You’re at a networking mixer – the kind of event you see advertised in your inbox every few weeks but never really got around to attending. You’re looking for a way to move up from your current entry-level position, and this seemed like the best way to make some contacts. Maybe you’ll get lucky tonight (in the business sense). Maybe this will be your ticket out of the cubicle and into your own office.
So here you are, awkwardly exchanging business cards and exchanging elevator pitches with the other young professionals around you. You exchange pleasantries and titles, you rotate through the crowd and an hour later you leave with a hand full of cards from people you barely know, head home and hop on your computer to hunt down your new business friends on LinkedIn.
A week later, you get a call. It’s someone you met at the networking happy hour. You only chatted with her for 10 minutes over a glass of wine, but she was genuinely impressed by your charisma and professionalism. And she wants to offer you a job. In fact, it’s your dream job. You’re not exactly qualified for it, but she said that you made up for it with your wit and charm. You’re shocked and ecstatic. This is the big break you’ve been waiting for!
The Wrong Way to Climb the Career Ladder
Okay, you can wake up now 🙂
Yeah, that story I was telling before? That doesn’t really happen. Ever. You will not land your next job from a networking mixer or by handing out your business card. It’s the equivalent of expecting to find the man of your dreams at a speed dating event… and marrying him 3 weeks later.
The beginning of this story might seem all too familiar. If you’re currently looking for a way to advance your career while keeping your current job, you’ve probably been to plenty of miserable networking events and drank cup after cup of coffee at informational interviews that go nowhere.
The problem with this strategy? It’s a passive ways to advance your career. You’re hoping that you’re in the right place at the right time. Meanwhile, you’re not building any true skills and experience to get you noticed. You may want to desperately leave your employer (or heck, change fields altogether) but you might not have the right qualifications to dump your current job.
So if you’re ready for the next step in your career but not quite ready yet to leave your job, you’ll need to think a little outside the box.
3 Simple and Effective Ways to Advance Your Career
1. Speak Up… in Front of Everyone
One of the easiest ways to build expertise is to flaunt expertise in front of your peers – even if you’re kind of faking it. Public speaking at industry or field conferences is a great way to legitimize your credentials and establish your personal brand. Not sure you have the experience to speak confidently in front of a group of strangers? I’m sure you’ve sat through tons of terrible speakers in your lifetime… that alone should be enough of a confidence booster to try it yourself. You don’t have to be a trained motivational speaker to be able to get on stage and say something meaningful. Look for smaller speaking opportunities to start and consider hosting or moderating your own discussion and invite industry experts to participate.
2. Start Something On the Side
If the only skill on your resume says “highly organized,” you need to start looking for ways to beef up your talents and build a relavant and in-demand skill set. So how do you gain new experience and skills if your current 9-5 isn’t helping you grow? A side project is a great way to learn new skills and get tangible, relevant experience and references, while staying at your current employer. Not only will you be able to add this to your resume, but you’ll also be testing out a new type of work that could take you down a totally different career path. Starting a side project being in two places at once (professionally speaking) – just be sure you don’t burn out adding a side project to your plate while keeping up with your daily job.
3. Establish Your Brand Online
Can you guess why I started this blog? Yes, I wanted a venue to share my story with the world and hold myself publicly accountable for crazy, audacious goals. But more importantly, I wanted to write my own professional narrative and I wanted to create my own expertise, and this blog has certainly helped unlock doors that I never thought were there.
If you’re looking to establish authority in your field of interest, blogging around your area of expertise is a great place to start. It’s easier than ever to create a website or blog on your own; in less than an hour, you could have your own site up and running, ready to share your ideas with the world. Don’t have real-world experience in your area of interes? You can still create your own personal, authoritative “brand” by writing blog posts about topics where you want to build expertise. And when hiring managers search for your name online, you’ll definitely look like an authority.
Hopefully these strategies will not only help you advance your career, but save you from ever having to exchange another business card over a cheap glass of wine again 🙂
What was the last thing you did that helped boost your career?
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