Career Advancement

What Is Career Advancement & How To Achieve It?

When you started your career, you might have had goals like reaching a certain level in your industry, working for your dream company, or learning new skills in a different area. Whatever you’re aiming for, you’ve likely realized at some point that you want to move forward in your career.

It’s common to mix up career advancement with career development. Career advancement is about achieving your specific goals, dreams, and ambitions. It’s more targeted than career development, which is about the bigger picture and includes education, skill building, and different job roles. Career advancement is about taking steps towards these bigger development goals.

In this article, we will cover various topics about moving up in your career. So, let’s start.

Why should you advance your career?

In simple terms, “career advancement” means the steps you take using your skills and education to reach your career goals and get more challenging job opportunities. Some companies have programs to help employees climb up the ladder, but others have to find their own way.

Career advancement matters for several reasons:

  • It keeps you engaged and prevents burnout. When you take on new tasks and responsibilities, either in your current job or a new one, it keeps things interesting.
  • You can earn more money. Moving up in your career often leads to higher-paying positions.
  • It helps you reach your dreams. By constantly moving forward, you will get closer to your ultimate goals and opportunities. For instance, if you want to start your own business, advancing in that field first will give you a strong base of knowledge and skills.
  • You will keep learning. Advancing in your career often means getting new degrees, certifications, or going through professional development courses.
Why should you advance your career?

Career advancement isn’t just about your job; it also helps you grow as a person. The experience and skills you gain as you move up improve all parts of your life. Although change can be hard, stepping out of your comfort zone will make your life better, from financial stability to self-esteem.

What are some challenges to career advancement?

There are often many obstacles to face when you are trying to move up in your career. Sometimes, opportunities are right there for you, but in some fields, you need to be persistent and tough. You might be in a job where there’s no chance to move up, or there aren’t any mentorship programs, or you might encounter barriers like the “glass ceiling,” which can especially hold back women from reaching top management or executive positions. It’s not impossible, but it’s key to keep going and not get discouraged at the first hurdle. Here are a couple of things to think about.

Believe in Yourself

Don’t get hung up on feeling like an “imposter” or thinking you are not skilled enough to advance. Use that energy to find ways to make progress. Look for new challenges at your job, take an online course focused on your career, or consider going back to school for another degree.

Opportunities for Advancement at Your Current Job

When you are ready to move up, see what options you have. Your boss or the HR department might have some ideas, but also check if others in similar roles have been able to climb the ladder. If not, it might be time to search for new opportunities elsewhere.

You May Need Help from Others

If you are feeling stuck, a career counselor could be a big help. They can assist with updating your resume with relevant skills, setting goals, and figuring out how to tackle any obstacles. A career counselor can also help keep you on track to achieve your goals.

Building an Online Professional Presence

If you are not yet active online, look into websites where you can showcase your background, experience, or work portfolio. These sites are great for networking and making new contacts in your field, which can open up new opportunities or lead to being noticed by potential employers.

The Challenge of Not Having a Mentor

Having a mentor to guide you is valuable so you are not navigating your career path alone. However, finding someone genuinely committed to helping you grow and serving as a role model can be tough. In fact, only 40% of employees say they have a mentor at work, based on Gallup polls.

Dealing with the “Glass Ceiling”

Sadly, women and minorities often face workplace discrimination and miss out on promotions. Rosalind M. Chow, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, explained that the glass ceiling refers to the invisible barriers that prevent women from reaching leadership positions. In theory, women and men should have equal opportunities, but in reality, women often see their career growth stall. This can be discouraging, but it’s possible to break through these barriers, although it may require extra effort and determination.

5 Things you can do to advance your career

Advancing in your career can be tough, but it’s definitely possible with a clear plan. Here are five steps to help you achieve it:

  • Set a Clear End Goal. Knowing your ultimate career goal helps you form a solid plan. For instance, if your dream is to be a CFO, your path might include starting as a junior accountant, moving to senior accountant, then to corporate controller, and finally reaching CFO.
  • Create a Timeline. This means setting milestones along your career path. These milestones keep you motivated and give you a sense of achievement when you reach them. Use SMART goals to make these targets specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
5 Things you can do to advance your career

Source: Gradsingapore

  • Value Your Performance Reviews. They are a goldmine of insights about what you are doing well and where you can improve. This information is crucial for understanding your strengths and knowing what steps you need to take to move forward in your career.
  • Take Charge of Your Career. Remember, no one is as invested in your career as you are. Don’t just wait for chances to come; be proactive in seeking what you need to progress.
  • Know When to Move On. Sometimes, to go up, you need to move out. If you have mastered your current role, feel unchallenged, and see no chances for advancement, it might be time to look for new opportunities.

So, what does this look like in practice? 

As you work on your career advancement plan, here are some things you can do right now:

  • Look for Training Opportunities at Work. Many companies not only offer training but also pay for it. This is a great way to enhance your skills.
  • Gain New Certifications. They don’t have to be expensive. There are many online platforms offering affordable certification courses that can boost your career.
  • Consider Getting Another Degree. Sometimes, moving up requires more education. For instance, an MBA is often needed for higher-level jobs, and nurses need a graduate degree in advanced practice to become Nurse Practitioners.
  • Find a Mentor. A mentor will guide your career and help you build your network. It might be hard to find one, but having their support is invaluable.
  • Think About a Lateral Move. While most people focus on moving up, moving sideways to a different but related role can also add value to your career, setting a solid base for future upward moves.
  • Being Proactive is Key. Don’t keep your ambitions a secret. Sharing your goals shows that you are serious about your career and actively working towards it.

Examples of career advancement

When we talk about career advancement, we often think of getting promoted. While that’s a big part of it, there’s more to career advancement than just climbing the ranks. Earning a degree can lead to a promotion (people with a bachelor’s degree typically earn 84% more than those without), but it’s not just about the money. Depending on your field, other benefits might include:

  • Conducting research in your industry
  • Working or traveling abroad
  • Publishing professional articles or books
  • Becoming a recognized expert in your area
  • Joining professional groups

Often, the best benefits of advancing your career are personal. Pew Research found that 79% of college grads said their education was very helpful in personal and intellectual growth, and 62% said it gave them skills they could use at work.


The truth is that we spend a lot of our lives working. If you are unhappy in your job, it impacts your overall well-being. You can either accept this or take steps to improve your career and move into a role that’s both interesting and fulfilling.

You might find it helpful to think of your career advancement as a very long job interview. Strive to do your best every day, showing your skills and dedication. This approach not only builds your confidence but also shows others you are competent and professional. 

Believing in yourself and your work encourages others to believe in you, too, demonstrating your professionalism, integrity, and skills, all of which will help you meet your career goals.

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