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Secrets on how to move up in your career

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

Want to move up in your career, but don’t know how? Yahoo Finance set up a free career booth in New York's Bryant Park where anyone could tap career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart, for her insights on how to snag that next promotion.

Here are some of the top questions from New Yorkers seeking advice and Ceniza-Levine’s expert tips.

Q: I worked for a year before taking a break. The job market is still kind of tough. Should I start back at the bottom?

A: You always want to aim for the highest level that you can get. I would research the companies you’re targeting and figure out the best role for you and try to get there. And then if you get offered something that might be a step back, at that point you can reconsider it based on what else is open -- but don't aim for it.

Q: How do I assert myself in a male-dominated environment?

A: On the plus side you're going to stand out, right? So use that built-in advantage and don't be afraid to speak up because they might be thinking, ‘Well, she's not going to say anything because she's just a girl.’ So when you speak up, don't be afraid to take that one step further and perhaps interrupt, perhaps conflict with an opinion that’s in the room -- so that you make sure that they have heard you.

The other thing that men do so well is that they know the bottom line. They're not afraid to talk business. They’re not afraid to take credit for things that they’ve done. So don't be afraid to say, ‘This is my idea and this is something that I've worked on, this is what I think.’ Don't be afraid to promote yourself.

Q: How do I review myself without sounding arrogant?

A: Look for ways to make everything descriptive and quantified. So you don’t want to say, ‘I’m the best, I’m the most creative,’ because that’s arrogant and subjective. But you can say, ‘I worked on the biggest project,’ or, ‘I worked on the largest client in terms of revenue.’ It’s not going to be bragging if you're just providing details and facts.

The other thing is that other people can promote you for you. So if someone says to you, ‘You did a great job on X, Y, Z,’ ask them to email your boss. People are happy to do that and the boss loves it because they seem like a great boss because they’ve got this great team.

Q: My company is restructuring. When is the best time to ask for the role I want?

A: You want to manage your career for right now. When the company is restructuring, you don't have to wait until all the decisions are made before you ask for a promotion. The fact of the matter is, you don't know how things are going to go, so you should be managing your career for every day. Ask for the projects that you want, ask for things that you want, the role that you get might be called something different based on what the restructuring is.

Q: How long should I wait to ask for a promotion?

A: You don't have to be there for a full year. You can absolutely ask in the middle or even a few months later. Just make sure that you are doing a good job and you have ammunition to back up why you’re asking.

Q: What is the best way to respond when you’re not given the promotion you’ve asked for?

A: If you ask for a promotion and you don’t get it, you need to find out why. So you want to ask: ‘Can you explain to me the thinking behind not giving me the promotion?’ or ‘Can you explain to me the thinking behind selecting Margie over me for that project?’ And thank your boss, or whoever’s giving you that feedback, for whatever they say. Don’t try to defend yourself in that moment. If something is unclear, you can ask to clarify, but don't feel like you have to go back and forth. This is just about collecting the feedback.

Ask for a meeting later on. If, upon thinking about the feedback, you feel like that was a mistake, then you can go back. But in the moment, just thank them because it's hard to give that kind of negative feedback.