Everyone wants to improve their career, but lots of us don’t know where to start.

There are things you can do. Not all of them include going back to college and getting another degree or waiting for a massive promotion.

Most of us can move our business life forward with some simple changes in habits and put in some effort.

Here is a list of 12 things you can do to improve your career:

  1. Put together a portfolio - Everyone has done great things, but most of us can’t prove it. Whether it’s an excellent presentation, a great letter, or a stunning design, you need to keep a portfolio of your work. Even if you can’t use your portfolio because it belongs to someone else, you can use it to inspire other work or present to your boss at your next raise presentation. Store all of your documents in the cloud where you can access them from anywhere. You can use Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or any of hundreds of other choices.
  2. Read a lot - Read everything you can about your industry. The more you know about what’s happening in your business, the more respect you’ll command. There are lots of people who make their living by knowing exactly what’s going on in their industries. We call them commentators. Check out blogs, books, social media, and TV to see what’s going on. The more you know about the news, the more likely you are to be the one at a meeting who anticipates the next move.
  3. Small goals, big results - Set small goals for your career. As you reach each small goal, you’ll know that you’re that much closer to your end goal. Your goals should be achievable in a month or two. It can be things like an online course or attending a conference or getting a new certification. Each step should move you toward your ultimate goal, whether that’s the corner office or your own business. Obviously, this requires that you have a clear vision of what you big goal is. It doesn’t have to be the only big goal in your career, but it needs to be the next big goal.
  4. Push the envelope - Every day, push the limits of your career and yourself. Push outside of your own comfort zone. Try not to step on the other people in your office, but look for ways to grow your career. If you don’t think your a good writer, you should try posting a guest blog on an industry-related site. If you’re weakness is finding others in your industry, start searching LinkedIn and begin conversations with people online.
  5. Find a mentor - Mentors are the perfect way to grow your career. Choose a mentor who is or has been where you want to be. They can help you make decisions like where to work, when to ask for a promotion, and how to negotiate the office politics. They Also probably have great contacts that you can tap into to help your career along. Mostly, a mentor understands your career and your goals. They can be a great sounding board for what’s on your mind and what your stresses are.
  6. Find an apprentice - Watching someone else learn is a great way to figure out things for yourself. Also, you can’t teach it if you can’t explain it. Learning to verbalize what you know will help you be in a greater contact with the fundamentals of your career. A student/protege/apprentice will help you to see your career more clearly by being able to look at theirs and see where you were. 
  7. Network smartly - Too often people network without sincerity. If you’re going to attend networking meetings and conferences, pay attention to the people you meet. You don’t want them feeling like you don’t care. When you send a networking message on LinkedIn, don’t send some canned message you've sent a thousand times. Write a custom message for each person. Also, be networking every day. You don’t need to do it full-time, but you can get started and reach to new people every day. Share your story, learn theirs, and work together to advance both of your careers.
  8. Feedback is vital - Learn from the people around you, including the people who work for you. Get their feedback about your performance, areas where you might improve, By asking everyone, both above and below you ,as well as your peers, you’ll get a sense of how you’re doing and what you can do to improve from every angle. Don’t take any answer you get personally. The feedback should be used to improve your work and move your career forward, not make you feel bad or inadequate.
  9. Stay interested - Most of us choose our careers because it was something that we were interested in, something that we were curious about. That curiosity got you to where you are now. It should be the rocket fuel that propels you forward. Stay curious and keep looking for the things that made this an intriguing field in the first place. Every career offers opportunities for improvement. If you are constantly looking for those places, you’ll find that your professional life is more interesting than if you simply stop learning, stop seeking, and stagnate.
  10. Listen closely - The best way to get anywhere in life is to listen well. The people around, professionally and personally, are always saying what they need and what they want you to do. All you have to do is be listening well enough to hear them say it. Take a course in active listening or at least read a book on how it works. You’ll be amazed at how often people think you’re amazing simply because you listened.
  11. Smile - Being pleasant and smiling is the fastest way to disarm your enemies and charm your allies. If you’ve been a grump all this time, don’t just show up at work smiling and laughing. People will think you’re plotting their deaths. Take your time and ease into being a positive person. The thing that happens is that people bring you more positive news. Let’s restate that: The more positive you are the more often people will bring you good news.
  12. Empower others - The last rule is the most important: empower others to take care of things. A great coach doesn’t pretend that she can be on the field. She trusts her team to make it happen when she’s on the sideline. She shows them what to do and gives them permission to do it. Empowering others will improve your career, if for no other reason than that your people will be solving problems instead of dumping them on your desk.

Improving your career will improve your life. It’s all a simple matter of keeping control of your vision and goals. With those in mind everyday, you’ll quickly rearrange everything you do to make your career better.

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Author's Bio: 

Whether it is creating a startup, or delivering growth to an established business, he enjoys the challenge. Kevin also consults to businesses seeking to improve their online presence through a more compelling website that features genuinely useful and engaging content.