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Advancing Your Professional Career: 6 Strategies for Success

Learn how best to advance your career on AWS with 6 strategies I've used time and time again.

Published Jan 25, 2024
In today's rapidly evolving job market, advancing your professional career requires more than just expertise in your field. Whether you're at the start of your career or at a midpoint, looking for ways to elevate your professional standing is crucial. This article provides six actionable strategies I've used with success to help early and mid-career professionals like you achieve your career goals.
  • Goal Setting: Chart Your Course
You can't get where you're going if you don't know where, or what, it is! Setting clear, achievable goals gives your career direction and purpose. The advice I personally use is the '2-year plan'. Work backwards from where you'd like to be 2 years from now. Break down your long-term goals into smaller, manageable steps. Regularly review and adjust your goals as needed.
Action Tip: Connect with your mentor and write down your career goals for the next two years, five years, and ten years. This will act as your personal vision board to help guide you in growing relevant skillsets while keeping your eyes on the long-term goals you want to accomplish. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to dream as big as you’d like – there is nothing wrong with having aspirational career goals. You are the one that can make it happen. Review these goals often and adjust your strategies accordingly. Life happens!
  • Mentorship: Learn from Those Who've Walked the Path
Seek out mentors who can provide guidance, feedback, and potentially open doors to new opportunities. A good mentor can be a sounding board for your ideas and offer advice based on their experiences. They can also help keep you out of trouble when you miss a step on your learning journey or get frustrated for any number of reasons. There are more times than I can count when my mentors have provided the calming effect I needed and helped keep me out of trouble!
Action Tip: Reach out to professionals you admire, either within your organization or externally, and ask for mentorship or career advice. I’d suggest sending them a LinkedIn message that is as focused as you can make it. Introduce yourself and politely explain what you are looking for. Be respectful of people’s time and the boundaries they might want to set. Not everyone is open to being a mentor – and that’s okay! You never know what response you’ll get - so you might as well reach out!
  • Continuous Learning: Always Stay Ahead of the Curve
The learning doesn't stop once you leave school. If anything – it will increase year over year. Early in your career the answer to most questions around learning opportunities should be - "Yes!" Soak up every piece of information relevant to your field that you can from anyone willing to teach you what they know. Before too long, you'll have a strong foundation of business skills sets that will set you apart from your peers. Seeing that you’re on an AWS website – it feels like your interest is on pursuing a career in the cloud! AWS certifications can add value to your skill set and open additional doors in your career. Getting certified can showcase your knowledge of cloud theory and technical capabilities to your current employer or potential employers. I did this in my own career and drastically altered the course of my own journey – for the better!
Action Tip: All of the major cloud providers offer free training to help you get started on your certification journeys. Check out resources like AWS Skill Builder for thousands of trainings and hands on labs to get you started. They offer a free 7-day trial and will bill your monthly cost on a per-day basis. This makes it easier than ever to start your AWS journey!
  • Personal Branding: Make Your Mark
I buried this gem in here for those that have kept reading. Your personal brand is the single most valuable commodity that you create and nurture throughout your career. It's a combination of your skills, experiences, accomplishments, and how you (and others) communicate them. Developing a strong personal brand within your organization will be what creates the work opportunities you are looking for. The right work opportunities open up pathways to the promotion opportunities before your peers and creates trust in your abilities to deliver valuable work. Building your brand around working hard and delivering results is something not everyone can do. Skills can easily be taught to those willing to work hard enough. Your personal brand is what reflects your professional identity and values.
Action Tip: Early in your career, focus on asking the ‘why’ questions. It’s easy to learn how to perform a task but innately difficult to comprehend why we do it and why it is valuable. You don’t have to be exceptional at something for it to be valued. Put your best effort forward and it will always be enough.
  • Networking: Your Way to Opportunities
Networking isn't just about collecting business cards - digital or otherwise; it's about building meaningful connections. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and don't shy away from social media platforms like LinkedIn. Remember, it's not just who you know, but who knows you.
Action Tip: Create an AWS community profile that highlights your skills and achievements - be clear in what you are looking for. Regularly engage in this community by sharing insights, commenting on posts, and joining groups that share your interests! You never know – they just might lead to great LinkedIn connections and your next opportunity.
  • Work-Life Balance: Maintain Your Momentum
While advancing your career is important, burnout can set you back. Understand the signs and don't try to push through them. You're given paid time off (PTO) for a reason - never put yourself in a position where you are losing PTO because you've accrued too much. I am a huge advocate for working hard and at 1000 mph but remember - the high-performance cars that can drive the fastest are also the cars that have to stop at the gas station most often. For my motor enthusiasts, performance vehicles also need performance fuel - take your time off to refuel and recharge! Prioritize work-life balance by setting boundaries, taking time off when needed, and pursuing hobbies or activities outside work.
Action Tip: Schedule regular breaks during your workday and ensure you have time set aside each week for relaxation and personal interests.
Final Thoughts and Your Next Steps
Advancing your career is a journey that requires dedication, strategy, and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone. Incorporate the 6 strategies above to make it a sustainable journey of career growth and progression!
Now it's your turn to take action. Choose one of the strategies mentioned above and take a small step today towards implementing it. What are you doing now and what will you do differently? Remember, small steps can lead to significant changes.
Join the conversation and share your progress with me (@kevjzook) using the hashtags #Career, #aws, and #CareerSuccess. Let's grow together!