The proverb “all things come to those who wait” was meant to instill patience. The truth is, “everything comes to him who hustles while he waits,” attributed to Thomas Edison, is a better remembrance for those who want to get ahead in their career.

The days of getting promoted because you’ve been warming a chair for X number of years are over.

Today, you need to position yourself for advancement actively.

Build and Nurture Your Network

Whether you’re an executive or a young careerist, it’s easier to move ahead when you have help. Most people think of building a network as making external connections. However, establishing relationships within your organization is equally important, particularly if you’re angling for a promotion.

Attending industry events is a great way to meet new people; however, don’t forget about the people you work with now. Go beyond the company’s holiday party, take advantage of opportunities to meet colleagues at all levels. Work on the company newsletter or volunteer to help with the next event or participate in the “whatever” drive.

Get to know colleagues at all levels. Turn acquaintances into friends over lunch or dinner. I have too many friends, said no one ever.

Kiss Comfort Goodbye

As a rule, people resist change. It’s easier to maintain the status quo than to face the unknown, even if they’re not happy with the way things are. Moving forward requires stepping out of your comfort zone, but it’s OK to start small.

Turn off the TV and pick up a book. Improve your skills or learn something new by taking an online course.  You can earn certifications, even get a degree from the comfort of your home. Set a goal for what you want to improve or learn over the next six months.

Many companies have tuition reimbursement programs. Schedule a time to meet with HR to find out what opportunities are available to you.

Speak Less, Listen More

If you’re aspiring to a leadership role, work on your communication skills. One of the quickest ways to become a better communicator is to develop your listening skills. Paying close attention can help you hear the underlying message as well as the words being spoken.

Give your full attention to colleagues when they’re talking. Break the habit of guessing what someone will say and rehearsing your answer before they are finished speaking. Stop letting your mind wander to your next call or work that’s waiting.

The best way to understand what someone wants— whether it be your assistant, client, or boss—is to ask them. Then listen carefully.

Seek Growth Opportunities

Don’t assume that other people, like your boss, know what you’re doing. Schedule regular meetings, bi-weekly or monthly, if you can, with your supervisor. Update him or her on projects you’re working on and the progress being made.

Ask for stretch assignments that will help you showcase what you already know and develop new skills—volunteer for high-profile projects that no one else wants. Step in to help others who are overwhelmed, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Just make sure you ask for assistance before the 11th hour. No one wants to be called on to help you out of a jam the night before the project is due.

Keep a record of things that didn’t go so well as well as your successes. Mistakes indicate areas for improvement. Wins are great to share with your boss during one-on-one meetings when you’re applying for a promotion or looking for a new job.

Show Gratitude

Saying thank you to people may seem like a little thing. And maybe it is until you overlook it. When someone extends themselves by providing an introduction, sharing knowledge or information, or jumping in to help you when you’re overwhelmed, make sure you say thank you.

Sending an email is OK. A card or handwritten note, maybe a small gift warranted, says a lot more. It doesn’t even matter if the introduction they made helped your cause. It’s the gesture that counts.

As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Make sure people feel good about helping you.

This post originally appeared on the career intelligence Resume Writing and Career Services blog.— Published on February 18, 2021


  • Annette Richmond

    Career Storyteller, Personal Branding Strategist, Executive Resume Writer, Host of Smarter Career Moves podcast

    career intelligence Resume Writing and Career Services

    I landed in the career field after earning an MA in psychology. Before starting my resume writing business, I worked as a vocational counselor and contingency recruiter, launched and ran a career site, and taught writing and communications at local universities. In 2014, I decided to combine the skills I gained as a journalist and recruiter to launch career intelligence Resume Writing and Career Services. I have an eclectic taste when it comes to food and film, and love relaxing with friends and family, particularly my husband and our 2 four-legged kids, Katie and Emma.