How to Climb When There’s No Ladder

With thousands of career options available, you’ve probably put a bit of thought into where you’d like to be in ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now. If management or leadership is part of your desired career path, you’re not alone. According to business consultant and author Lynette Lewis, “Growth is a natural sign of being alive, so it is healthy to want to expand, develop, and advance both personally and professionally.”

For many, earning a leadership position requires a climb up the corporate ladder. But what do you do when there’s no clear ladder in sight?

Make a plan

When it comes to accomplishing a long-term goal, you must have a plan. Start by figuring out your ultimate goal. Do you want to own your own company? Become a manager? A partner in a firm? Whatever it may be, write your goal down, then make a list of everything you need to do to achieve it.

Divide your list into manageable segments, like education, experience, and skills. By breaking one long-term goal into smaller, easily obtainable goals, your career dreams may become more realistic. Even if your current workplace doesn’t provide room to move up, having—and following—a plan will help you make targeted movements along your career path.

According to The Muse, “No career goal is out of reach if you go into the game with a strategy.”

Educate yourself and never stop learning

To find work in specialized fields, you likely need to be educated in those industries and possess the skills companies look for in employees. But, education doesn’t stop when you graduate high school, earn your college diploma, or finish your certification. In fact, employers often look highly upon employees who take the initiative to further educate themselves.

This doesn’t mean you have to enroll in a traditional 4-year college program. Instead, check out your local resources for educational opportunities. Your city may have a community college that offers individual classes on computer programs, communication, or other specialized skills for your job. Likewise, your industry may have an employee association you can join. Those associations usually have resources available to members, including networking opportunities, webinars, and newsletters.

Network, network, network

Have you heard the famous phrase: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? It’s a reminder of the importance of networking and meeting people who may be able to help you on your career path. When it comes to advancing your career or moving into a leadership role where there may not be a clear path for you, it’s especially important to focus on networking.

Consider, for example, that you attend an association event filled with industry colleagues and executives. Through networking, you meet someone with whom you share a story about your experience. The skills you have are a perfect fit for a leadership role at this person’s company, but you may not have known that had you not attended the event.

Likewise, if you earn a new certification and add it to your LinkedIn profile, it may get you noticed by someone in your company who didn’t know you possessed the skills or motivations that you have.

Work harder

It goes without saying that you must work hard to advance your career, right? But when there isn’t room for advancement in your workplace, it’s especially important to excel in your role. When you have the opportunity to go the extra mile, take it. If your supervisor needs someone to volunteer as the lead on a project, and your schedule allows for it, raise your hand. If you would like to try something new, ask about it. Supervisors notice the employees who work hard, and if you want to advance your career, you must first be noticed.

Take initiative

While working hard is essential to getting noticed by leaders in the company, so is being an initiator. Supervisors are busy, so if you notice something that could be done more efficiently in your everyday work, or you recognize a place where the company could save money, find time to present your findings to them. Chances are, your unique position allows you to recognize problems or deliver solutions better than anyone else. Not only can your suggestions benefit the company, they can also show that you have strong initiative.

Keep a positive folder

When someone sends you an email thanking you for superior service or congratulates you on an accomplishment, hang onto those emails. Consider creating a folder in your inbox or on your computer where you can keep notes of positivity from others. Not only will this folder serve as a quick way to boost your spirits, it can also show your supervisor how you’ve helped others. When you have a performance review or want to discuss the opportunity to advance in your role, use the documents in your folder to support you.

Say thanks

We all like to feel appreciated. And while it may be nice to receive the promotion, pay raise, or advancement you’ve set your sights on, it’s important to say thanks to those who help you on every step of your career path. After all, thankfulness and positivity are traits of strong leaders.

How do you move forward with your career, even when there isn’t a clear path for advancement? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.

Poll Results: How Do You Track Your Goals?

ThinkstockPhotos-491925526Since many people make resolutions as the calendar turns to a new year, we asked our Movin’ On Up (MOU) readers at the end of January how they track their goals in order to celebrate milestones along the way.

Most of our readers said they track their goals manually on a piece of paper (52%) while 16% said they use a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. Another 16% of the MOU audience reported that they don’t track their goals.

Other results include:

  • Using a mobile app — 5%
  • Using a physical representation like marbles in a jar — 2%

In addition, 9% of readers selected the “other” option and provided the following responses:

  • White board
  • Microsoft Word and Excel documents
  • I remember them.

Top Tools for Goal Tracking

Whether you like to use the latest technology or prefer more traditional methods of tracking goals, it’s important to find what works for you. It’s easy to get distracted and fall out of the habit of doing activities that put you closer to completing your goal, so tracking your progress can help you overcome discouraging setbacks.

Here are our top app picks to get you started on the path to success:

What other ways do you track your goals? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Low-Cost Ways to Develop Your Skills

ThinkstockPhotos-509352886It’s always a good idea to look for ways to increase your marketability and make yourself more appealing to prospective employers. The more you bring to the table, the greater your chances for landing the job or earning a promotion. In fact, many employers are less concerned about whether you have a higher degree, and more interested in the skills you possess. Acquiring new talents and abilities doesn’t have to clean out your bank account or leave you drowning in debt.

Online Courses

The web is a fantastic resource for low-cost learning. You can find courses on just about any subject; software and web development, business courses, CAD, marketing, general education courses, and a myriad of other topics. Sites like SkilledUp.com and Udemy.com offer free and paid courses, some for as little as $5. Other websites such as Lynda.com charge a monthly fee for unlimited access to a plethora of courses. Remember, depending on the type of course you’d like to take, you may have to purchase the necessary software, if for example, you’re interested in learning Microsoft Excel or Adobe Photoshop.

