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Whether you are looking to get a promotion or make the jump to another company, you are trying to get ahead. Every career and career path is unique, but there are some strategies we can all use to improve our careers.

1. Work Like You Are on a Reality Show

I don’t mean act out and say ridiculous things. I mean pretend someone is always watching you. If you want to maintain a reputation that you don’t gossip about co-workers, then don’t gossip about co-workers. Even if you think no one can hear you. Pretend someone can always hear you.

The other way to say this is to always act with integrity. Don’t act in a way you would be embarrassed to have to share with your parents or your kids.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

This doesn’t just mean to ask for a promotion (though you should make sure your boss knows you want one) but to ask for more responsibility. Ask how you can improve the company. Ask what it takes to be the top performer in your current position. This will in turn put you in a better position when you do eventually ask for a promotion.

Too many people keep quiet when a job they want becomes available. They assume their boss should offer them the job. But don’t forget, your boss is very busy and not always thinking about you! He or she may not know you are interested in the job or may have forgotten about that big project you spearheaded last fall. Ask for that position and provide evidence for why you deserve it. Then either graciously accept the job or ask more questions. If you were passed over, ask what you can do to get the next opportunity.

3. Be a Team Player

Especially if you are interested in going into management, it’s important to demonstrate that you are a team player. This may seem counterintuitive, but managing people involves interacting with people. If you show you are able to work well with others for the good of the company, you will be a more desirable candidate to lead the team.

Now, you don’t want to take this piece of advice to mean you should never show leadership qualities. A good team member speaks up when he or she has good ideas and builds on other people’s ideas.

4. Improve Yourself

No matter how good you are at your job, you can always get better. Make sure you are always striving to be better. Seek out classes, professional associations and conferences related to your business. Your company may even pay for some or all of the costs. Show your current (or potential) bosses that you are seek opportunities for professional growth.

Less formally, you can improve yourself by reading books and researching the latest trends in your business. Learn everything you can about your job and cross-train for supporting positions. Making the effort to seek out training and information show that you have the kind of initiative that it takes to be a leader and that you are both willing and able to do what it takes to succeed. Finally it shows that you have the ability to grow and personal growth translates to professional growth.

5. Re-Evaluate Yourself & Your Skills

This tip goes along with the previous one. While you are improving yourself, watch out for what interests you most now. Perhaps you got into a career because you like working with people but a promotion to your boss’ role would involve less interaction. Consider looking for other, related positions that offer you the increased pay and/or responsibility but still honor what got you into that career in the first place.

It’s important to make sure you are on a path you want to follow. Your desires may have changed from when you started, your job’s focus may have changed, or both. To avoid burnout, you need to make sure you are still interested in what you are doing and take corrective action if you aren’t.

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