Career Progression in the 2020s: Your Complete Guide


Making a leap in your career is one of the key ways in which you’ll be able to change your life. If you’re looking to earn a larger salary, which will lead to a more luxuriant lifestyle, you need to begin by looking at how you work, and how you earn money. With so many roles open to you when you begin in your career, and so many doors yet to walk through, it can be confusing to know how to get into the best role to suit your ambition. That’s where this guide comes in, offering sage advice on career progression in this new decade.

School Qualifications

Whether you have just left school, or your days in the classroom are long behind you, the qualifications that you received from your school days live with you for a long time after you’ve graduated. Indeed, it’s these qualifications which will determine which universities or colleges you’re able to enter as an undergraduate, and which companies will take your application seriously when you’re looking for a job.

While these qualifications do become less important as the years go by, they do stick with you – and one way to progress your career is to attempt to improve them. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Go back to school in order to secure better grades
  • Take exams again from home, or from an exam center, to secure high marks
  • Undergo a new educational journey that will eclipse your results from school
  • Take an international diploma, or an unaffiliated course, to boost your qualifications

Getting these qualifications in order is the first foundation in your long journey to securing an excellent career in the 2020s.

Higher Education

As alluded to above, getting a higher standard of qualification, after leaving school, is a smart decision. Not only will it show that you’ve invested in your lifelong learning, and that you’re interested in educating yourself as an adult, but it’ll help you qualify sooner for senior roles in the companies around you. Higher education proves to employers that you:

  • Take your education seriously
  • Are invested in the field of knowledge that you chose to study
  • Have a practical and driven mindset that always looks for opportunities for progression
  • Can dedicate yourself to a course of hard study, with success

As such, higher education is a well-trodden route for those who are looking to progress their careers. And, even if you’re a little older than your average student, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t return to university. You can study incredible courses from your computer at the University of Exeter Online, getting qualifications while you’re also earning cash in a full-time job. Such opportunities are perfect for those who are keen to quickly impress employers in their career.

Getting Experience

From the moment you leave school and can work to earn some cash, you should hold down a job. Whether that’s part-time, while you’re studying, voluntary work during the summer holidays, or full-time work experience, every second you spend in a job is worthwhile experience that you’ll learn from.

It’s this kind of experience, once accrued and presented on your CV, which will once again show that you’re a diligent worker with ambitions to make it into senior roles in your lifetime. Furthermore, if you look at every job position that you take – from the lowest of the low through to middling roles and senior roles – as a learning experience, and an opportunity to impress your superiors, you’ll get your mind into reliable and impressive working habits for the rest of your life.

Night Classes

Sometimes, even though you’ve studied at university and you’ve taken an online course in postgraduate studies, you’ll still be slightly underqualified for certain job positions. This is because your CV will have gaps in the fields of digital skills, customer handling, or other such specific areas of expertise. It’s the responsibility of driven and ambitious workers to find ways in which they can supplement their CVs with extra skills.

Often, these skills can be gained in night classes, which you take weekly after work. You may also look online to the short courses offered by many new digital educational institutions. If you’re interested in a career in marketing, for instance, finding a short course on SEO techniques may be particularly valuable to you. If you’re a financier, learning more about economics and the global economy – and even politics – can help you raise impressed eyebrows in the offices of recruiters. Putting in this extra effort will pay off over the course of your career.

The First Rung

When you get your first professional job in a large and respected company, you should consider yourself on the first rung of the career ladder. It’s from here that you’ll be able to climb as quickly as you can into those more senior roles that you’ve had your eyes on all along. It’s also from here that you’ll learn some of those things you couldn’t be taught during your studies and your lower-level jobs, like:

  • How to present yourself and talk professionally during working hours
  • The importance of etiquette and empathy in the workplace
  • What is taboo in the workplace, and what is considered vulgar or inappropriate
  • How you can best appeal to managers while also building connections with colleagues

These skills will be important in helping you achieve loftier aims in the future; for now, you’re able to settle into your ‘first rung’ job, learning as you go, and ensuring that you’re impressing those who are managing you.


When you’ve secured that first position, you may well find yourself promoted rather quickly into a role in which you have new responsibilities. This is especially true for individuals who really hit the ground running, adding their little bit of flair and energy to the workplace around them. Managers take instant notice of this energy, and see when they have someone ambitious that they should nurture into more senior roles in the business.

In any case, whether you’re promoted or not, you should always be looking out for on-the-job training opportunities, in order to broaden your understanding of the business in which you work, and to be paid on the job to onboard new skills and knowledge. Once you’ve completed a number of important training modules, you’ll be able to pick up new responsibilities across your office with greater ease, which also draws the eye of the managers who may one day promote you.

Sideways Moves

As you progress in your career, and you find that you’ve worked in a company for a number of years, you can find that you’ve hit a ceiling. Maybe there are simply no opportunities for career progression above the role that you’ve achieved, or perhaps it’s becoming difficult to persuade your managers that you’re worthy of further promotions. Whatever the case, when you feel that you’re stagnating within a company, it’s a good idea to attempt to find new opportunities further afield that’ll help you make it to the next stage in your vocational path.

Search for jobs every month in order to find the roles that are most applicable to you and to your current skillset. You should also always look to make sideways moves into roles that pay more, and that are more senior than your current role. Once you have secured a job with a higher wage and a more senior job title, you’re unlikely to drop from that wage in the future. As such, sideways moves can be excellent shortcuts to help you achieve a higher wage as quickly as possible.


Now that you’re working as a fully-fledged professional, and you’re a mid-level manager with some experience, some contacts, and some respect within your industry, it’s time to use your network to draw in more opportunities for career progression. This means hitting up your contact lists on LinkedIn in order to find out about new roles and new companies that you might like to join. It also means sourcing talent from your network to come and work with you, helping you earn referral respect in your company.

But leveraging your network is also about being talked about in professional circles. Becoming a recognized name in managerial circles can only help you in achieving the higher positions that you set your sights on – and knowing personally those who are responsible for hiring new employees, or promoting existing ones, will help place your foot firmly in the door when it comes to progressing your own career.

Hard Work

Given all of the above, you should also never take the eye off the ball when it comes to your immediate responsibilities and duties within your organization. With plenty of tasks to juggle, and excellent work to produce, you should not be focused always on the next role and the next opportunity. Often, you’ll be so swamped with work that this is all you can focus on.

And that’s no bad thing. If you can prove that you’re a hard worker, and one who is willing to put in extra hours in order to secure deals or meet deadlines, you’ll prove you have what it takes to make a jump in your career into more senior positions in the future.

Use this complete guide to plan out your own ambitious career progression, using this new decade to boost your income and to be promoted into more senior roles.


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