Landing that “dream job” is what makes all of us feel successful. However, the road to success only begins when you get the job; succeeding at work takes initiative and hard work. Showing investment and dedication to improve your professional growth and job performance can help lead to a promotion. Most importantly, with our current economic situation, it can help you keep your job.

There are many things you can do to succeed in your career. Here are some tips to improve your chances of achieving workplace success, in spite of any economic ups and downs.

1. Get educated. Most employers prefer hiring and promoting employees who have college degrees. If you know that you have a better chance of getting promoted by having a degree, it would be worth your time and financial investment to obtain a college degree. If you have a degree, consider what skills you can learn in order to improve your job performance. Large corporations frequently offer free software, communication or management training. If your company does not offer courses, research classes being taught in your area; your company might subsidize the cost if you make a case for it.

2. Take on more work. In addition to performing the tasks required of you, research trends and happenings in your industry to share with your colleagues. When passing along information, consider how it affects your company. Be an expert in your field. By taking this extra step, you will show your boss that you are passionate about your industry and are invested in producing superior quality work. Take on new challenges. One of the best ways to find your “hidden talents” is to try new things.

3. Be proactive. Try to always be a step ahead at work. Anticipate what will be asked of you, and offer your services. Be perceived as a “can-do” person. Make sure you are always informed of what is going on in your company and any opportunities that may arise.

4. Promote yourself. Think back to when you were hired. What skills did you bring to the table that made you marketable? Remember what makes you unique to your company, and promote your skills. While it’s easy to get accustomed to a work routine, think of out-of-the-box ways to leverage your skills to improve your company. Even if your boss doesn’t agree with your idea, he or she should respect your initiative.

5. Manage expectations. From day one, make sure you and your boss are on the same page with what you are expected to deliver. If you don’t know, create your own set of expectations to show your boss, and make changes as needed. If no six-month or yearly evaluations are set in place within your company, check in with your boss every few months to confirm you are meeting expectations. Document everything, including project feedback from your boss and colleagues, so you can use specific ways to measure your progress.

6. Learn from your mistakes. We all make mistakes in the workplace. The worst thing to do is try to blame someone else or deny that the mistake was made. The best thing to do is to accept responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes can help you improve your performance and communication skills with your co-workers and supervisor. Your supervisor will be very impressed if they see you can bounce back from mistakes and keep improving.

7. Communicate with your supervisor. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your supervisor can only benefit you. The more you communicate with him or her, the more they will keep you posted on current events in your office. Your supervisor cannot watch you all the time and know what you are doing. Send them an e-mail with updates on your work progress and any questions of things you are not sure of. You never want to “assume” anything you are not really sure about, and it is always important to know where your supervisor stands on all work-related issues.

8. Find solutions. Don’t go to your boss every time you have a problem. The more problems you can solve independently, the more responsible and valuable you will look. It will impress your boss if you go to them with a tricky issue and then suggest ways to resolve it. Always try to offer solutions; this will give your reputation a boost.

9. Act the part. First impressions are everything and you always want to make sure you dress and act professional at all times. Your attire doesn’t need to be outrageously expensive for you to have credibility. It just needs to be appropriate to the environment you are operating in. Consider clean lines and clothing that makes you feel comfortable and communicates who you want to be. If you’re going for that big promotion, go for it in your appearance as well as your job performance. Colleagues, customers, managers and peers will also pick up what you communicate about yourself in the way you behave.

With the current economic crisis, the fear of being laid off or fired is certainly legitimate, and there are a variety of reasons why people lose their jobs. Taking the right steps to advancing your career can lessen your chances for being laid off or terminated.

These tips can help you secure your career and promote yourself within your company. You don’t have to do all of these tips in one day and you may not have to do all of them to see an improvement in your career. Keep a journal or check list of the tips you think can improve your chances to succeed at work. By writing your goals down, it will be easier for you to see your accomplishments and stick to your plan for success.

About the author:
Kim Goff is a professional speaker and author who currently works as a communications director for the United Way of York. In addition to being a freelance writer, she also works on the blog “Volunteer Now!” for the York Daily Record and is the Philadelphia Special Needs Kids Examiner for Examiner.com. She speaks on overcoming obstacles, life balance and women in the workplace, and is author of “Female Empowerment – A Personal Journey.” Contact her by e-mailing kimgoff@excite.com.