Today’s job market is incredibly competitive. Getting your first job from college is important, but that only represents the first step in your career. Positioning yourself to earn future promotions is a critical skill that requires a mix of personality, hard work, and learning the right skill set in your chosen industry.
The higher up you go, the more competitive and more difficult it will be to achieve that next promotion. This article is going to take you through a few strategies to help you stand out from the crowd and better position yourself for success in your career.
Pursuing an Advanced Degree
If you are serious about working in the corporate world, you might want to consider pursuing the MBA. Many professionals look to add this additional level of education after earning a few years of work experience in their industry. The reason is simple, the MBA offers credibility, prestige, and networking opportunities that benefit your career.
What are the Benefits?
The MBA can offer very tangible benefits in a variety of career paths. In the investment banking world, many analyst training programs are structured as 2 to 3 years with the expectation that you go back to school for an MBA and re-apply as an associate upon graduation.
Many corporate management programs within large industrial corporations also follow structured development programs that expect employees to spend a few years rotating through various business lines and then leave the program to complete an MBA. Upon graduation, those students will have the opportunity to work as a manager within a specific business division.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of an MBA is the opportunity to network with other people that you might not otherwise have the chance to meet. Mid level career professionals tend to find their next job opportunities through other people in their networks. The other students you meet in your MBA program will come from a variety of companies and industries which will potentially open future doors to you for your next opportunity.
Similar to your undergrad days, being accepted into the highest ranking MBA programs will give you the best chance for future success. That means you need to focus on aspects of your application that you can control to improve your acceptance chances. For most students that means scoring high on the GMAT exam and maximizing your work experience.
The key to high scoring on the GMAT exam is planning ahead, hard work and following a consistent study program. Probably the single best way to excel on the GMAT is by regularly practicing test questions. You can read this guide to help you find the best sources for GMAT practice questions.
Before you start studying, you also need to prepare yourself for the rigors of studying for the GMAT while working full time. Many people successfully balance a full time job and part time studying, but you need to be prepared to sacrifice some of your free time for future job success.
Earning a Professional Designation
Earning a professional designation represents another strategy that many professionals follow to earn more money and better position themselves for future promotions. The major benefit of this strategy is the lower cost of a professional designation.
For example, in the accounting profession, many people pursue a CPA license. Earning your CPA license may require a few thousand dollars in total costs. If you happen to be working for a large firm, many of those firms will even cover the cost of your CPA review course.
In comparison, a full time MBA might require an investment of over $100,000, especially if you target a top ranked program. Your employer may cover the cost of a part-time MBA program, but most employers rarely cover the cost of a full time MBA program.
Professional Designation Considerations
The one major downside with earning a professional designation is the time cost. Many professional designations require you to pass very challenging exams and meet specialized work experience.
For example, you only have 18 months to pass all four sections of the CPA exam. Most people also need to study for at least 400 hours to pass all four sections of the CPA exam. Because of the low pass rates, many people rely on specialized study strategies because if you don’t pass the exam within 18 months, you have to start at the beginning.
A final strategy you may want to consider is being more strategic. Watch the most successful people in your office. What did they do to be successful? How do they spend their time? What are their priorities in the office?
Try to find ways to directly help the most successful people in your office. Figure out how you can work on projects for them. Volunteer to help them with some of their work. There are many different ways you could help them be more efficient with their work.
The key is that by helping them with their work, you will get a first hand look at what they are doing every day to be successful in their job. This is the type of specialized knowledge that you can’t learn in an MBA program or even from earning a professional designation.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of helping other successful people in your office, is that they will appreciate your help and may help advance your career in ways that you would never be able to do on your own. If the star performer in your office tells your manager how valuable you are to the team, just watch how quickly your career will benefit.
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