A career in business is one that can be exciting and fulfilling. Moreover, no two career paths in business are the same. If you have already embarked upon your own unique and challenging career in the business world, you might be wondering just how you can distinguish yourselves from countless others who are trying to get ahead so that you can take your career to the next level.
The fact of the matter is that there are a variety of ways in which you can get ahead in the world of business. Finding the right path for your particular situation, however, will take some self-reflection and introspective thinking. Whether you feel that an online MBA will do the trick or if you recognize a few weaknesses in your professional development that you need to work on, there is always some proactive step that you can take in order to better yourself and equip yourself with the right tools for success.
If you are currently searching for the best ways to take your career in business to the next level, here are a few options for you to consider. Bear in mind that not everyone needs to take the same steps towards building a career and that the specific choices that you make will depend heavily on your particular line of work and career aspirations. Nevertheless, here are seven steps that are certainly worth considering regardless of your circumstances.
1. Higher Education
These days, most professionals across a wide range of industries and professions would agree that one of the best ways to get ahead and make yourself eligible for career advancement opportunities is to pursue an advanced degree of some sort. Not only do advanced degrees help you to specialize in certain areas of expertise, but they also equip you with a greater sense of knowledge and understanding about your field of work.
The world of business is no exception to this thought process. In fact, there are a great many people in business in this day and age who feel strongly that a degree such as an online MBA is a prerequisite for any type of advancement. While an online MBA was once something that only the top of the top would have, more and more businesses and companies are seeing just how valuable an online MBA is for even their lower-level employees.
A good many people might feel intimidated about taking the step to earn an online MBA. However, it is something that can contribute greatly to your future success and would thus be well worth the sacrifice and effort you put into earning yours. It is important that you understand what it is you are taking on when you decide to earn an online MBA while continuing to work, but with the right preparation and a high level of perseverance, you can find yourself the proud earner of an online MBA that can help you to take your career to the next level.
If you have ever heard the saying “it’s not about what you know, but who you know,” then you are likely familiar with the concept that the connections you make in your professional life are going to play a significant role in your future prospects. While “what you know” is an important aspect of taking your career to the next level (hence the importance of earning a degree like an online MBA), “who you know” should be taken into serious consideration as well.
Building a professional network of those within your industry is an important step for anyone looking to get ahead in business to take. Not only can the experience and insights of others provide you with a framework by which you can improve your own professional skills, but by meeting the right people in the right circumstances, you can very well be presented with opportunities that you might not have otherwise had available to you.
When you are working on building your professional network, it is perfectly acceptable to start small to gain confidence. Start by interacting and sharing ideas with your immediate peers. These might very well be individuals who go on to make their own way in the world of business and who can prove to be valuable connections down the line. Take opportunities to participate in professional or corporate events where you can mix with others in your industry who aren’t necessarily from your own company.
Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of a strong alumni network. Consider the school where you are earning your online MBA. It almost certainly has an alumni network in place that you can connect with and engage with. There might even be a collection of alumni in your local area that meets every so often. Get in touch with your online MBA alumni network to get connected as soon as possible.
3. Find a Mentor
One of the most valuable connections that you can make in your career is that of a mentor. Mentorships are a time-honored tradition in the business world wherein an experienced and successful individual takes a “newcomer” under their wing to help them find their way. A mentor can be the person that you turn to for guidance and advice regarding your own career path.
Finding the right mentor isn’t as difficult as you might think. Your company might even have a mentorship program in place that you can apply to. If not, there are plenty of ways that you can find the right mentor for your situation.
Take the time to consider all of the connections that you have made. Is there anyone who has achieved many of the things that you want to one day achieve yourself? If so, is that person someone you feel comfortable talking to and trust to give you sound career advice? Once you have identified the person who meets these criteria, all you have to do is ask them to be your mentor.
