Current and aspiring business professionals frequently have lofty career ambitions. You may dream of leading a company as a high-powered executive or becoming an entrepreneur. Your goals might be focused on things like earning a lucrative salary, starting your own business or mentoring young professionals. However, making these dreams a reality can be challenging, especially in today’s competitive business environment.
You can set yourself up for career and business success by developing the right knowledge and skills while networking. Even if you're already working a full-time job, you'll want to integrate some of these tasks to your to-do list to get ahead. Small steps like becoming more resilient to setbacks and practicing self-care can significantly impact your professional journey. This guide covers the top tips and strategies to advance your business career and achieve your goals.
Develop key skills for a successful business career
You’ll need strong interpersonal skills to thrive in the business world either in your current job or as a business owner. According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, these abilities help employees succeed in the evolving labor market:1
- Communication: Active listening and the ability to synthesize information into compelling stories
- Leadership: A willingness to take risks and inspire others
- Problem-solving: The ability to apply knowledge and use logical reasoning to develop solutions
- Teamwork: Collaborate with people and resolve conflicts effectively
There are many formal and informal ways to develop and strengthen these skills. For instance, you can accelerate your professional development by enrolling in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. You’ll sharpen your communication skills as you create reports and presentations, and group projects will allow you to improve your collaboration abilities.
Many professional organizations offer seminars and workshops on public speaking, teamwork, and other vital skills. You can also read books and watch videos on these subjects from top business leaders. By continuously seeking out new learning opportunities, you’ll refine your abilities and ensure that you keep growing throughout your career.
Build a strong network for career success
Developing a robust professional network can be helpful to your career in a number of ways. According to a 2022 study, job seekers are more likely to find high-paying positions through acquaintances and other weak social connections than through direct job applications.2 Simple actions like getting coffee with a co-panelist during a conference could lead to new career opportunities and potentially more money.
Networking can also help you succeed once you’ve landed a job. Data from McKinsey & Company shows that employees with strong relationships with colleagues are more likely to have senior leaders advocate for them to be promoted. They also feel more engaged at work, leading to greater job satisfaction.3
Tips for Developing and Maintaining Connections
People often perceive networking as awkward and time-consuming. However, you can use these simple strategies to build meaningful relationships with other business professionals:4
- Practice active listening when interacting with colleagues
- Attend networking events
- Create profiles on business social media platforms like LinkedIn and use them to share ideas and stay in touch with contacts
- Join professional organizations and attend their career events
- Share recommendations and new opportunities with people in your network
Leveraging your network
Effective networking involves more than collecting acquaintances on LinkedIn. You should also use your network to reach your professional goals and find new career opportunities.
Strategies for getting the most out of your network include:
- Build relationships with seasoned professionals who can serve as your mentors or join a formal mentorship program5
- Schedule informational interviews with people in your industry to learn about their professional journeys and seek career advice6
- Tell your network when you’re searching for a new position or looking to make a career change
Navigate the job market for career success
Job searching is an essential but often stressful part of establishing a successful business career. These tips can help you find your dream job:
Sharpen your resume writing skills
According to a study by Ladders, Inc., recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds skimming resumes.7 Make a positive first impression by ensuring that your resume:8
- Doesn’t exceed one page
- Is customized for each position
- Features keywords listed in the job description
- Incorporates positive action words like “accomplished” and “exceeded”
- Includes a one- to two-sentence summary of your career goals and values
- Uses numbers and statistics to quantify your achievements
Practice before interviewing
Interviewing can be a nerve-wracking experience, but you can put your best foot forward with these strategies:9
- Research the business thoroughly before the interview
- Practice your responses to common interview questions with a friend or family member
- Stay engaged and positive
- Prepare several questions about the company and job to ask at the end of the interview
Don’t be afraid of negotiation
Negotiation can help you get a higher starting salary and better benefits. Follow these steps to increase your odds of success:10
- Research salaries for comparable positions and companies
- Wait at least 24 to 48 hours before responding to a job offer
- Be confident yet polite when negotiating
- Have a justification when asking for a higher salary
- Consider asking for other benefits, like additional vacation time
Stay adaptable and resilient
According to a recent report from The Josh Bersin company, employers take an average of 44 days to fill a position.11 Staying hopeful and resilient makes it easier to persist throughout this lengthy process. Also, being flexible and exploring new career paths could lead to unexpected opportunities. If you're new to a certain field, or for general guidance with the process of finding a new job, consider hiring a career counselor who can help you set a mission statement for your career to keep you on track and help you prioritize the right things.
Best practices for navigating a successful business career
Just as a profitable business needs a set strategy to be successful, your career needs to be tended to with goals and intentions to help you get where you want to go.
Other strategies that can help you succeed in the business world include:
- Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) career goals12
- Review your progress regularly and measure success
- Practice self-care, like going to the gym and meditating
- Prioritize work-life balance to avoid burnout
- Maintain a positive mindset about your career
Take your business career to the next level
Enhance your professional development with Marquette University’s online MBA. This flexible program allows you to balance your personal and professional obligations while gaining essential business skills. Study foundational topics like leadership, corporate social responsibility and risk management to help both your career and business grow.
In the online MBA program you'll take classes from world-renowned faculty and tap into Marquette University’s extensive alumni network. The Business Career Center also provides numerous opportunities to connect with career management resources. You can meet with career counselors, get feedback on your resume, and receive networking guidance while earning your MBA.
To learn more, schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor.
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from mckinsey.com/industries/public-sector/our-insights/defining-the-skills-citizens-will-need-in-the-future-world-of-work
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from science.org/doi/10.1126/science.add0692
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/network-effects-how-to-rebuild-social-capital-and-improve-corporate-performance
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/summer-2023/pages/build-a-better-professional-network.aspx
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from businessnewsdaily.com/6248-how-to-find-mentor.html
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/juliawuench/2021/05/19/9-questions-to-ask-during-an-informational-interview/
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from prnewswire.com/news-releases/ladders-updates-popular-recruiter-eye-tracking-study-with-new-key-insights-on-how-job-seekers-can-improve-their-resumes-300744217.html
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from businessnewsdaily.com/3207-resume-writing-tips.html
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from dol.gov/general/jobs/interview-tips
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from dol.ny.gov/salary-negotiation-guide
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/employers-across-industries-are-taking-longer-to-hire.aspx
- Retrieved on September 4, 2023, from samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/nc-smart-goals-fact-sheet.pdf