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Stuck in a career rut? Here’s how best to progress your skills at work

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MAYBE YOU’VE TOYED with the idea of going for that promotion, but worry you don’t have the right skillset. Or perhaps you’d love to go down a new career path, but can’t figure out how to do it without losing your job security.

For most people out there, abandoning a full-time job to seek out their dream career just simply isn’t a viable option. So how best can you further your career progression – and get yourself out of a rut – without waving goodbye to your current role?

According to Dr Orna O’Brien of UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, the key lies in looking outward and upward, figuring out where you want to be and considering realistic ways to get there.

“The most effective employees are those who can spot opportunities, and who understand how all the dots connect within a wider organisation,” she explains.

How to start? Here’s Dr O’Brien’s advice…

Start thinking outside of your day-to-day duties

Yes, powering through your to-do list every day is important, but so too is gaining an understanding of where your daily duties fit in with everyone else’s. So once a project or task has been completed, follow up on it, ask for feedback, and request performance results.

“If you’re only focusing on your current duties day-to-day, you might forget what your own role means in the context of the organisation, or even in the context of life in general,” warns Dr O’Brien.

You’re likely to be more successful – and to bring more to your own role – if you maintain a broad spectrum viewpoint.

Make conversation with everyone

Sitting next to someone new in the office canteen or saying hello in the lift might seem like a small move, but it can have important knock-on impacts. As Dr O Brien advises:

On a micro level, take advantage of opportunities to engage with others in your organisation. Make a concerted effort to socialise outside of your individual unit.

That “concerted effort” could be something as simple as grabbing a coffee together, or something more formal like taking a workplace training course that’s not directly linked to your role.

Find a mentor – even outside of work

Some companies have mentor programmes already in place, but even if your organisation doesn’t, it’s worth approaching someone yourself, be it someone at a senior level or a colleague who’s in a role you’d like to learn more about.

“A mentor can be a great champion for you,” says Dr O Brien.

Sometimes you won’t spot new opportunities yourself or have the self-belief to follow up on them. It can be helpful to have someone who can help you to do that, and who can offer knowledge and support.

Don’t just archive those Alumni emails

If you already have an undergraduate degree under your belt, you’re well placed to take advantage of alumni opportunities at your last place of study.

“Here at UCD the Alumni Department has fantastic ongoing networking events and an online mentoring programme,” says Dr O Brien. So next time you see an email arriving from your alma mater, don’t disregard it.

Actively seek out new projects

Taking ownership of something beyond your current role, whether it’s part-time study or a new challenge at work, can be a massive confidence boost. Plus, it can have a positive impact on your career progression prospects, as Dr O Brien explains

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