How To Take Your Career To The Next Level

By Adrienne Bentley

Recent studies have found that as many as two out of every three employees feel stuck in their current roles because they do not have clear opportunities to grow and develop in their careers. With the unfortunate state of the economy, most organization are operating very lean and managers just do not have the time to invest in helping their teams grow and develop.

It's a pretty crummy situation, isn't it? But here's the good news - there are plenty of tools that you can leverage to achieve your career goals, even when your manager cannot be available to you.

One of the simplest, cheapest and most effective methods is to get a mentor. It is most common to find a mentor who is several "levels" ahead of you in a comparable career path. This gives you the chance to ask that mentor very specific and targeted questions about how he/she progressed in his/her career and what he/she learned in each role. Your mentor will also be able to provide guidance on skills, credentials and associations that you may need to acquire.

You may want to consider seeking out a sponsor within your organization. Typically this is someone several levels above you in the organizational hierarchy, who will advocate for you and your career when opportunities arise. A sponsor will likely spend far less time with you than a mentor, so you should be even more respectful of the time you spend with this individual and be sure to say thank you for their support of your career.

It's not always easy to find a sponsor or a mentor. Unfortunately, by the time individuals have the experience and insight to be an effective mentor or sponsor, they are also figuring out how to create work-life balance. Consequently, they may be more time constrained than you are. If you find yourself not having meaningful mentor or sponsor relationships for any number of reasons, you may want to consider getting a career coach. Because the career coach's full-time job is to provide you with career guidance, you are going to find them to be more targeted in their approach to helping you and far more accessible.

Career Centers can be a very effective resource if you have not found a compatible mentor or sponsor and cannot afford a traditional career coach. Career Centers will usually provide a breadth of services, including assessments, resume review and mock interviews.

Alumni Associations are another valuable and underutilized career resource. Your alumni association makes career services available to you to ensure your continued success long after graduation. Services will range from mass career services like seminars and networking sessions to individualized sessions with a career counselor. If you are not already actively involved in your alumni association, there is no better time!

If you only take one thing away from this, it should be that there is an abundance of information and resources available to help you achieve career goals. The only wrong option is to continue to experience frustration and not take steps to resolve it. So take one step that gets you closer to your career goals today!

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