As the saying goes, "it's not what you know, it's who you know." And in the matters of career advancement, it's half true. While stellar knowledge that applies specifically to your job is great to have, it's equally important to grow your knowledge beyond the workplace. Here are four ways to ensure you'll continue to put your best foot forward to stay on top of your game and career. (For more, check out 4 Career Networking Tips That Work.)

IN PICTURES: 7 Interview Don'ts

Volunteering is a great way to expand your knowledge and find a venue to experiment with new ideas that you may not have the ability to apply in your "paid gig". It can also build your resume, and perhaps most importantly, grow your professional social network. Regardless of your profession, it is nearly guaranteed that your skills have a place in a non-profit organization. And, the boost to your ego it provides can also boost your career. Studies show that people who volunteer feel better about themselves. This self-esteem jolt can give you the confidence you need to take on leadership roles, and suggest new ideas and unorthodox methods that will make you a stand-out in your career endeavors.

Get Involved in the Trade
Trade organizations in your field, or the field you ultimately wish to be in, are a great way to make industry contacts and grow your knowledge in a specific discipline. Not only will this keep you at the forefront of changes in the industry, but you'll meet people who could become valuable resources down the road.

IN PICTURES: 6 Hot Careers With Lots Of Jobs

Distance Yourself
When you spend 80% or more of your week working, it's easy to become siloed in the tasks related only to your job, or within your company. As a result, you fall prey to doing what you know is expected, thus sacrificing valuable creative thinking.

Recent psychological studies on the construal level theory (CLT) of psychological distance indicate that simply separating ourselves from a problem can lead to greater creativity. The distance can be literal (like taking a vacation), but a mental separation is just as effective. Just as you schedule business meetings, schedule time to revive your mind and spend time doing activities that leave you feeling rejuvenated and energized. Whether it is exercise, painting, listening to music, or just curling up with a good gossip mag, giving your mind a mental break from work pressures will ultimately leave you more creative, and better equipped for peak performance on the job. (For more, see Downshift To Simplify Your Life.)

Become Your Own Brand
Just as you would take time and effort to start a business or new product, you should dedicate a certain amount of time to building and promoting the best brand you know: yourself! The best part is, you don't have to be a marketer or branding guru to do it.

Start by asking your peers, both personal and professional, for their perception of your strengths. Then think about your own unique skills. These likely have nothing to do with your school or work history. Often what will set you apart in your career is leveraging the unique combination of complementary, and hard to find traits, that you possess. For example, an accountant who has great people skills. Now that you have a focus of your personal brand, devote time each every few weeks to fine tune a strategy, and begin implementing it.

The key is to ensure that your message in all channels that people might encounter is consistent with where you want your career to go. Become active on tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to create the professional image you want. You can share articles of interest that relate to your career, or even start a blog that focuses on a topic related to your profession. All of these actions will not only keep you abreast of the latest in your field, and demonstrate your awareness and passion to others, but you'll begin positioning yourself as a subject matter expert. (For more, check out Sell Your Skills, Not Your Degree.)

The Bottom Line
Advancing your career can take as much work, if not more, than landing the job itself. But investing time into your career after hours through non-traditional work activities can give you a refreshed outlook on current projects, and pave the way for continued moves up when opportunities arise.

For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: Ghosts Of Economies Past.

Related Articles
  1. FA

    A Look At CFA Job Opportunities

    While 22% of chartered financial analysts work as portfolio managers, the majority of CFA job titles fall into the “other” category.
  2. Professionals

    7 Courses Finance Students Should Take

    Every aspiring finance student should study several subjects outside the traditional curricula.
  3. Budgeting

    Lost Your Job? 6 Things to Do Immediately

    If you’ve lost your job, shoring up your finances as best you can will make it easier to get back on your feet again when that next position rolls around.
  4. Professionals

    Broker Or Trader: Which Career Is Right For You?

    Both brokers and traders buy and sell securities, but there are some subtle differences between the two careers.
  5. Stock Analysis

    3 Obscure Twitter Accounts Making Money Off of You (TWTR)

    Learn how Twitter accounts that share quotes or information, such as @HistoryInPics and @Notebook, make money from their audiences.
  6. Professionals

    Financial Career Options For Professionals

    A career in finance can take a business professional down many different paths.
  7. FA

    The Basics of The Series 79 Exam

    Passing the Series 79 exam is usually necessary for anyone who wants to work in investment banking.
  8. Professionals

    10 Steps To A Career In Hedge Funds

    The first step to getting your hedge fund career started is to be sure you really want to work for a hedge fund. If you do, it’ll show in your actions.
  9. Professionals

    Business Analyst: Job Description & Average Salary

    Learn the different types of business analyst careers available; understand the skills and education needed and the salary you can expect to make.
  10. Entrepreneurship

    How To Make Money With Domain Names

    Domain names are hot commodities in today’s tech-centric world, and for good reason.
  1. Does a financial advisor need an MBA?

    Obtaining a license as a financial adviser does not require an Master's of Business Administration (MBA) degree. The Certified ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How can an investment banker switch to a career in corporate finance?

    It's pretty easy for an investment banker to switch to a career in corporate finance. The career skills are easily transferable, ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What are the benefits of hiring a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) to be my financial ...

    A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) has successfully passed rigorous coursework in the fields of economics, financial analysis, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do I get started with a career in asset management?

    The asset management industry has a variety of different career paths. Depending on what asset management area you would ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. For which kind of jobs is having Magnum Cum Laude most important?

    Having a magna cum laude degree is most important for jobs in the fields of finance, management consulting and engineering. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Other than accounting, what does a corporate finance job involve?

    While a corporate finance job almost always involves accounting in some capacity, there are many additional job duties and ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Short Selling

    Short selling is the sale of a security that is not owned by the seller, or that the seller has borrowed. Short selling is ...
  2. Harry Potter Stock Index

    A collection of stocks from companies related to the "Harry Potter" series franchise. Created by StockPickr, this index seeks ...
  3. Liquidation Margin

    Liquidation margin refers to the value of all of the equity positions in a margin account. If an investor or trader holds ...
  4. Black Swan

    An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult ...
  5. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  6. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
Trading Center