When you're at the beginning of your professional career, that corporate ladder can look pretty tall from the bottom. But while you'll have to work hard (and be patient) to merit promotions, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to move up that ladder faster.
1. Show off your knowledge of a brand's product. When interviewing for a role, you'll stand out more if you know a brand's product inside and out. Jess Lee, CEO of Polyvore, an online shopping platform, says it's important to impress your interviewers with your knowledge of their product. She says: "Become a user, study the product, learn its strengths and identify some areas for improvement. Bring it up in the interview, or better yet, prepare something that you can share with the interview team."
How to do it: A little Web research can go a long way, but go beyond just visiting the potential employer's website. Look for reviews of the product, as well as company news that you can bring up in the interview.
2. Leverage LinkedIn. You know that connecting with professional contacts on LinkedIn is a good idea, but if you're not maximizing the potential, it's a waste of time. LinkedIn's newly enhanced mobile app lets you glean details about the person who's interviewing you. So even if you wait until the last minute, you can still find what you've got in common, which can warm up your job interview.
There's also LinkedIn's Job Search app that you can use to find your next career move -- without worrying that your boss will catch you searching for jobs on your desktop. Use LinkedIn to stay on top of what content your contacts are sharing, and amplify its reach by sharing it with your network. Also participate in LinkedIn groups to learn from others, as well as establish yourself as an expert in your field.
How to do it: Carve out time each week to add new contacts, explore what they're sharing and send quick outreach messages.
3. Put your ideas out there. Don't be shy about sharing your ideas, says Leisa Peterson, founder of WealthClinic, a community centered around learning about finances. She calls herself a "22-year veteran of the corporate ladder," and she's found that by sharing ideas, she was able to show her boss that she cared about the company and was constantly thinking about ways to improve the bottom line.
In one role at a company that worked with credit unions, she noticed the credit unions struggled with several things she thought the company could help with. She suggested a way to capitalize on this space by creating a product her company already had experience with. Peterson says: "It was a big idea that led to me gaining a huge amount of respect in my manager's eyes, which most importantly led me to see how powerful my ideas were and the power of what happens when you go outside your comfort zone. That idea and all that I learned is what got me hired by Wells Fargo."
How to do it: Peterson says you should spend time thinking about how your idea will work so it is reasonable to execute. And even if it doesn't come to fruition, your assertiveness shows your manager that you care about the bottom line. This will help you stand out and help you get promoted faster.
4. Stick with the hard work. Many grads feel that entry-level work is too mundane and doesn't offer enough of a challenge. Realize that this work is a necessary part of your climb. Prove yourself at the easy and rote tasks, and you'll soon be rewarded with something more engaging.
Stick out your first job -- no matter how much you may dislike it -- for at least a year. You need the credit on your résumé, and you don't want future employers wondering if you'll flee after a few months.
How to do it: Find ways to challenge yourself in the job you've got. That might mean asking your boss for additional responsibilities, learning new software or attending career development classes.
5. Get a reputation. You aren't stuck at one company for your entire career, so it's important to make connections beyond the walls of your office. Barry Maher, author and speaker, says it's imperative that you be active in your field and work to gain an industry-wide reputation. He says: "If it turns out your company doesn't appreciate you, maybe another company will."
How to do it: Find industry networking events and start attending them. Write a professional blog (that's not associated with your company), and share your insights on your industry. Be active on social media, and connect to others in your field. If you're so inclined, look for speaking opportunities that will further brand you as an expert in your field. Then when you're ready for your next career move, you'll already have a solid network of people in your field to turn to.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. Hoojobs was voted as a Top Career website by Forbes. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues and is chief editor of the HooHireWire -- The Hoojobs Guide to Hiring & Getting Hired.
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