How to advance quickly through your company

How to advance fast through your company

Since tireless dedication doesn’t guarantee you a promotion, here's how to get ahead in today’s competitive job market.

With the job market still recovering from the Great Recession, it's a popular belief that 80-hour work weeks and back-breaking workloads are what get you promoted. Yet, while putting in extra time and effort shows your commitment – it isn't the only way – or even the best way – to get ahead.

Overachievers who spend every waking hour at the office tend to burn out fast. And what's worse, they often neglect to do the very things necessary to get them noticed and moved up the corporate ladder.

So if tireless dedication doesn't guarantee you a promotion, how do you get ahead in today's competitive job market – and do so quickly?

Be engaged
Being physically present in the office for a certain number of hours a day will not differentiate you from your colleagues. You have to demonstrate a passion for your work.

A Gallup study of the American workplace found that only about 30 percent of the full-time workforce are fully engaged on the job. Stand out from the crowd by setting goals for yourself that are aligned with your company's mission and pursue them with vigor. Connecting your success with the company's success will show a sense of dedication that your employer will surely recognize.

Network internally
If you want to advance, you have to network. There's no way around it. Relationships are currency in a professional setting. The more people you're connected with, the better your odds are of receiving a promotion.

Unlike external networking, internal networking requires you to look outside of your daily responsibilities and consider how you can connect with and create value for others in your company. Navigating internal networking can be a little tricky, though, since co-workers can sometimes perceive someone who seeks connections beyond their daily scope to be "playing office politics." Avoid that stereotype by networking in the right setting.

If you're assigned to a cross-functional project team, take the opportunity to ask questions about each member's role in the company. Learning their role will help you succeed on your project and will also give you a person to chat with if you ever consider a move to that co-worker's area of the company.

Also, consider asking your boss for introductions. If you begin your internal networking by having a conversation with your immediate supervisor, they will understand your intentions and be able to smooth over any awkwardness that could arise by emailing a higher-up out of the blue.

Work smarter, not longer
Being the first one in and the last one out won't get you as far as you think. Today's employers want to know that you can work efficiently and have good time management skills. Constantly staying later than colleagues can suggest that you can't handle your workload in the given amount of time, which isn't the impression you want to give your employer.

Find a mentor
School and seminars can teach you the technical skills you need to succeed, but when it comes time to navigate a corporate setting, a mentor is the perfect guide. They can help you identify opportunities for advancement you might have overlooked, steer you toward projects that will highlight your skills in front of the right audience and help you build key relationships with managers and higher-level employees.

If you're unsure of where to find a mentor, start by asking your manager or set up a meeting with HR. They can often point you in the right direction based on your current position.

Make a career timeline
It's important to have a master plan. Start by taking stock of your desired career moves and your salary requirements at each position. This will help you determine what effort is necessary to achieve each forward step and also give you a better picture of what eventual career success looks like to you.

What to start advancing your career this week? Check out your first steps here.