Being ambitious in your career doesn’t mean you need to be a ruthless workaholic who uses other people to climb the ladder; it means being curious, hardworking, excited, and open to new opportunities, even when you least expect them. It means taking an active role in your own process—whether that’s going out on a limb to ask a senior staff member to coffee; proactively seeking feedback; or intentionally surrounding yourself with industrious coworkers you admire. Whether you’re just starting out in the real world or looking for some guidance through a professional rut, read these simple, yet effective career-building strategies to help you meet the right people, expand your horizons, and ultimately land—and thrive—on the right career path for you.
Talk to Someone With the Job You Want
Are you new to the job market or looking to make a career 180? Don’t underestimate the power of an informal informational interview. Find someone in the occupation to speak with, pick their brain: Ask what the job entails, what skills are needed, what level of education you’ll need, what professional organization you should join—and even if you can shadow the person at work for a day. Then take steps to qualify yourself for the position, and make sure the person in charge of hiring—whether you’re applying for a new job or for a promotion—knows you’ve taken them.
Find the Upsides of Office Politics
Whether you want to be or not, you’re in the game, this doesn’t mean you should be petty or step on people’s toes; instead, make an effort to really absorb what’s going on around you, learn who’s in charge of what, and understand how work gets done in the organization. Build genuine relationships with others by being a team player, being professional, and avoiding gossip, and unprofessional outbursts.
Take Advantage of Your Connections
Sometimes it is about who you know—and that shouldn’t be a bad thing. Think about the person who’s hiring for your dream job. Do you know someone who might know them? Or someone who knows someone? Ask around: You want somebody to put in a good word for you. It’s not cheating, it’s smart and how so many great connections and successful careers get started.