my work," says Lassiter.

Before you commit to the next level of your career, make sure it's where you want to be and you're happy with where that job might lead.

"This is your chance. If you're going to do a breakout, it might as well be one that you want to live with for a while," Lassiter says.

Look at the big picture

Once you know where you're headed, consider how to get there. Think about the job after your next one and the skills required for that position.

That should tell you "what competencies you should be building for the next job," Lassiter says.

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Use job boards, employment ads and company websites to get an idea of what the position broadly requires and work to fit within those requirements.

Keeping an eye on the industry as a whole will serve you well in other ways. Zoom out to get a bird's-eye view of the company and where it fits in the industry.

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