How to Fast Track Your Career

05/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Jennifer Kushell Social entrepreneur, author, global workforce evangelist dedicated to making an impact

In this volatile economy, with so many of us in a state of transition or flux, anything we can do to give ourselves an extra edge can make all the difference. Instead of just focusing on survival, think in terms of fast tracking to the next stage or level. Here are a few tips that can help not only secure your current position (assuming you have one you're happy with) but open up new possibilities every where you go.

1. Know who you are and what makes you tick
Self-awareness is so important when it comes to figuring out what you want to do, what you're best at, what to pursue and what to avoid. Spend some time on introspection and recruit the help of your partners, managers, friends, or family to give you their take on your personal style and quirks. Find confidence in knowing what makes you different and special.

2. Practice selling yourself like a pro
Always be ready to introduce yourself to anyone with confidence and a great story to tell. Pitching is critical to landing great contacts, jobs, new clients, or even dates! Practice with some friends of colleagues. Force yourself to answer the question "why should they care" once you've delivered your pitch. Don't stop tweaking until it's compelling and raises a few eyebrows.

3. Build real expertise
If you want to be taken seriously, you need to have the goods. Build your experience and credibility with substance, true expertise, and provide real value to those you serve. Not just in the beginning as you get established but throughout your career. Don't ever let yourself become lax. Every industry and business is changing, morphing, and growing. Stay on top of yours...and make sure people know that you are.

4. Define the ultimate success for you
Creating a vision of your ideal life or scenario is like having your own north star to follow and guide you. The more clearly and specifically you can define what your dreams and goals look like, however bold they may be, the easier it will be to gradually work your way there. It doesn't matter what stage of life you're in. This is an invaluable exercise any time you're contemplating your future.

5. Explore!!!
With of all the opportunity in the world, it's crazy not to always be sampling what the world has to offer. Every night, weekend, vacation period or other pockets of free time you have, take a taste of new things that interest and intrigue you. A habit like this will constantly open you up to experiences you never imagined for yourself. Break out of your rut and get a glimpse of the bigger world around you. Explore industries, events, and opportunities that you know nothing about and be prepared to be amazed at how much more there is to discover.

6. Learn to answer your own questions
You can't be a leader or manager if you can't ask the right questions at the right times or find answers and solutions on your own. This may sound obvious, but it's amazing how many people get stuck in their careers because they don't know what to do next or where to turn. Information is everywhere and you must know how to leverage it when you need to.

7. Make decisions strategically
While many take the road of least resistance or live by default, being proactive with your critical career and life choices really pays off. In most cases there are about 10 critical decisions you'll make in your lifetime that set the foundation for what's to come -- your success, happiness, even income and opportunities. Make them thoughtfully and you can set yourself up from the very beginning.

8. Set up safety nets and back up plans
Imagining the worst isn't fun, but a little pre-planning can make all the difference when tragedy or the unexpected hit hard. And far too often it does at some point or another. Having back up plans for your work and life is critical to not only survival in some cases, but giving you the confidence to make bolder moves with bigger payoffs.

9. Build and manage your network lovingly
Who you know can make all the difference in your pursuit of success. Don't be shy. Get yourself out there. Introduce yourself to new groups and bring wonderful new people into your life every chance you get. Your professional outlook or even financial position can change dramatically with just a few of the right connections and encounters. Build and manage your network carefully and maximize your potential. Your network is one of the more precious assets that you'll be able to leverage beyond your wildest dreams.

10. Create a powerful brand online
The first thing most people do to learn more about you is search for you online. What they find can make all the difference in whether they want to have anything to do with you or not. And those decisions are made in minutes, if not seconds. Take control of your online identity and build your brand with purpose and passion and yes, strategically. Be proactive and make sure that what people find leaves them with the most positive possible impression. Then your job is to reinforce that in person and embody this glowing image of you both on and offline.

To fast track your career, help you land a better job, get promoted, or find greater success in any new venture, these tips can make all the difference. But of course, there's still so much more you can do too. Become fluent in the rules to making it in any industry at any stage in your career. To learn more or get help in putting these strategies to work in your life instantly, register for Fast Track to Success: 30 Days to Transform You Life and Career from our friends at Young & Successful Media {} where your success is their business!

Article by Jen Kushell, Founder & president of YSN - Your Success Network, and the author of "Secrets of the Young & Successful," a New York Times Bestseller. Called the "Career Doctor" by Cosmopolitan and a "guru" of her generation by US News & World Report.