Job or career?
A job is work to earn a paycheck. When one job ends, you get another one like it. You may learn new skills, increase your pay, or get promoted, but you may not. A career means that your work experience and training build up to greater opportunities.
Advancement is like a ladder
Think of your career as climbing a ladder. Each step is a job or training that gives you experience. At one, you pick up new skills. At another, you gain contacts, or more responsibility and pay. Every step adds value.
A career ladder is very clear in some fields. For instance, you can start as a Home Health Aide, take brief training and become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), earn a degree to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), then add more training and become a Registered Nurse (RN). Working at each level, you earn a higher salary and more responsibility.
In other fields, there may be many directions to choose from at each step. You may start out as a fast food worker, move to a job as a grocery store cashier for better hours, work as an office janitor to earn higher pay, be promoted to a janitor supervisor, then take training and become a software tester. All within five years!
Each occupation has a different path or ladder. And most entry-level jobs can lead to more than one type of upper-level job.
How can I advance up my career ladder?
Once you land your first job, moving up a career ladder is easier than you might think. There are two main ideas to keep in mind.
Bring your best to every job, whatever it may be.
- Learn your job well. You’ll quickly develop skills and experience to advance, or to put on your application for your next job. And being good at your job is satisfying!
- Make a good impression. Be on time, speak positively, use good work habits. Your boss and coworkers may give you solid references for your next step.
Continue to build skills throughout your career.
- Take advantage of any opportunity to get training or learn new skills on the job. It's the single best way to advance to the next level.
- Observe successful people at your job and follow their example for working efficiently, how to dress, talk with others so they will listen, etc.
- Enroll in training—whether it’s college, a short-term training program or high school equivalency, set yourself an education goal to work toward.
Long-term career goal example
Let’s say your dream is to become Director of Marketing for a professional sports team.
- You start by volunteering as an usher at the stadium.
- You apply to college to study marketing.
- During college, you work part time in the ticket office.
- After earning your degree, you get work as a marketing assistant.
- A couple years’ work experience qualifies you to become a marketing associate.
- With hard work and good work relationships, you are promoted to marketing manager.
- Finally, you’ve worked your way up the ladder to being the director of marketing.