The Ultimate Guide to Career Progression

The Ultimate Guide to Career Progression



1. Importance of career progression
2. How to progress in your career
3. What is a career progression plan?
4. How to write a career plan
5. Making it SMART
6. How to write a SMART career plan
7. How can your employer support your career progression?
8. Putting your career plan into action


1. Importance of career progression


Work is the primary activity that takes up your time. Think about it. Based on a 35 hour work week, you spend 1,680 hours working every single year. As such, it is no wonder that you want your job to be exciting, challenging and rewarding.

There are two main reasons to consider your career progression. Firstly, to help you achieve personal job satisfaction. Secondly, to ensure that your income matches your desired lifestyle. Taking time to plan and consider your career progression will empower you to reach these goals.


2. How to progress in your career


Often, career progression happens through baby steps. Think about the small changes you can make now that will impact your future. For example, write down every time you achieve something at work. Taking these notes will help you when you move to a new company or if you ask for a promotion in your current role.



Networking can be done in a number of ways. We suggest implementing several different types of networking, rather relying solely on one method. Here are three ways you can network:


1. Get social online

Keep your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts up-to-date, and participate in topical discussions from your industry where you can. Focus on sharing good quality content rather than relying on quantity.


2. Go to networking events

Attending networking events can be daunting. However, it gets easier as time goes on. Why not bring a colleague or friend for the first few times? If they have a bar or buffet, the queue can be an excellent place to meet new people!


3. Attend conferences

We recommend making the most of conferences in your area. Start by researching relevant conventions rather than waiting for opportunities to come your way. It is likely that your boss will appreciate your proactive approach. Equally, it will give you a chance to become acquainted with people in your industry.



Training is an essential tool for career progression in every industry. Going to work with the mindset to learn will set you ahead of the game. Why not ask if you can shadow a senior colleague? Or offer to help colleagues when your workload is light.

Actively look for relevant training opportunities in your area or through online courses to help you develop in your industry. It goes without saying that staying up-to-date in your field will enable you to work better. As such, it is in your employer’s best interests to train you!

These training courses are also a perfect way to enter the online conversation in your industry. For example, write a quick tweet, take a photo or conduct live video. Being engaged online will indicate that you are a keen learner and passionate about your industry.


Teach yourself

With the internet at your disposal, you have access to numerous resources to teach yourself new things. We recommend writing down skills you want to learn in the future. Keep the ideas together in a safe place, such as on your phone, computer or diary. This list will come in handy when you make a career plan!



Volunteering can be an excellent way to break into a new industry. However, voluntary work can be beneficial for mature professionals as well. Consider what inspires you - how could you help? The skills you gain from volunteering could set you apart from prospective colleagues in the future!


3. What is a career progression plan?

A career progression plan is a strategy that identifies your current abilities, interests and professional goals and outlines achievable tasks to help you meet your aspirations. Your advancement plan should be reviewed regularly to ensure it continues to reflect your circumstances and ambitions.


4. How to write a career plan


1) Begin with brainstorming. Consider the following elements:

  • Current skill-set

  • Interests

  • Experience

  • Qualifications


2) Write down your career aspirations

For example, it may be to become a head teacher or start your own marketing business. Write everything that comes to mind, the big and small goals. We will fine-tune these in a moment.

If you are unsure what you want to do, simply review your list of interests and skills. After, look over job descriptions online. Don’t worry if you don’t have the required skills - these can be acquired.


3) Finally, separate your goals into three categories  

Divide your goals into one of these three categories:

  1. Short term (up to 5 months)

  2. Medium goals (five months to five years)

  3. Long term (over five years)


Now you can turn these goals into a SMART career plan!


5. How to write a SMART career plan

SMART is an acronym that you may be familiar with, it stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. Your aim with a career plan is not just to feel organised and ambitious – you want to make an achievable plan and put it into practice.


6. 5 steps to write a career plan using the SMART approach


Step one: Make your career aspirations specific

For example, don’t simply say ‘open my own business’ but write the type of business you wish to open. If you want to be a teacher, decide what subject and age-group you wish to teach. If you don’t know specifics, part of your plan will be exploring career options to narrow it down.


Step two: Make your career objectives measurable

For example, if you wanted to open your own marketing business, you could include the revenue you wish to make within the first year. Or perhaps, if you want to be an English teacher, you may conclude that you want your pupils to receive grades above B.

Some goals are more ambiguous. For example, writing ‘improve communication skills’ is vague. You could make it more specific by saying that you want to focus on your grammar, telephone manner or presentation skills. Then you need to make the goal measurable. Perhaps by volunteering to present the monthly report at the staff meeting.


Step three: Make your career ambitions attainable

Is your goal attainable? You need to be realistic when creating your plan. Assess your current schedule, the required resources and funds. For example, you will need permission to present the monthly report as a way to improve your presentation skills.


Step four: Make your career plan relevant

Hopefully, you have a good list of aspirations. However, you need to decide what is actually worth doing and what is relevant to your career. It is easy to get excitable and try to learn everything, to be the jack-of-all-trades. Yet it is also easy to burn out when you attempt too much.


Step five: Make your goals time-bound by separating them into three groups

This step goes beyond our previous timeline (short, mid and long term goals). For example, will you present the report at the next monthly staff meeting or will it be in three months? Remember to be realistic but challenging.


7. How can your employer support your career progression? 

Your employer may play a key role in your career progression plan by providing training, increasing your current responsibilities and mentoring. It is to their advantage to help you progress in your career because you will be able to gain skills that will benefit their business.


Provide training

Not only will training help you perform better in your current position, it will also increase the chances of being hired internally, should the opportunity arise. Internal progression saves the company time and money.


Increase your responsibilities

Giving you more responsibilities is a win-win scenario (so long as it is achievable to do so). It is good for managers as they can release some of their duties or workload, and it is great for you as it will help you develop and position you as a viable candidate for career progression.



Why not ask your supervisor, or another senior member of the company, to be your mentor? Becoming a mentee is a useful way to work on your self-development. The mentor will often have more experience and/or credentials than you, making them ideally placed to help you with the day-to-day difficulties you face in your career.


8. Now... put your career plan into action!

As the saying goes, don’t put off till tomorrow what can be done today. Take a look at those short term goals and start implementing this plan into your day-to-day routine. Start with something small today.

Perhaps you are wanting a promotion at work? Start gaining the appropriate skills through a local training course to make you the best candidate for the role. Once you have done that, ask a trusted friend or colleague to hold you accountable to your new plan.


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