The person you have in mind for a mentor will, if they possess a mentor’s traits, feel flattered that you have asked and eager to help you succeed in your own career path. The relationship that you develop with the right mentor can easily contribute to your efforts to take your career to the next level.
4. Know Your Weaknesses
When it comes to the self-reflection that is required of anyone looking to get ahead in business, it is easy to focus on those things that come naturally to you in your professional life and those characteristics that you would commonly refer to as strengths. While knowing your strengths is an important aspect of getting ahead, many argue that it is more important to know and understand your weaknesses.
Your strengths are generally the things that you don’t have to think twice about. You are confident in your ability to take on certain things, and doing so gives you a great deal of satisfaction in your work. However, most people tend to shy away from tasks that play to their weaknesses, whether consciously or unconsciously. Knowing what those weaknesses are is the first step to correcting them and turning them into strengths.
When you take the time to analyze your professional development thus far, what are the things that you dislike about your work? Do you dislike them as a matter of personal preference, or is it because completing such tasks doesn’t come naturally to you and tends to be more of a challenge? If so, you can most likely count such things as professional weaknesses and should therefore place a great deal of emphasis on them.
Correcting and strengthening your weaknesses is a long-term task that won’t always be enjoyable. However, understanding where you fall short and devoting a significant amount of effort to improving those areas is an important part of your professional development. Take concrete steps towards self-improvement, and you will find yourself with more opportunities for growth and advancement in your career.
5. Develop Key Skills
When it comes to finding success in the world of business, there are some key skills that you will want to develop as you seek to find your path to success. Such skills include things like:
- Critical thinking
While some of these skills might come naturally to you, most people need to invest the time and energy into developing or improving such things in themselves. For instance, it isn’t always easy to know how to best communicate with those around you but perfecting your communication skills is essential in finding success in your career.
Being an effective communicator involves both written and verbal skills. You need to express yourself effectively and efficiently, whether you are speaking directly to someone or sending out a group email to those in your office. Furthermore, the manner in which you communicate with your peers is going to differ greatly from the way you communicate with your superiors. If you find yourself in a position of management or leadership, communicating with those you manage is a different thing entirely.
With so much involved in mastering just one of these key skills, you can easily see how developing your professional skills is going to be a career-long investment in your success. Here, too, it is important to identify your specific strengths and weaknesses so that you can prioritize the things that you need to work on the most.
6. Ask for Feedback
There are going to be times throughout your career when you struggle to identify through self-reflection those things that are strengths in your professional life and those things that are weaknesses. In such instances, the most valuable thing that you can do is ask for and seek out feedback.
It can be difficult to receive feedback from others, especially when that feedback is of a more critical nature. However, being able to take criticisms in your work is going to play a significant role in your professional development. Moreover, there are a variety of ways in which you can find useful feedback that can be either informal or more formal in nature.
For instance, if you work directly with customers, look for opportunities to ask them about their customer experience. Find out if they have been satisfied with the service they received from you or if there were some things that could have been done better. You might consider requesting feedback in the form of a survey or an email, as people are more likely to be honest about their customer experience when you aren’t speaking to them directly.
Furthermore, while you don’t want to be hounding your superiors for feedback too often, you should look for opportunities to check in to see how they view your work performance. Your business most likely holds employee evaluations on a routine basis, and you should embrace these as opportunities to get honest feedback about how you are progressing. With something like feedback to work from, you can find out those areas where you need to improve so that you can take your career to the next level.
7. Know Your Goals
Even if you decide to take multiple steps towards general career advancement, such as earning an online MBA and focusing on knowing your professional weaknesses, it can all come to nothing if you don’t know specifically what it is you are working towards. Before you take any concrete steps towards advancement, you need to identify what that advancement entails and looks like in the end.
Take the time to list out your specific career goals. Writing them out by hand can be a great way to solidify them in your mind and to create a visual for yourself. Bear in mind that your career goals might change along the way, but having something to aim for is the best way to be able to identify the steps that you should be taking towards your own success in business.
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