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5 Tips for Building Your Career

Are you one of the many talented young professionals who find themselves facing this enviable career dilemma? Your performance has helped you stand out in just a short time on the job, and it seems you are clearly headed up the professional ladder. Eventually… because that climb is feeling awfully slow.

Often it’s just not all that clear what you can do to accelerate the journey. There are some key career boosters that every young professional can embrace to speed the trip to the next rung, now or later. Some could pay off quickly and others set the foundation for adding value later in your career. These aren’t required, but they’re often the hallmark of the ambitious careerist. Being ambitious doesn’t have to mean stepping on others to get ahead. It does mean being proactive and doing a variety of things to keep you on track, get you noticed, and put you in the right place at the right time when a great opportunity comes along.

Here are 5 ways to boost your career—and your odds of moving up the ladder a little faster.

1. Join and be active in an industry association. These groups are critical for educating yourself, expanding your professional network, getting a glimpse of what goes on in other firms, and finding early opportunities to take on leadership roles. Participating is where the real benefits lie. Sit on a committee, take continuing education, and attend networking events.

2. Get certified. Don’t wait for someone to tell you to get started on a certification you know you’ll need. Boost your profile and reputation in the office by earning them on the early end of expectations, without bragging. If certifications are optional, take a strategic approach to what you pursue and consider the skills you may need later.

3. Fill in a skills gap, like, umm, communication. Many employers say too many employees have mediocre writing and communication skills. Take a business writing course. Evidence of your new knowledge— clearer writing, stronger proposals, and better memos—will be noticed and appreciated.

4. Become the go-to helpful person in your office. The goodwill you create can pay off big. Help a new- grad hire learn the ropes in the office or assist a peer who is struggling with something you’re good at. Introduce a colleague with a particular work challenge to someone from your industry group who has experience in the area. Pay extra attention to junior staffers assigned to you when you lead projects. Your success depends partly on their success.

5. Be a genuine volunteer. Participating in a cause you feel passionate about outside work offers a chance to expand your network, meet people outside your industry, try your hand at new roles, and, sometimes, take on leadership roles or team-building efforts that serve as evidence of your readiness for management. Occasionally, the goodwill you bring to the company through your efforts can be a boost in itself.

For more insight in building your career, pick up a copy of Jennifer Merritt’s The Wall Street Journal Guide to Building Your Career

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