Working your way up the career ladder is a long and arduous process. Not only is there a near-infinite number of paths forward, but there are also instances where you will want to backtrack, try something else in a different field, or even restart. With so many ways that you can build your career, it can feel daunting and even dispiriting if you find it difficult to stand out in the job market.
Regardless of where you are in your career currently, from an undergraduate student to a working professional, there are tips and tricks that will help you rocket your way up the career ladder.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Undergraduate Degree
An undergraduate degree has unfortunately become a standard. This means that you need to go even further in order to launch your career off right once you graduate. From societies and campus programs to internships to personal projects, there are plenty of additional activities you will want to get involved in so that you can showcase your talent and work experience on top of your undergraduate qualification.
The good news is that, in many cases, going through this extra effort can be fun and invaluable.
Start with Societies, Projects, and Competitions
A great place to get started is with the extra-curricular activities on campus. There is something for everyone, and though you shouldn’t say no to signing up for groups and activities you think are just fun, always make sure to commit to at least one or two things that are actively aligned with your degree and your future career goals.
If one doesn’t exist, consider getting it going. Being the president and starting an entire society, publication, or project can look great on your resume and give you some very, very invaluable experience.
The reason why you will want to start here is that this is how you can get that initial experience to start seeing acceptance letters for your internship applications.
Intern, Intern, Intern
Work with your department and careers service to get as many internships as possible. Generally speaking, one internship per semester or at least one per year (depending on the length of the internship) is a great goal to have. The more internships you have under your belt, the easier it will be to secure a job in the future. One, because there is a greater chance you will be hired by the companies you intern for later on, and two, because you have practical and work experience to go alongside your degree.
Personal projects have no limits, and they can be a great way to show your talent and to be recognized, especially if you want to work building or creating things. Even those in STEM will benefit from their own personal projects. Engineers, for example, are always recommended by professionals to keep up with personal projects. It could be fun, it could be incredibly weird, or it could be masterfully practical for you. The fact is simply designing, creating, and constructing items consistently can help you get the practice you need and give you a final product to showcase or advertise online.
Understanding the Leadership Ceiling
One of the most common hiccups to your career will be transitioning from a worker or specialist into a manager or business leader. Growing your skillset and gaining experience in your specialization is relatively straightforward. You will know what you need and know how to obtain that information.
When it comes to transitioning from a worker to a leader, however, the path forward is far less clear. So far, all of the tips and tricks will help you reach that ceiling. Excelling during your undergraduate degree and continuing with that can-do attitude will help you grow and make steady steps forward, right up until you reach the phase where you need to start delegating work and managing a team, a department, or a company.
The good news is that one of the best ways to make that shift is with a master’s. The master’s in question will depend entirely on where you are currently. If you are an engineer or work in operations management, for example, then know that one of the top go-to options is either a master’s in operations management or a master’s in business administration.
This is just one example. The fact is that most specialists who have very advanced technical skillsets will want to look into further training in order to breach that leadership ceiling.
When and Why You Should Get a Master’s Degree
Not every career path needs a master’s degree, though that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important that you continue to learn and train. Knowing both when and why you should earn a master’s degree are two of the best questions to ask yourself before you enroll. Not every master’s degree is going to make a significant impact on your overall career, but some can completely transform it.
With the rise of online degrees, there are more options than ever as well. Not only do you have more opportunities in terms of where you can apply and the sheer number of degree options available to you, but you also have greater flexibility than ever.
Not every online degree is designed for working professionals, but an increasing number of them are. Coupled with a learn today, use model tomorrow, and you can start benefitting from your online masters from day one and put what you use to work.
To help you decide whether a masters is right for your future, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I Have the Skills I Need to Advance?
One of the best ways to determine if a master’s degree is right for you is actually rather simple. Many who work their way up a career path focus on a special skill. This could be in engineering or operations, for example, and while your individual and even teamwork are incredible, you will still be missing a few key skills that you will need if you want to advance. Those skills? People and business management.
