How to Improve Your Professional Prospects

a woman and a girl sitting on a yellow chair

All too often, workers find themselves stuck in an unfulfilling career. Maybe you aren’t making the money you’d like to be. You might be ambitious and longing for an advancement that never seems to come. You could simply want to be more successful in finding a sense of purpose. But you can’t reach any of these aspirations without effort. If you’re willing to put in the time and the work, though, you can achieve these professional goals and more.

Learn new skills.


It should come as no surprise that one of the best ways to improve your career prospects is to learn new skills. You can often research and practice a skill yourself and become proficient on your own time, but, in some cases, formal certification is in order.

Healthcare professionals, for example, may want or need a Basic Life Support or Advanced Cardiac Life Support certificate. What is the difference between BLS and ACLS? Both techniques try to save the life of a patient in cardiac arrest, but as the names suggest, ACLS is a more advanced technique, most often needed by doctors, nurses, paramedics, dentists, and other medical professionals. Professionals outside of the medical field will likely need different certifications than their healthcare counterparts (though some teachers, babysitters, and others may want a CPR and/or BLS certificate), but the concept is the same⁠—by learning new skills, with or without a certificate, you’ll be better prepared for potential opportunities.

Study yourself.


With a bit of introspection, you can better understand your aspirations. Spend time writing in a journal, meditating, or talking to a professional to wrap your head around the qualities that make you, you. Another unique way to study yourself is through tarot cards. Ask your deck a question such as, “What’s holding me back from reaching my career goals?” and analyze the card’s “response.”

Say, for example, you pull the Emperor tarot card. Some common meanings behind this tarot card are ideas of structure and authority. Is it time to move on and go freelance or start a business of your own? If the Emperor card represents what’s holding you back, you might be yearning for the freedoms your current career can’t provide⁠—you might be better suited to a workplace with more flexibility. Whether it’s tarot or another method, consider who you are and what that means for your career.

Give yourself a makeover.


They say to dress for the job you want, so you shouldn’t devalue yourself with a casual dress code. Self-enforced or put in place across the workplace, a business casual or formal dress code doesn’t need to take away the fun or personality in your fashion choices.

Wondering how to dress for a business meeting without looking stuffy? Take advantage of eye-catching accessories to go with your blazer or cardigan, and add a piece with eye-catching color to an otherwise neutral look. If you’re in a remote office environment, be sure to focus on the top portion of your body for video meetings. You may be able to get away with a toned-down version of your personal dress code from home, but you deserve to look like the success you are from wherever you work.

Solve problems affecting your work.


If your personal life is impacting your behavior at work, the powers that be are sure to notice. If something is stressing you out, be it at home or at the office, spend time figuring out how you can ease the strain.

If you’re struggling with a coworker, you might avoid them at work or be uncomfortable in meetings that include them. Talk to human resources or to the person directly to resolve the issues. If you’re facing medical issues, be they physical or psychological, your symptoms might impair your professional efforts. Talk to your healthcare provider about medication or other treatments that can help.

If a family member’s facing old age or serious medical conditions, you might be more focused on their end of life care than your weekly report. Discuss these issues with loved ones, either with the older adult themselves or with a fellow caregiver, if a diagnosis like dementia keeps your family member from understanding. You can’t solve every problem, but you can aim to make it less detrimental to your professional life.

Plan your goals.


If you don’t have a plan in place, it’s hard to meet any of your goals. Spend some time making a clear plan for your professional future. A conventional five-year plan can be a great way to figure out where your career is going. Alternatively, start with an end goal in mind, and work backward to create a step-by-step plan for making those goals your reality. Do you want to follow a new career path? Figure out what it takes to get there. Do you need a particular certification? Will you have to go back to school? Whether it’s basic training efforts or new education efforts entirely, figure out what you want to do with your career going forward and what you’ll need to do to make it happen.

Get organized.


Organizing your workspace will help you to be more productive, which will help you be a better employee overall. Purge items you don’t need to make space for your most important documents and supplies. Put each of those items in an accessible, memorable place. That way, you’ll be able to find what you need when you need it. The next time a client asks a question about their account, you’ll be able to find the proper paperwork in the blink of an eye. That client will notice, and your colleagues will, too.



It’s not what you know; it’s who you know, right? Go to that company picnic or cocktail hour, reach out to inspiring people on LinkedIn, and always have your business card or contact information on hand. You never know when an opportunity will arise that could lead you to the professional prospect of your dreams.

Whatever your career objectives, it will take some work to make them happen. Study up on the skills you’ll need, and strengthen your sense of self. Dress the part and help yourself focus on work. Get your workspace and your game plan in order, and find the people who can help you reach your goals. Each little piece of professional development will bring you one step closer to the career you dream of.