Actively managing your career can be the difference between a rewarding and fulfilling work life and drudgery that grinds you down into a vat of self-pity. Most adults in the United State spend about one-fourth of their time working. It is no longer true that you can find a job, work for 30 years or so with the same company, and retire with a nice pension to live out your golden years. That makes actively managing your career more important than it has ever been. Here are six ways to advance your career prospects. Better Yourself You cannot take the attitude that you have learned all there is to know about your field. Continue to educate yourself, formally or not. Take classes. Find an organization in your field, or one that you would like to pursue, to join. Add to your skill set. Find a mentor Identify someone who has made it to where you would like to be and approach them about being your mentor. This might well be someone in your office but it does not have to be. Give them permission to address any shortcomings you might have. It is often difficult for us to judge ourselves. Accept this criticism as the helpful advice it can be. A mentor can also help introduce you to others who might be helpful to your career, which brings us to our next tip. Network The old saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know” isn’t necessarily true. Your skills, knowledge, and experience are all helpful to your career. But you cannot ignore the fact that knowing the right person can be crucial. LinkedIn and other online networks can be good. Even better is developing personal relationships. Do not look at it as a one-way street. Offer to help others before asking for help. It is a well-known human response to want to reciprocate when someone gives you something. Treat Your Career as a Business Chances are you are not in your last job. So you need to treat your career as if you are the CEO of your own small business. There are a number of ways to do this. • Market yourself. Maintain or create a portfolio, CV, or resume. • Create a career plan similar to a business plan. • Treat yourself as a free agent. Be ready to move when the time is right. • You are the product. Sell that product. This is no time for shyness. • Protect your brand. Fake It Until You Make It This does not mean lying. It does mean that you can take certain actions as if you are already have achieved your next rung on the career ladder. Dress as if you are in that position. When possible, act as if you are already there. Share Your Goals Talk to your boss about your career goals. If your boss is not helpful, you can often find someone in management who is. Ask for a career assessment. Let the right people know you want to advance.