“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
We’ve all been asked that question before and we’ve all answered it with varying degrees of enthusiasm and detail. If you’re someone who loves to think about the future or not, it’s always important to develop skills that help you move forward in your career. In fact, it’s human nature to want to progress.
Doing so is easier in some industries.
Their career paths are clearly laid out for you to follow but others let you make a path for yourself and will require you to actively seek out opportunities to advance your career.
So, you need to know more than just what career progression is and why it’s important (which we will cover), but also how you can approach your own.
What Is Career Progression?
Career progression is the process of moving forward in your career.
Although this has traditionally meant getting promoted or receiving a salary increase, career progression can mean other things.
💪 Taking on more responsibility within the same position or role
📚 Developing your skill set through learning and development (L&D) opportunities
🔀 Making a lateral move to a new department within the same company, or to a different one
Career Progression vs Career Development
Many people use career progression and career development interchangeably, but there are a few key differences between them.
Career development involves taking practical steps in the short term to build on your existing skills.
This could be learning how to code or developing a soft skill like time management, to ensure that you are better equipped for your current or future responsibilities.
On the other hand, career progression looks at the overall advancement of your career.
It also includes the different roles you fulfil during your professional journey. Let’s take a look at marketing as an example.
Someone could start their career as a brand manager and then progress to the director of public relations.
After they have gained enough experience, they could be promoted to VP of brand development.
Why Is Career Progression Important?
Now that you have a better idea of what career progression is, let’s take a closer look at why you should be prioritising it.
It Keeps You Motivated
Having a clear understanding of what your career goals are and how you plan to achieve them will give you a greater sense of purpose.
This is likely to make you feel more engaged in your work because you’ll be committed to reaching the promotion or pay rise you’re looking for.
When you have something to work towards, you’re also more likely to actively seek upskilling opportunities to help you reach your goals.
Career Progression Demonstrates Adaptability
Showing an employer that you’re interested in career progression opportunities shows that you’re willing to learn new skills and adapt your workload to take on more responsibility.
Not only are these valuable characteristics to showcase in your current role, but they can also make you more employable if you apply for a new job.
The more adaptable you are to new challenges or working arrangements, the more valuable you are to a company.
It Helps You Future-Proof Your Skills
Although you may have the necessary expertise to do your current job well, there’s a very good chance that the skills you’ll need in the future will change.
This is why it’s a good idea to prioritise staying up to date with the latest industry trends and take active steps to develop your existing skills.
Many people worldwide have realised how important this will be to stay relevant in the job market.
74% of workers are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain to remain employable in the future.
Not only will future-proofing your skills allow you to remain employable, but it will also ensure that you’re ready to take on any role—no matter what that may look like in a few years.
Practical Tips to Get Career Progression Started
Up until now, we’ve looked at what career progression is and provided some reasons why you should be prioritising it. However, knowing where to begin can feel overwhelming.
That’s why we’ve provided some actionable tips in the next section to help you kickstart your career progression path.
Pay Close Attention to Career Progression Frameworks
If you enjoy working at a particular company and want to progress within it, it’s a good idea to look at the organisation’s career progression framework (if they have one).
This is a document that’s usually created by a company’s people team, and it outlines how employees can progress in their careers while working at the business.
Most importantly, it’s designed to help you visualise what you need to do or achieve to climb the career ladder at the company you work for.
A career progression framework will also give you clarity about:
✨ The job titles that exist across the company or those that will be created in the future—especially if you work at a start up
✨ Which roles each person at the company can progress to
Once you have hold of a career progression framework, there are many ways that you can use it to your advantage.
Not only does it give you measurable goals to work towards to achieve a promotion, but it can also indicate whether or not you’ve outgrown your current role.
This is useful for people who need a bit of encouragement to stretch themselves and aim for a promotion, or develop their skills for a career change.
A career progression framework can also show you how far you’ve come in your working life and help you assess whether the path you’re on is still right for you.
These are all valuable insights to think about when you plan what steps you’re going to take to progress in your career, and how you will find professional development resources to help you.
If you don’t want to stay at the company you currently work for, a career progression framework is still useful because other businesses will likely use something similar.
Create a Career Development Plan
We’re all familiar with the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Although it sounds cliché, this quote is particularly true for career progression.
Having a career development plan, or career progression plan, in place helps you outline your career journey from where you are to where you’d like to be.
Specifically, it encourages you to:
🖋 Write down the goals you’d like to achieve over a specific period of time
👀 Consider your existing skills and how they can help you achieve your career objectives
💭 Think about your skills that need further training and development
Not only will this keep you focused when working towards your goals, but it also makes it easier to see if you’re headed in the right direction to achieve these objectives.
A career development plan will also help you choose learning resources that are aligned with your goals and will accelerate your advancement.
Invest in L&D Opportunities
One of the best ways to future-proof your skills and move forward in your career is through L&D.
These are programmes that are intended to develop your skills for the benefit of your career and the company you work for.
There are many different L&D resources available for employee progression, some of which include:
📈 Attending training courses that are beneficial in your industry
📈 Reading books, blogs or industry publications to keep you up to date with trends
📈 Going to seminars or conferences to learn new ideas, or to network
📈 Completing professional certifications
Before you invest in any of the resources above, first you should find out what would be the most valuable for your industry, as well as what suits your learning needs.
Many L&D resources provide you with practical training to bridge your skills gaps. This is a great way to help you progress in your career and become a more well-rounded person.
Find a Mentor
There are few better ways to learn how to advance within your career than from someone who has done it before.
By drawing on their experiences, a mentor can help you navigate your industry’s challenges and give you career advice.
Not only can they help you identify the skills you need to achieve your career goals, but they can also support you through any struggles you may have.
A mentor will also be able to provide guidance on how to approach career progression and hold you accountable to your goals and L&D initiatives.
Many companies organise formal mentorship programmes that you can sign up for.
If this isn’t an option, find a person in your network that’s in a position that you would like to be in one day.
From there, you can learn more about the path they took and use it to inform your own career plan .
Use Performance Reviews to Guide You
Performance reviews play a key role in the career progression process.
This is because they present feedback from your manager and colleagues, as well as allow you to reflect on your work performance.
You can have a special one-to-one with your manager and discuss your most recent performance review.
Doing so can help you identify areas within your job that can be improved.
You can also take the opportunity to pinpoint skills that your manager believes will help you climb the career ladder.
One of the other benefits of a performance review is that it allows you to set or keep track of your career development goals.
You can use the feedback from these reviews to inform or pivot your career development plan to better align with the career path you want to follow.
Improving yourself professionally is an ongoing process. It should start when you first enter the job market and continue beyond reaching your ideal role.
Not only will this help you future-proof your skills for the changing job market, but it will also:
✅ Keep you motivated to achieve new goals
✅ Demonstrate to your employers that you’re willing to be adaptable
✅ Help you become a well-rounded person and professional
The tips we’ve provided in this article will give you a better idea of how to approach career progression, as well as spark some ideas to get it started.