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career developmentWhether you are seeking a new job, looking to grow in your current job, or considering a complete career shift, it’s important to not only HAVE a goal, but to HAVE A PLAN in reaching that goal.

Below are 5 tips I give my clients when developing their careers forward.

1. Find A Mentor

Hypothetically, let’s say you decide that over the next few years you want to get into marketing and move into a Brand Manager role. Your next step should be to find a brand management professional who can mentor you into this role. Look for the best in an organization and learn from them. Actively spend more time with them. Find ways to insert yourself into their tasks, helping them solve problems or simply adding value to their department.

2. Put In The Hours

Once you find your mentor and begin building a relationship, next comes the hard part. Assuming you’re not quitting your “old” job first, you have to diligently keep up with your regular workload while at the same time adding more new duties to your plate (that’s likely already full!). You can’t shirk your other responsibilities while pursuing a new career path; it won’t look good if you get fired for not doing your job because you were looking for greener pastures! So know ahead of time that you might have to come in early or stay late in order to make pursuit of a new opportunity really work.

3. Develop A Timeline And Measurements

What’s realistic? Can you be fully prepared to transition into a new role and do it well by next month? Next year? Make sure you communicate to your boss what you want to accomplish for the organization. Have regular meetings (at least once a quarter) to talk about your progress. Telling your boss when and how you envision transitioning over to a new department isn’t enough. I recommend finding a documentation tool of some kind that you and your manager can use to measure your progress (for example, an Excel document that tracks experiences you need to have before you transition). Then set some goals and timelines. Understand that no one can predict the exact time you might get the green light to move over to the new department. But once the goals you and your manager set have been reached and the opportunity arises, you’ll be ready. Some of the best advice I got was from a VP I reported to years ago who said that I shouldn’t ask for a promotion but rather just start doing the job, then she would have to figure out how to make the promotion happen.

4. Identify Industry Trends

A great way to expand your networking base is to join specialized professional organizations and associations. I recommend setting up Web alerts for news on your specific industry interest. You should also consider taking classes to attain necessary certification or learn new technologies. This way, when the time is right to actually start your new role, you can have a head start.

5. Become A Niche Expert Within The Marketplace

As you explore a new career path, look for special projects or special knowledge of the industry that will add unique value to an organization. With this approach, both the employee and organization win.