How are your business and your career advancement going? Are you proceeding eagerly from challenge to ever-greater challenge? Or are you just going along, steady state? In our modern world, stagnation equals death. Yet we're often so busy actually doing our jobs or running our businesses that we don't take the time to focus on our own development.

You can overcome that roadblock by setting specific goals and making sure to set aside the time and resources you need to advance your career to the next level. You owe it to yourself, but it will benefit your company as well. The smarter you are, the more skills and valuable contacts you have, the more your company will benefit.

Begin by setting aside some time, at least 30 minutes, at least once a week. Take that time to invest some effort, thought, and maybe even a little money into making sure your career keeps moving forward. What should you do in those 30 minutes? Here are some great suggestions, courtesy of courtesy of Manpower:

1. Set a career goal.

Most of us have weekly, monthly, or annual goals we're working to fulfill in terms of our businesses or our jobs. Make this many sales, reach this many new customers, achieve this level of quality or output. But how many of us set the same sort of goals for our own career advancement?

It's a simple truth that you can't get where you want to go if you don't know where that is. So decide how you want your career to be different one year from now compared to what it is today. Once you do that, figure out what steps you need to take and what interim benchmarks you must hit to achieve those goals.

2. Ask for input.

Once you know what you goal should be, your next step should be to ask for help. Get some advice or feedback. This should come from a trusted advisor or mentor, someone who knows both you and your industry and can tell you straight out if what you want to achieve makes sense.

It could be mentor, an employer or former employer, a trusted career coach, or even a good friend. This advisor can also tell you if your goal needs to be refined, or if there's a better way to get where you want to go. Make sure you pick someone who knows your industry well enough to give you expert insight.

3. Give your online profiles and resume a makeover.

When was the last time you reviewed your online profiles and your resume? Your social media profiles in particular make up the professional face you show the world, so if you haven't updated them recently, it's time to give them some careful attention.

Put a lot of thought into how you describe yourself. Start off your description with things you do well and want to do more of. For instance, if you'd like more consulting clients, describe your consulting skills and what you have to offer up front. People really do get customers from their social media profiles sometimes, and even people who've met you in another context are likely to check you out on LinkedIn as a preliminary to doing business.

4. Connect with at least three people in your network.

In fact, make a plan to touch base with at least three of your network connections each month. Even if you're not looking for a job, a new customer, or anything else right this moment, sooner or later you will need your network to help you. So think of your network as a vegetable garden that needs careful tending (and occasional weeding) in order to remain a fulfilling resource. And when you connect with people, don't forget to ask what you can do to help them.

5. Plan on professional development.

Whether you work for someone else or run your own business, you'll be most successful over the long term if you never stop learning, adding new skills, and building up your knowledge base. So make time to "upskill"--getting a new certification, learning a foreign language, or mastering a new technology.

Keep in mind, there are many learning opportunities outside traditional education, and most of us do most of our learning while doing our jobs. Is there a project you can take on that will take you well outside your comfort zone? Can you volunteer for a role in a trade organization or other group that will give you new skills--and perhaps enlarge your network at the same time? Constantly looking for learning opportunities is the surest way to keep your career on track for unlimited growth.

Published on: Jan 22, 2015
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