There are many great options for you when it comes to transitioning from specialist to leader. In the engineering world, for example, you can push past that barrier and get started with a Masters in Operations Management online degree. This degree is ideal if you want to be able to link people, performance, and processes. It is ideal if you currently work in procurement, revenue, and operations and want to take it to the next level.
When looking for degree options, always consider all of your options. For example, if owning and managing your own business is part of your goal, then you will absolutely want to tackle two birds with one stone. In our example, you can earn an MBA on top of your operations management degree and do so with just 4 more courses and just a few short more months.
A good way to determine if the master’s in question is right for you is to explore the course curriculum, talk to the admissions team, and also get in touch with recent graduates. The admissions team, in particular, should encourage you to outline your career and academic goals, and in turn, they will provide you reasons and examples why the courses you are considering are either right or not right for you.
2. What is the Industry Standard for Qualification?
Another key factor to consider is what the industry standard is, officially or unofficially. Officially will refer to any legal requirements expected out of professionals in the next career bracket. Unofficially is the standard that employers have come to expect, simply because everyone working in that field has that level of qualification.
For example, if everyone working in your dream job holds a master’s, or a PhD, then chances are you are going to have a harder time standing out and getting your job without these degrees, even if you don’t explicitly need them.
3. Am I at the Right Stage of My Career?
A master’s degree is best done when you have reached as far as you can or want to go without it. Not only will you have a much clearer idea of what you want out of your career and how you want to progress and move forward, but you will also know what you need to make that next step. By waiting almost as long as possible, you will be able to ensure that the degree you ultimately choose for yourself offers as much possible value for your obtainable goals as possible, rather than trying to guess at what your future career can benefit from.
Other Learning and Training Opportunities
Degrees are a great way to kickstart your career and to open up entirely new levels to your career, but they are not the only way you should learn. Learning is a lifelong pursuit, and if you want to rocket your way up to your career, you will want to continue to learn and expand your skills with these other learning and training opportunities.
Short courses and certificates are one of the best ways to continue to learn and customize your career and education. This is particularly useful for those working in hands-on fields like media. From directing courses to courses that teach students how to use professional tools, there are a near-infinite number of short courses and certificate programs to choose from that will allow you to stay up to date and slowly build your skills.
Workshops are a great way to get essential hands-on learning. If there is a new tool or new technique that you want to add to your repertoire, then a workshop can be the best way to do it. These types of learning opportunities can be completed in a day, a few days, or just a few weeks, making them short-term ways to add to your skill set in the long term.
Local and online talks or podcasts are a great way to hear from experts. Go to an in-person talk, and you will benefit further by being able to meet other top talent and interested parties. Brush up on your networking skills and, more importantly, connect with those you find most interesting online, for example, through LinkedIn if they don’t have a business card they can give you.
Conferences are a great way to learn and network, so if your employer is attending or would benefit from attending a conference, let them know. You will be surprised at how often they would be happy to sponsor you to attend for simple reconnaissance or to manage a booth at the conference itself. If not, consider getting a ticket yourself. You can still write these off your taxes as they are for your career.
Reading is one of the best ways to stay on top of industry news and new ideas alike. It is a very simple and can be a very affordable way to keep your knowledge sharp and to bring new ideas to the table on an ongoing basis. You don’t necessarily need to read, either. Audiobooks, podcasts, and digital talks are all ways that you can learn on the go, making it the perfect way to start your day, especially if you have a reasonably long commute.
Networking and Negotiating
Networking is always going to be important. Knowing the right people can often mean getting job offers without actively looking for them. It takes time to build up such a network, so don’t force it. Connect with people who you network with online and keep engaging and offering real value, from comments to posts to direct messaging advice. This will help you grow a network that will allow you to take advantage of unique opportunities and is one of the best ways to rocket your way up the career ladder, regardless of which ladder you are on.