You can’t move along your career path if you don’t know what your next step is. Understanding your individual career progression — and how to create a plan — will help you understand where you can go and how to get there.
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to zip along their career paths and reach important milestones while others appear to be stuck in neutral? Hard work is a factor, but there's more to it than that. "Career progression" might be the "X Factor" when it comes to moving a career along; the thing that makes the difference between reaching goals and struggling to reach anticipated milestones.
In this article, we’ll discuss mapping your progression, including:
How do you describe career progression?
Benefits of career progression
What should I write in my career progression?
7 Examples of career progression routes
Career progression is pretty much what it sounds like — it means making progress in your career, whatever that means for you, and is often used interchangeably with the term, "career development." While some examples of career progression might be receiving promotions, moving to bigger or more prestigious companies, or meeting your career goals, it can vary depending on what you want to accomplish. If you’re happy in your work, satisfied with the way things are going, or earning more money, those can be considered signs of career progression as well.
There are a few things you can get out of pursuing career progression, beyond meeting your personal milestones — it can help you develop both professionally and personally.
When your career is progressing, it affords you more opportunities. Success creates success, and as you take on different responsibilities, other potentially transforming opportunities might present themselves.
It can offer a clear roadmap. If you’ve done some planning, it can assist you in meeting your goals with a minimum of challenges, giving you more “headspace” to devote to other things that are important to you.
Career progression can give you a sense of accomplishment, especially when you take deliberate steps to improve your skills and marketability.
Working to progress your career can earn you status as a “go-getter.” Employers often favor those they deem as “hard workers” or “ambitious,” so establishing a positive professional reputation can keep you front of mind when it comes to future promotions.
Career progression is a bit like a snowflake — each plan will be different and unique to each individual and will depend on their goals, dreams, and even their industry. But there are a few things that everyone can do, no matter where they are in their career trajectory. Here are a few items you can incorporate into your career progression plan:
Define what success looks like for you. Is it more money? Fulfillment? The corner office? Make sure you take into consideration your own values and analyze what roles support them, and also define what you don't want, like long hours or high amounts of stress. And make sure you look for positions and companies that match your personal values.
Figure out where you are in your career right now. If you’ve met a lot of your goals already, you need to determine what the next steps are, and whether you can reach them in your current position or company (and if not, you might need to make some adjustments).
Create a career action plan. Decide what you need to do to reach your goals, including the skills you’ll need to develop and how you can get the experience you need to get to make the next step. Consider using SMART goals to ensure that they are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Don't let your learning get stagnant. It's important to always be developing new skills and knowledge. Seek out industry workshops, seminars, and courses, or even pursue a degree. And don't forget opportunities to develop your "soft skills" such as problem-solving, organization, time management, and leadership.
Create your network. No one should go it alone, and having a strong professional network will help you progress in your career and expose you to new people, ideas, and points of view.
Career progression and development aren't just beneficial for employees. According to HR Digest, companies that invested in employee development in 2022 saw a 58% increase in employee retention, saving the time and money required to onboard and train new employees.
The tricky thing about career progression is that it looks different for everyone. But no matter your position or industry, it’s important to determine the experience and skills you’ll need to progress. Nothing is owed to you just because you’ve held a certain position for a while. Continuous skill development will highlight that you’re in a place to accept new and greater responsibilities. Keep in mind, though, that things are always changing, and your plan has to change with it — you can't blindly lock yourself into a path and close yourself off to new opportunities just because they’re not in your plan.
In general, however, there are some standard career paths for each industry. But remember, don’t dismiss lateral moves just because it’s not a step up — you never know what it might lead to!
Retail: Stockroom worker > sales associate > assistant store manager > store manager> district manager >VP of operations
Human Resources: HR assistant > HR generalist > HR specialist > Associate HR director > HR Director > VP of Human Resources
Marketing: Marketing assistant > marketing representative > assistant marketing director > marketing director
Education: teacher > department chair > instructional coordinator > dean of students > principal > assistant superintendent > superintendent
Television Journalism: News assistant > news writer > associate producer > producer > executive producer > news director
Administrative: receptionist > administrative assistant > executive assistant > senior executive assistant > director of administration
Construction: apprentice > journeyperson > master craftsperson > planner > project manager > superintendent
Career progression, like life itself, is a matter of moving forward. Sounds simple, but it actually takes some thought and effort to avoid being stuck in one place for too long. Career progression gives you something to look forward to, to strive for, and can provide job satisfaction and engagement in your work. Having a plan will help you achieve your goals and get to where you want to be.
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Career progression is pretty much what it sounds like — it means making progress in your career.
Career progression can help you both professionally and personally, including a sense of accomplishment, job satisfaction, and meeting goals.
Before you can determine your career progression, it is important to figure out what success means to you, whether it's more money, status, finding fulfillment, or working for a company that matches your values.
Jennifer Inglis is a freelance writer and content creator with extensive professional expertise in advertising, media analysis, teaching, writing, and literature. Prior to working for Career.io, Jennifer was a public school teacher, teaching courses in college and career readiness, writing, and public speaking. Jennifer has a master’s degree in Teaching, and is the author of two published novels.