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7 Things That Can Move Your Career Onward and Upward

In order to have a career that makes you happy and feel fulfilled, you have to put thought and effort into it. And that can be difficult for many people.
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Portrait of a businesswoman
Portrait of a businesswoman

As a professor, I ask my students all the time about their future career plans. Usually, I get this response: "To get a job and make a lot of money." And I always think, "Uh, yeah. Okay. But what does that mean and how are you going to do that? What's your passion?" In other words, I get generic answers. But in order to have a career that makes you happy and feel fulfilled, you have to put thought and effort into it. And that can be difficult for many people.

I teach an interviewing class, and I bring in local professionals to speak to my students and pass on their wisdom. My speakers talk about a variety of topics - from job hunting to the importance of advancing your education. When these people impart their advice to the young people, I can always see their eyes light up as if they're thinking "Wow, I never thought about that before!"

So, here are seven things that I have learned along my journey that can help you move your career onward and upward:

1. Know your passions and turn it into your career objective.

Many people end up in jobs they don't like because they didn't have a plan. And they never had a plan because they never did a self-assessment to figure out who they are and what they love to do. Since I am a person who finds it easy to self-reflect, I sometimes struggle to understand people who can't. But I have found that I am in the minority. However, just because it doesn't come naturally to you doesn't mean you can't learn how to do it. Grab a friend or a loved one to help you explore your passions. Then brainstorm about how you can turn them into a career.

2. Create a vision board.

This piece of advice might sound a bit cheesy to you, but there have been many studies done on the power of visualization. Even Olympic athletes use visualization to help them be successful in their chosen sport. But some people can't see pictures in their minds. So if you think you are one of those people (or even if you're not), you can create a vision board - a physical, visual representation of your goal(s). It can include words, photos, and pretty much anything else you think relates. Then put the vision board up where you can see it every day and focus on it.

3. Network, network, network.

You know the saying: "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Well, the reason everyone has heard that before is because it's true! People are much more likely to get hired if they are recommended for a position by someone who has connections to the company and/or person doing the hiring. Think about it. If you were going to hire a personal assistant, would you rather have someone who randomly applied or someone that your best friend recommended? You most likely trust your best friend's advice, so you would probably hire that person, no doubt.

4. Never stop learning and growing.

The moment you think you know it all, that's the moment when you have sold yourself short. No one knows everything! So keep your eye on continuing education. Maybe you don't have your bachelor's degree yet. Well, go back to school. Or maybe your career would benefit from training to get certified in project management. Whatever your next step is, don't hesitate to learn more. If you stop learning, you become stagnant.

5. Find a mentor.

It always helps to get advice and assistance from people who have gone before us. For example, when I was a senior in high school, I wanted to major in advertising in college. My sister's current boyfriend had just completed his MBA and was an executive at an international advertising agency. He was very helpful with giving me advice about the route I should take to have a successful career in the advertising business. And although I ultimately chose to be a college professor, he was instrumental in helping me understand the ins and outs of that world.

6. Develop your "elevator speech."

Most people have heard of an elevator speech. But some people don't really know what it is. In essence, it is a brief description of who you are and what you do. It should be short - about as long as it would take someone to ride up an elevator (hence, the term). Why is it important? Because you never know who you might meet at a party, at the gym, or anywhere else. Always be prepared to "market" and "sell" yourself with your elevator speech.

7. Don't underestimate the power of social media.

We all know that social media is powerful, but few understand how powerful it can be. If you're ambitious or future-focused, you've likely already dabbled with integrating social media into your efforts, but to take it to the next level, you'll want to incorporate the concept of social proof. By building a sizable following of like-minded people, you're augmenting every other activity you engage in. Whether you're demonstrating the value of your advice to headhunters, building a community around a business idea or networking with potential clients, building the impression that you're well regarded will do nothing but serve you well. Think of it as powering up your digital reputation -- something highly crucial in this digital age.

Advancing in your career doesn't have to be difficult. If you just follow these 7 pieces of advice, you will have an easier time navigating your path so you can move onward and upward.