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After acing your classes, landing prime internships, and networking your face off, you graduated and got your first full-time job. But that was more than a year ago and, let’s just say, you’re itching for the next big thing.

And if you’ve been meeting (and exceeding!) your goals, taking on new responsibilities, and generally killing it at the office, you’re probably more than ready. But, getting to that next level takes more than just getting great performance reviews.

Here are four strategies that’ll help you get ready for that next bump up (plus a chance to win a career-boosting prize from The Muse and TUMI). Just remember: Moving up in the professional world has as much to do with what you’re doing at your desk as it does how you’re presenting yourself to the higher-ups.



Enter to Win

Ready to take your career to the next level? Submit this form with your email address, and you’ll be entered to win a prize from The Muse and TUMI. Three lucky readers will win:

  • Up to $1,250 in TUMI merchandise, hand-selected for you
  • One hour of career coaching with Christie Mims of The Revolutionary Club, a certified professional career coach with a Forbes Top 100 website for careers, to help you take actionable steps toward your professional dreams. (If you really want to find work you love, grab her fancy-pants free workbook on the 6 Simple Steps to Find Work That Makes You Happy.)

Winners (3) will be chosen at random and notified via email. All entries must be submitted by Wednesday, February 17 at 11:59 PM EST. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition. You must be over 18 to enter. By entering this contest, you agree to the terms and conditions outlined here and to receive emails from The Muse and TUMI in the future.


1. Think About What You Want

Many entry-level professionals are eager to move up to the next job title and pay grade, but don’t stop to think if that’s exactly what they want out of their careers. And while, no, you definitely don’t have to have a 10-year plan figured out, you should make sure that whatever promotion or new job you’re pursuing next is going to help point you in the direction of your ultimate goals.

So, as you’re thinking about your next step, start keeping a list of your career likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, and ideas. What you love, and what doesn’t really excite you? Who in your department, company, or field has a job you’d love, and whose path do you not want to follow? See if you can talk to people who work in roles you’re interested in to get a sense of whether that’s really the profession you want to be pursuing. And if there are job duties you think you might want to pursue (like coding, event planning, fundraising, writing, whatever!) but haven’t had a chance to try them out yet, look for opportunities at work (or even outside of work) to do so. All of this career soul-searching will help make sure your next move is the right one.


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2. Build Some New Skills

Yes, college is over, but learning is something you’ll want to make time for throughout the course of your career. Not only does committing to professional development make sure you’re always in the know about what’s going on in your field and help you do your job better, it’ll show your boss (or potential boss) that you’re truly serious about getting ahead.

Of course, this doesn’t just mean taking classes. Start paying attention to the co-workers you really admire and what skills they have that help them succeed at their job—whether it’s managing difficult clients with ease or presenting to higher-ups in meetings—and ask them for some pointers over coffee. Join a professional organization that holds conferences and workshops in your area to stay in the loop about the trends in your field.

Oh, and be sure you keep track of the classes you’re taking and the skills you’re building. This is great stuff to bring up with your boss at a review or check-in.


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3. Make Networking a Priority

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again (probably at least twice a week for as long as we’re in business), the greatest asset you have in your career is your network. Having people who know you, respect you, and feel comfortable vouching for you within your company means that you’re much more likely to get recommended for projects, teams, and internal moves or promotions. And having those people outside of your company means that they’ll think of you and recommend you when prime opportunities come up.

So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to make networking part of your regular routine. This doesn’t just have to take the form of hitting up industry happy hours (although that is helpful...). Join some smaller meetups that interest you, ask co-workers you don’t know very well to coffee, offer to help out a committee at work, or even take on a side volunteer project. But more than just adding people to your LinkedIn contacts list, focus on really building relationships with people. It’s the people you’re close to who will truly help you out in the long run.

Oh, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention networking online! In addition to getting out there in person, pay attention to the image you’re building and the relationships you’re making online. At the very least, make sure you’ve put together a spectacular LinkedIn profile that tells the professional story you want it to tell (our complete guide to a perfect LinkedIn profile walks you through the process). But also consider putting your professional opinion out there on Twitter or a blog, or even creating a personal website to show the whole online world what you have to offer.


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4. Dress for the Job You Want

So, you’re a model employee, and you’re working hard to build your skills and grow your network. The next part of the equation? You’ve heard it before: Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. But it’s true—when you’re ready to move up to the next level, your boss and co-workers will be keeping tabs on every move you make, not just the work assignments you turn in.

So, pay attention to how the people one step up from you dress, look, and act. This includes everything from when they arrive at meetings to who they interact with in the break room to what they wear on normal days, big meeting days, and casual Fridays. While you don’t need to start wearing the same suit as the CEO (in fact, that probably will do more harm than good), you should start looking the part of people one to two levels above you.

To get you started, here are TUMI’s suggestions for promotion-worthy bags, supplies, and accessories that will upgrade your look from entry-level to executive-ready.

Updated 6/19/2020