With advances in technology, automation and globalization, as well as the collapse of our economy, the workplace has changed significantly. Today, there’s no linear career path. A college degree won’t guarantee you a job, and the economy is so volatile that where you start will probably not be where you end up.
Things that mattered in the past—your GPA and college major—aren’t as important as your network, your online presence, your work ethic and the right skills. These days, we’re playing by a completely different set of rules.
Here are five career secrets that’ll help you stand out, create new opportunities and get ahead at work:
1. Think inside the box first
The average GenY worker will stay at his first employer for a mere two years before moving on. If they don’t see an opportunity to move up, they move out. But there’s more than one way to advance and gain new experiences and skills. You can make a lateral move by switching into a different department or applying for a new position internally. When everyone is looking to move out, searching from within makes you stand out.
A lot of managers say they want to promote those who have had experience working in different departments and business functions. This experience gives them a broader perspective on how the company operates, thus making them more valuable and better positioned. Thinking inside the box will open new opportunities you didn’t think were possible.
2. Be more than your job description
Just doing your job isn’t enough to get ahead. If all you do is what’s written in your job description, you can be easily replaced by someone who will go above and beyond expectations. Once you’ve proven yourself, become dependable and shown your value, you can ask for additional responsibilities.
The more responsibilities you take on, the easier it’ll be for your manager to get ahead and eventually promote you into their position. Always keep your eye out for new opportunities and network as much as possible so that you can expand your knowledge base, connections and value.
3. Focus on soft skills over hard ones
Managers are looking for soft skills over hard skills and social media skills. It’s easier for companies to find professionals with the right hard skills, but finding someone who’s a good communicator, has emotional intelligence and is able to prioritize work is more challenging.
Put yourself into as many social situations as possible, learn to read people, get feedback from your manager and coworkers and work to develop your soft skills. As you move up in an organization, soft skills become more valuable because you’ll be managing people and leading them to accomplish goals.
4. Maintain your digital presence
The Internet is the global talent pool, and to receive new opportunities, you have to be a part of it. The best way to do that is by having your own website and profiles on social networks, especially LinkedIn. If people can’t find you, you won’t get offers. Over 90 percent of companies use social networks to recruit these days.
Creating these profiles isn’t enough; you must optimize them by linking them together, using keywords that reflect the job you want and marketing them through guest articles, comments on blog posts and PR for yourself. Constantly manage your online presence—what other people say about you online is how you’ll be represented to the world.
5. Acquire knowledge through connections
While many people are trying to learn as much as possible to stay relevant, the best way of gathering insights and getting ahead is through networking. We’ve moved from an information economy to a social one that requires you to be in the know and rely on people to connect you with information and opportunities. The size and strength of your network will determine how far you go in your career. Make sure you’re meeting at least one new person each day.
Dan Schawbel is a GenY career and workplace expert, the Founder of Millennial Branding and the author of the new book Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success. Register for the free webinar of his book launch event for more advice.