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The 4 Building Blocks for Career Advancement

Image: career building blocks

This post is the first of a series in which AIU Provost & Chief Academic Officer Dr. Robert Manzer will share his perspective on the key building blocks for career advancement, with education serving as the crucial foundation.

A degree can be a profound step in moving forward with your career. It signifies achievement and serves as a marker of critical-thinking skills, a healthy work ethic and subject matter expertise. But a degree joined with experience, real-world skills and the reflective capability to tell your story is an even more formidable combination, says Dr. Robert Manzer, Provost and Chief Academic Officer of American InterContinental University (AIU).

"Students should look at their degrees as the base of a series of building blocks that can help them move forward professionally," says Dr. Manzer, "and the more building blocks they have, the better prepared they can be to advance higher and higher."

This four-part article series will deliver insights into the four most essential of these: education, experience, skills and reflection.

Why a Degree is the First Step

The decision to return to school for your degree is a vital first step towards attaining your goals, both personal and professional. For those looking to move up the career ladder, however, it's important to also use the momentum you've built up by being a student to gain experience, enhance your skills and reflect on your background.

But, why? The answer is simple. Think like an employer. "What employers want is an individual who has an education, some measure of experience and the ability (and adaptability) to take on whatever opportunities and challenges may arise," says Dr. Manzer. "Having a degree along with a robust resume of skills and experience makes you a more attractive candidate. You should always consider how to best market yourself as you progress along your career path."

The Opportunities Within and Outside of College

Pursuing your degree can help pave the way for success in numerous ways, such as:

  • Helping you become well-versed in a specific discipline
  • Enhancing your theoretical knowledge and expanding your perspective
  • Making you a more reflective individual
  • Opening the door to career opportunities that require a degree
  • Developing a broader personal and professional network

"College provides you with opportunities that you won't have that often in life," says Dr. Manzer. "Take advantage of these and learn about your area of focus along with a variety of other areas."

Yet beyond these baseline benefits, if you are even more proactive and take additional steps to gain experience and expand your skill set outside of the classroom, you can see even greater advantages as you seek to leverage your education.

Gaining skills and experience outside of the classroom, in addition to your college courses can:

  • Give you a series of work experiences to refine what you want to do in your career
  • Provide you with the practical experience that may help you hone in on opportunities
  • Provide you with the complementary skills that may be important in your industry

Overcoming Complacency with the 4 Building Blocks for Career Development

Being complacent—in other words, satisfied with how things are and not trying to make them better—can be a significant roadblock on the path to advance your career. The good news is that the only one preventing you from overcoming that obstacle is you.

"Sometimes students assume that career opportunities will automatically follow if they obtain their degrees," says Dr. Manzer. "However, complacency keeps you from looking for ways to amplify your experience while in college, and it keeps you from being aggressive in managing your career path."

The key to avoiding complacency and constantly moving forward in your career, says Dr. Manzer, is having an effective strategy. He recommends the following:

  1. Education
  2. Experience
  3. Skills
  4. Reflection

Building Block No. 1: Education

We've already covered that crucial first building block: earning your degree. Remember that even if you are years or months from your graduation date, you can still add the fact that you are pursing your degree (plus your area of study and expected graduation date) to your resume the instant you start classes. This alone can signal to potential employers that you're committed to gaining more in-depth knowledge in your field. Remember, a degree is a marker of critical thinking skills, a healthy work ethic and subject matter expertise—all valuable traits when applying for positions.

Once you've found the right degree program that aligns with your goals, make sure to stay focused, study hard and ask for help when you need it. By taking these steps—and being proactive about taking additional steps to help amplify your opportunities—you can be well on your way to moving forward and getting where you want to be.

Look for the next article in this series on the second building block, experience, which will explore how students can gain experience in multiple ways.