Public Library

The good old public library is an often overlooked skill-building resource. Many libraries offer writing workshops, as well as courses in computer skills and career readiness. You may also be able to learn a new language, which is always a desirable asset sought by employers. As an added bonus, many public libraries offer online classes from popular e-learning sites, free of charge for cardholders. So check with your local library before you shell out any money for an e-learning site.

Join a Club, Organization, or Group

No matter what you’d like to learn, there’s probably a group in your area that shares your interests. Sites like Meetup.com connect you with groups in your area that share a similar interest. From coding to cooking, public speaking to mobile app development, the list is practically endless. Most group meetings are face-to-face gatherings at a public place. There may be dues or a fee required to attend a meeting, but the cost, if any, will be listed on the event’s page.

Career Tech

Compared with the cost of a college or university education, career tech can be a real bargain. Career tech tuition costs nearly $5,500 less per year than the average four-year college. Plus you’ll be ready to begin your career and earn an income in two years. Career tech touts itself as providing education in a wide variety of high-paying, in-demand jobs. Career path options will vary according to the campus near you, but expect to find a wide range of choices including mechanical drafter, welder, IT technician, physical therapist assistant, biomedical equipment technician, legal secretary, aircraft mechanic, and real estate appraiser just to name a few. To find out more, do an internet search for “career tech” and your city in the search field.

Uncle Sam

The U.S. Department of Labor offers CareerOneStop.org as a source for “career exploration, training and jobs.” The site can help you explore careers, find training, and guide you to local resources via links to one of the more than 2,500 American Job Centers across the country.

You may be able to locate free computer classes, career counseling, apprentice programs, and more resources to help build your skills and prepare for a better job. Because it’s a government site, there is a vast amount of information on a wide variety of topics. So be prepared to spend some time wading through the wealth of information.

Do you have any great tips on low-cost ways to develop skills? Share your knowledge in the comments section!

Leadership Should Be Difficult

ThinkstockPhotos-87453587Leadership isn’t easy. People and employees who think being a leader means sitting in the corner office, taking three-hour lunches and spending afternoons on the golf course are sadly mistaken.

Leadership is difficult—and leadership should be difficult. Why? Because at its heart, being a leader is about bringing people together with a shared vision in order to achieve a goal or solve a problem. It’s about how leaders influence the daily lives of the people who work for them and how their decisions affect careers and outcomes.

A leader not only brings different personalities and employees together but also instills confidence in those differing personalities in order to bring about success. This is not an easy task. The most difficult part of commanding is knowing what is really going on with the company, with individual employees and what the best solution is. That’s a daunting task for anyone.

The Difficult Truth

Human nature dictates that employees and workers look up to leaders because they believe these leaders know the truth and have solutions. On the flip side, human nature also dictates that even leaders are sometimes clueless as to what is actual truth and what is a personal interpretation.

Humans often draw conclusions quickly and without awareness, which results in a skewed view of what is really going on.

What leaders think and say is usually perceived as truth, when it may not actually be. Managers have the difficult task of putting their personal interpretations aside, researching all options and deciding—even against their personal preferences—what the best course of action is.

The Mediator

Handling conflicts in a workplace is also a difficult, but necessary, task for leaders. Ideally, employees can work out problems between each other, but if they cannot, leaders must step in to resolve the conflict. Conflicts in the office can easily spiral out of control, leading to a toxic and unproductive work environment.

Handling conflicts or disciplining employees is not an easy task, nor should it be. Leaders are expected to use a firm, yet gentle, hand to help resolve problems and ease fears.

The Professional Student

In addition to managing expectations, results and people, leaders are expected to be on top of the latest training and information. Professionals in an authoritative role can’t wait for the next training session, but instead, must constantly learn, research and grow in order to effectively lead a team.

While others go home at the end of the day and relax or watch their favorite show, leaders should invest in their development by reading, watching and studying as often as possible.

Putting Others First

Today’s leadership model has shifted toward servant leadership where leaders are expected to focus on the development of their employees. True leaders create more leaders.

This role is a tough one to balance. On one hand, a leader must deliver results and make an impact on the success of the company; on the other hand, managers are expected to cater to different personality types and generations in the workforce in order to boost employee development. The overall result should benefit the company’s bottom line.

Modern leadership is more difficult now than in the past. Being a leader isn’t a simple task, but instead is a journey of work, self-discipline, and continuing education. If done right, however, the results can be rewarding, for you, your employees, and your company.

Celebrate Engineer’s Week

CCO17_EngineersWeek_FacebookConstant changes in technology are revolutionizing the workforce, creating a high demand for engineers at above average salaries. This week, we celebrate engineers in the United States and strive to educate the future workforce about the advantages of engineering and technology careers as part of Engineer’s Week. Canada will take part in the efforts next month as part of National Engineering Month.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 93 out of 100 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs have wages above the national average, and the field more than doubled the number of jobs from 2009 to 2015 than non-STEM fields.

The employment outlook for engineering students is also strong in Canada, where retiring Baby Boomers are leaving plenty of open positions.

Check out these infographics below for more statistics on the demand for engineers:

stem-infographic

 

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Happy Presidents’ Day

presidents-day_V2Every year on the third Monday in February, we recognize Presidents’ Day to celebrate all the United States presidents in its 241-year history.

According to History.com, the holiday was originally observed on Feb. 22 which was the birthday of the nation’s first president, George Washington. In fact, Presidents’ Day is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. It was first celebrated in 1800 following his death.

The name change came about in 1971 as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which was an attempt to create more extended weekends for U.S. workers. The Act also combined the observance of Washington and President Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays, giving “equal recognition to two of America’s most famous statesmen.”