There are two ways to establish and pursue meaningful goals for career advancement—focus on roles, or skills.

Udacity - Career Advancement

Career Advancement is a broad term that can encompass a wide array of outcomes. Defining success is often largely subjective, and results can be as small or as big as you want to make them. With this degree of variation, how does one pursue career advancement in any kind of meaningful way? What does real career advancement look like?

This is a question we’ve thought long and hard about at Udacity. It’s one of the first questions we asked ourselves back in the earliest days of our organization, and it’s a self-query we continue to engage in today. If our goal is to support you in your pursuit of meaningful career advancement, what must we provide in order to ensure that you realize your learning goals and achieve your career ambitions?

To fully and successfully address these questions, it’s important to identify and understand two main paths to career advancement: Roles, and Skills.

The ‘Roles Path’ to career advancement

This path to career advancement is an explicitly outcome-oriented approach. You begin by establishing your desired outcome, and then you work backwards to square one to determine your path to success. More specifically, you target the role you want to land, and then you map out what you need to do to get hired for it.

Establishing this path can often be as simple as earning a credential that affirms your qualifications for a given role. Other times, it can be a bit more complicated, as when your desired role is in an emerging field, and there is less precedent for what constitutes a qualified candidate.

The ‘Roles Path’ to career advancement is ideal for those who are seeking their first jobs, are re-entering the workforce after an extended period away, or who hope to execute a full career change. 

Job-seekers at all levels of experience can accelerate their success by adopting a roles-focused path.

The ‘Skills Path’ to career advancement

This path to career advancement is comparatively more nuanced, in that there are not generally any easily identifiable end goals—you’re not pursuing a pre-defined outcome like a specific role or position. Instead, you’re seeking to add new skills to your toolkit, because of what you believe the acquisition of those skills will make possible for you in the way of next career steps.

Sometimes this is very straightforward—your boss tells you that if you learn React, you’ll get handed a great new project. Other times it’s more complicated; you’ve heard that your company is making a move to embrace machine learning, and you believe that with the addition of machine learning experience to your skill set, you could be eligible to join a new team within your company.

The ‘Skills Path’ to career advancement is ideal for those seeking raises, promotions, and opportunities to take on new responsibilities or join different teams.

This can especially be an excellent strategy for anyone charting a career development course within an organization; i.e. those who are “career pathing.”

The self-audit process

A self-audit is a critical component of your career advancement strategy, because it’s how you determine the steps required to reach your goal. In simplest form, a self-audit can be as straightforward as a two-column cross-check: In Column A, you detail your current skills and experience, and in Column B, you lay out what’s required to meet your new career goal. Cross-check your columns to eliminate the prerequisites you already meet, and what remains defines your learning path.

In actual practice, this of course isn’t quite so simple. For example, it is often hard to objectively identify the relevance and applicability of the skills you currently possess. It’s especially important to identify what are called “transferable skills.” A recent article by Forbes about transferable skills includes things like: Critical Thinking, Multitasking, and Teamwork. 

Reading behind the lines of job descriptions can also be challenging—you have to know how to really “read” a job listing in order to understand what a company is actually looking for. The articles below offer additional insight into analyzing job descriptions:

Don’t Let An Intimidating Skills List Keep You From Applying For The Job

Your First Two Steps To Getting Hired

Finally, the career advancement process is somewhat different for job-seekers vs. those engaged in career pathing. Udacity offers a range of resources to help you navigate challenges like these, in addition to valuable services such as resume review and interview preparation. You can learn more about those services here.

How Udacity supports career advancement

Our platform is built, designed, and optimized for learners who are pursuing meaningful career advancement. Whether you’re a job-seeker, or someone looking for new opportunities within your company, and whether you’re targeting a specific role or specific skills, we have a clear path forward for you. We offer Career Services, and a Pathfinder tool. Our catalog can be filtered by either Nanodegree programs or skills. Our programs are organized into schools, within which you’ll find clear pathing options targeting specific outcomes.

It’s ultimately up to you to determine what constitutes meaningful career advancement in your life, but it’s not a decision you have to make alone. Udacity is here to provide you with the support you need, and the resources you require, to identify the right outcome for you, and determine the best way forward to achieve your life and career goals.