It's a common experience. An opportunity arises to advance at your job. You put in your application and settle in for the interview. Then a co-worker with less experience is suddenly awarded the post.
Kirwan Rockefeller, an academic advisor and career coach at UCI Extension who has worked with thousands of job seekers in his nearly 20 years at the university, has seen it happen all too often. And he is not surprised.
"Career advancement doesn't just happen," he said. "You have to make it happen."
And that means being prepared when the opportunity arises. Here are a few tips to help you get that promotion.
Stay in tune. "Make sure that you are up to date on what's happening in your industry," Rockefeller said. "You don't want to be working from a base of knowledge that is five years old. If you are not current and up to date, the train has left the station."
Besides reading the trades, employees can track developments in their industry via an array of apps and websites. Creating subject-specific lists and reconfiguring your Twitter feed can ensure you're getting the latest news in areas that interest you. Other sites include Pulse, Slack and customized Google alerts.
Be tech savvy. "Are you current and up to date in technology?" Are you comfortable working with virtual teams, learning from webinars, taking part in video conference calls? Can you interview with someone via Skype or FaceTime? "Technology just continues to explode. You have to constantly ask yourself, 'Am I current?'"
Never stop learning. That doesn't necessarily mean going back to college for an advanced degree. "A continuing education certificate can be a more affordable and convenient option for adult professionals," Rockefeller said. "There may not even be a degree program in a specialized area of which you are interested, which is why a professional development certificate program is so important."
UCI Extension, for example, offers more than 60 certificates and specialized study programs both on campus and online that are designed for the working professional seeking career advancement and personal enrichment. One example: The Business Administration Certificate Program – which is modeled on a traditional MBA program – provides a solid foundation in business management and now features a new Sustainable Business Management Track. Courses in the latter include Introduction to Corporate Responsibility; Making the Business Case for Sustainability; and Sustainability Planning, Measurement and Reporting.
"Education is such a vital and common component in every industry," Rockefeller said. "Education is the key to career planning, advancement and satisfaction."
Be proactive. Take advantage of opportunities to do new things, whether that's signing up for in-house training or offering to help with a new project. Get to know your boss. Keep track of your accomplishments for when the opportunity arises. "Demonstrate to your employer that you are being proactive and willing to take on new assignments."
Advertise yourself. "Let others know what you have to offer," Rockefeller said. "Let supervisors know that you like your job, but you're open to new assignments." That means networking, communicating with others and not hiding in your cubicle.
Many of the same strategies Rockefeller suggests for those interested in a new career also apply to those looking for a promotion at their current place of employment. Among them are identifying your strongest skills, identifying skill sets that transfer well to other positions, identifying the positions in which you'd like to work, finding the right fit and what's right for you, and managing your online reputation by clearing any potentially embarrassing posts from your profiles on social networking sites.
And regardless of what kind of work you are doing now, be the best at what you're doing. Somebody will notice.