Professional growth: 4 steps to accelerate your career

Delivery Director, Zara Powell, shares her valuable advice on how professionals can accelerate their career.

One question I am often asked as a line manager, mentor and peer is: how can I progress and accelerate my career? It’s an area that I’m passionate about supporting others with, and through my own experiences and learnings, alongside advice from various talks, I thought I would share some of the key areas that I believe are valuable to hone-in on as well as the common challenges faced when looking to grow your career.

1. Start networking

Networking is incredibly powerful yet makes many of us feel awkward and uncomfortable. However, there is nothing more natural than networking — to an extent we do it all day, every day, whether at work or using social media. We often think of networking at formal events where you awkwardly work the room and share a business card, but in the digital age, particularly post-covid, as we move online more than ever, networking has evolved.

Confidence can be a real challenge in this space and a huge area to overcome. Exercises, including creating a brag file, can really help give you a boost and allow you to reflect on your achievements to remind you of why you are worthy and an expert in what you do.

Whether you’re networking online or in person, the key thing to remember is that this is a long-term investment and both parties are responsible for strengthening the connection. Long-term networking requires effort and consistency to really feel the benefits. Establish a common ground between you by sharing learnings, insights, or knowledge.

2. Find a mentor

Mentoring is a wonderful thing and is something that I believe is beneficial, regardless of whether you’re just starting out or established in your senior career. We can always learn and improve, so it’s important to avoid pigeonholing mentoring or underestimating the power of it.

Some advice I found to be useful was to have mentors for different areas in your life and not overlook the value of unofficial mentorship. For example, over the years, I have learnt so much from my granddad about the importance of hard work, how to be business-minded, and the value of being kind.

Another piece of valuable advice is to be clear in what your ask is when seeking out a mentor, particularly what it is you would like to learn from this person and the time commitment you hope to have. This enables your potential mentor to have a greater understanding of your expectations, which can help you achieve your goals.

3. Focus on the here and now

An area that often gets overlooked during career progression is our own self-awareness. You may ask yourself: Am I actually ready for the next step? What can I do? It is common for us as human beings to constantly strive for more and focusing on the what’s next. But we sometimes need to gear our focus on the here and now to really enjoy where we are and use it as an opportunity to grow our craft and skills (this also applies to all aspects of life!) The fixation on the next step can often be detrimental; it’s important to think about other ways in which you can progress, including through paying it forward through mentoring and networking.

Self-awareness isn’t about doubting yourself or allowing imposter syndrome to creep in; it’s about allowing you to show up for yourself and be the best version of you that you can be.

4. Promote yourself

Sadly, a barrier to accelerating your career can be a lack of self-promotion. Whilst some people and organisations are well set-up to support their people, you shouldn’t assume that people know just how good you are at your job. Some advice I always give my teams is to think about what they can do to raise their profiles, become more visible, and elevate themselves — whether it be joining communities, writing blog posts, presenting internally or externally, or getting involved in mentoring, for example.

Whilst it’s amazing to have ambition and the desire to learn, develop and progress, it’s important not to be blindsided by this. Always have goals and objectives to work towards and don’t forget to celebrate the successes along the way.

My parting piece of advice is to remember to be brave. This can apply in all that you do, but particularly thinking about accelerating your career. Put yourself out there, make sure you take time out for yourself to learn, reflect and connect with others around you, and remember that it’s always okay to ask for help!

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