Take 5: 12 Ways to Advance Your Career in 5 Minutes or Less

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 17, 2012

A proactive approach to long-term goals is necessary for career advancement. And, while it's important to focus on the big steps that will help you climb the corporate ladder, don't forget that small actions can have a big impact too.

This article explores 12 things you can do in five minutes or less to advance your career.

1. Make a meaningful connection

Reach out to someone whose career path you admire, and ask them to mentor you. It takes a couple of minutes to make a phone call or send an email, but this small action could change the entire course of your career.

2. Ask for more responsibility

Only a small percentage of employees ask for additional responsibility, so this will really help you stand out in the crowd. To ensure your request is meaningful and seriously considered, make sure you ask for work you have shown you deserve, and can handle.

3. Sign up for a class

Check out the adult education classes at local universities, and sign up for one that will contribute toward the knowledge or skill set you'll need to advance in your career. Choose a class you could potentially put toward a certification program or advanced degree. It goes without saying that the more education you have, the easier it is to advance.

4. Download educational material

If you are in an industry that has associations or organizations, they likely have a variety of educational materials--PDFs, ebooks, books on tape--that you can purchase for a nominal fee. Increase your knowledge about work, and remember that knowledge really is power!

5. Dress sharp

The simple fact is that people are judged by how they look. Take a couple of minutes in the morning to make sure you look your absolute best. If youlook good, others will assume you are good--and will respect and trust you more.

6. Volunteer

Choose an organization that is meaningful to you, touch base with the person in charge, and offer to donate your time. Volunteering puts you in contact with a wide variety of folks you might not otherwise meet. Many of these people will be able to help you progress in your career.

7. Speak your mind

Prepare to voice an opinion, give advice, or add input to the next meeting or other situation in which group sharing occurs. Weighing in on issues and questions will show your superiors that you care, demonstrate your knowledge, and make you memorable.

8. Be nice to someone

Choose someone in your office—a co-worker, your supervisor, an intern—and take a couple of minutes to help him or her out with something. Regardless of whether or not that person might be instrumental now or later in helping you advance, you’ll cultivate a reputation as a nice person.

9. Learn more about your company

Spend a little time learning about the industry in general, as well as your particular company and its products and services--even if the information has nothing to do with your particular job. People in high positions are expected to know everything about their company or industry, but average workers who take the time and effort to learn more stand out.

10. Say thanks

Ask your boss for five minutes of his or her time, then share one way in which his or her leadership has helped you in your career. Most people don’t call meetings unless they have something to complain about, so saying “thanks” will not only differentiate you from your co-workers, it will position you as a great person to work with.

11. Give a speech

Most people dislike—and even fear—public speaking. The next time you have an opportunity to talk in front of crowd—whether it’s a presentation at a staff meeting or a stint at the podium at an industry gathering—volunteer for the opportunity. This will position you as an expert and a leader.

12. Update your resume

Add a quick "Summary of Qualifications" section with four or five lines designed to sell yourself. Few people include this important "first impression" on their resume, and having one that is well crafted can mean the difference between a door opening and a door closing.

The ripple effect

When it comes to advancing your career, remember that the "little" things count. All you need is five minutes for a small action that may have a huge impact. Good luck!