What Is Career Progression? (With Steps and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 October 2022 | Published 27 July 2021

Updated 20 October 2022

Published 27 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Having a challenging and successful professional career can be important to your well-being and sense of fulfilment, and you can often achieve this by developing your career path. Progressive career growth often leads to higher salaries, new professional connections, more opportunities and gratification. Knowing how to grow your career in effective and meaningful ways can help you focus on what works for you and your career goals. In this article, we explore what is career progression, the benefits of it, tips to progress your career and steps you can take to grow your professional capabilities and achieve career progression.

Related: Career Advancement Strategies (With Steps and Tips)

What is career progression and why is it important?

Career progression occurs when you use your resources, skills and background to create and reach professional goals or gain new employment in challenging positions. You might progress your career within a company you work for, take a different role in another company, accept freelance opportunities or start your own business based on your skills and expertise. Career progression is important because it allows you to grow your professional skills to succeed in higher-level roles and helps you meet your career goals.

Related: 20 Careers of the Future (With Salaries)

What are tips for career progression?

There are many tips for career progression, no matter what role you currently hold or desire to gain. Here are some tips you can consider if you want to focus on professional career growth:

  • Be an active employee. Aim to meet and exceed expectations of your current role and take part in work group events or company-wide meetings and initiatives.

  • Embrace teamwork. Actively collaborate with colleagues, leaders and industry professionals.

  • Act as a company advocate. Consider speaking highly of your organisation, internally and externally, and share information and knowledge with colleagues and leaders. This can help establish or reinforce a positive reputation.

  • Seek growth. Consider being curious to learn new processes or hone your skills, looking for opportunities at your current employer's. Leaders often notice your diligence and interest to grow professionally.

  • Be open to feedback. Constructive criticism and feedback can help you identify areas of improvement to focus your professional development on or allow you to apply what you learn to future projects, situations and opportunities.

Consider applying these tips to any job you hold, since being an asset in every role allows you to maximise how much you learn from each experience.

What are the benefits of career progression?

Here are common benefits of being active in advancing your career:

Earn a professional reputation

Leaders, colleagues and other business professionals often view you as determined, proactive and ambitious when you actively seek career progression and high personal standards of your work. Earning a professional reputation as a committed employee or a person with career direction can help you in a multitude of ways. They include growing your network of contacts, learning about career opportunities or standing out from coworkers for internal promotions or projects.

Gain positive feedback

You can gain positive feedback by exemplifying a strong work ethic and interest in your career advancement. Whether during formal employee review sessions or indirect feedback from colleagues and superiors, you can learn more about your professional capabilities and areas to work on, preparing yourself for future opportunities and goals. Even feedback that might be difficult can help you achieve growth personally and professionally, too.

Have job options

The goal of career progression is often to gain higher positions or new roles that strengthen your skill set or expose you to developing a new one. Taking a proactive approach to advance your career can often lead to opportunities you might otherwise not encounter. For example, you might get recruited by other companies because of your well-known work ethic, interest in career development and strong reputation.

Secure strong references

Taking a keen interest in career progression and doing good work in the roles you hold can also help you secure strong professional references for when you actively job search. Some employers might require both professional and personal references to learn more about you as a potential candidate, so consider developing connections on both fronts. Having contacts who can speak about your achievements, work ethic, skills and professionalism might help you get invited to interview for other roles or gain a job offer.

How to progress in your career

Consider following these seven steps to grow your career, regardless of industry or title:

1. Establish what success means to you

The meaning of success varies for everyone. For example, salary goals may drive one person, while job titles and C-suite positions may motivate another and a strong work-life balance and schedule flexibility may define success for someone else. Consider your personal values when you envision what success means and evaluate which professions, industries or roles foster those values. Learn about jobs with work expectations that align with what you want or prefer to avoid, like being on-call or working weekend hours, for example. Establishing how you define success can help you focus on how to achieve it.

Related: What Is C-suite and How Do You Get There?

2. Determine how to reach your goals

Planning is an essential part of career progression and you can create a strategy that's ambitious while also achievable. Outline how to achieve your professional goals and figure out what roles can help you gain the expertise and skill set you need. For example, if you want to be a pharmacist, gaining a job as a pharmacy technician can provide industry exposure and help you gain the necessary credentials. Consider researching traditional career paths to guide you as you pursue your own.

Related: Career Goals: How To Set, Examples and Tips for Achieving

3. Understand your mistakes

Nearly all professionals make mistakes, and often how you handle them can matter more than the initial error. Mistakes serve as an effective way of learning and improving the quality of your work, and you can show an employer how resilient, flexible and positive you are regardless of challenges. Here are ways you can learn from your mistakes:

  • Document the error. Writing what mistake took place and what led to it can help you identify what went wrong and ways to avoid repeating the mistake.

  • Pay attention to how you felt. You can develop emotional intelligence and professional manners by evaluating what you felt, whether it's frustration, embarrassment, anger or guilt. Doing this can help you develop empathy for colleagues who might experience similar emotions.

  • Remember how you resolved it. Noting the steps you took to fix a mistake is important in preventing one in the future. Consider what actions you took, like enlisting help from a manager or revising a process.

4. Keep learning

A proactive way to progress your career is to keep learning. It can be through career development programmes at your workplace, like seminars or skill workshops. Learning management and leadership skills, improving your computer proficiency or honing organisational techniques can be essential in helping you achieve professional goals.

Consider seeking external opportunities to grow, too. They can diversify your knowledge and experiences. Online courses, seminars, professional conferences, certifications and higher education degrees are great ways to keep learning while also growing your career. Find out what industry learning standards apply to your career goals.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

5. Connect with a mentor

Having a mentor is often beneficial. They can provide you invaluable insight and advice on how to navigate your career. Mentors often act as a positive influence, helping you recognise personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. They may also help you grow your network of contacts or keep you informed about job opportunities, both of which are pivotal to career progression. You can find a mentor through your current workplace, professional associations or existing friendships and connections.

6. Join professional organisations

Professional extracurricular activities can help you advance your career and many employers want to see job applicants with experience outside of the workplace. Depending on your industry, there typically are professional groups that focus on skill development, leadership and continuous learning to help those in the field gain new insights, techniques and abilities. For example, if you work as a nurse, you might join the Singapore Nurses Association (SNA) to connect with other colleagues, industry leaders and stay up to date with the latest developments in the field of nursing.

Volunteer work is also a powerful way to connect with others professionally and progress your career. While employers often respect nearly all volunteer work, consider looking for opportunities that allow you to use your specific skills to enhance a group or project. For example, as an accountant, you might offer to help with tax filings, accounts payable and receivable or the payroll for a nonprofit organisation to show your dedication to your craft and your community.

7. Build a solid network

Networking often gives you a wide variety of contacts, some of whom might share fresh perspectives or viewpoints that help you expand your knowledge or expertise. It's often natural to connect with those who work in your specific industry, though growing your professional network to include those who work in other fields can help you learn different ideas and expose you to even more connections you might not otherwise meet. Consider using every professional encounter to grow your network and work towards your goal of career progression.

Related: How To Find a Rewarding Career Path in 9 Steps

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