How can you go from cubicle to corner office? Outside of your job's responsibilities, these 10 tips will help you advance your career no matter what field you work in:
1. Get involved with events. When you attend events, you meet people who can help you with your career. If you want to show more leadership, start and organize your own event series as an excuse to meet key executives and other influential speakers. As an alternative, you could also offer yourself up as a speaker to local and national meetups. It's a great way to expand your network and show off your expertise.
2. Start and maintain a blog. Blogging not only increases your visibility in your field, but it also lets you build a body of knowledge that you can grow from. When you show up to write every week, you'll be able to better process information and synthesize the lessons you learn in life. Blogging also allows you to experiment with different ideas and topics you may be interested in without committing to a career change.
3. Keep a networking log. When you meet someone new, take special note of your contact's interests and achievements. After the meeting, write down those key facts—for instance, their recent promotion or the names of their kids—in a networking log. Your ongoing records will help you to personalize follow-ups, and as you meet more people, your notes will make it easier for you to remember the right details.
4. Turn down job offers. You should always look for new opportunities, even when you're happy with your job. Apply to jobs that you're unsure of and use the subsequent interviews as an opportunity to practice. You'll learn what your current market value is, and feel empowered to make a choice based on whether the opportunity is a good fit, and not because you have no other choice.
5. Volunteer. Volunteering, whether for a nonprofit or an interest-based organization, is single-handedly the best thing you can do for your career. Not only will you connect with like-minded people, but you will also meet with movers and shakers impressed with your dedication. While there is no money in volunteering, it leads to other opportunities so often that you can't afford not to.
6. Throw dinner parties. If you're the type that likes to stay in, go ahead. Throw a potluck party and invite your friends. You don't even have to talk business—the point is to stay social, even among those who know you best. When the night comes, introduce your friends and watch relationships blossom; you never know where a serendipitous meeting may lead.
7. Find a side job. A side job will help build your resume and those new skills can increase your job security or help you transition to a new field. Not to mention, a side job can pad your bank account. Try making money off a hobby or do freelance work in your area of expertise. To decide what to charge, take your original hourly rate and double it. Most people under-price their services.
8. Build something. You don't have to wait to do what you love. Show some initiative and take it upon yourself to build something—a website, a start-up, a doghouse—your choice. You can test your ideas and gain new experiences while you're at it. Plus, you'll meet a lot of new people. It doesn't matter if the end result is something fantastic or not; the proof is in the process.
9. Get a mentor or coach. Too often, the guidance employees crave is lost on their managers. Instead of bemoaning your bad luck, seek out a mentor or career coach and get critical feedback on the areas you need the most. Ask your friends for referrals to get started. These safe relationships will help you navigate your career, and explore issues like workplace politics and the glass ceiling without fear.
10. Take classes. Become a lifelong learner by pursuing personal development and career advancement courses that help you learn the skills necessary for success in today's world, plus help you shatter your weaknesses and magnify your strengths. Creative courses count too, so don't shy away from that drawing class you've always wanted to take. Both sides of your brain will thank you.
Rebecca Thorman's weekly blog Kontrary offers tips to create the career, bank account, and life you love, and is a popular destination for young professionals. Her goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. She writes from Washington, D.C.