Yes, there are secrets to level up your career.

NIDA Corporate Training
Thanks to our brand partner, NIDA Corporate Training

When I graduated from my law degree, I honestly believed that my career would follow a linear path: step one, get the formal qualifications I needed to practice; step two, find a job in my chosen field; step three, work my ass off, get promoted (rinse and repeat).

After nearly a decade in the workforce, I can say with all honesty that my career looks nothing like I imagined. My major takeaway is that hard work is, regrettably, only a small part of the equation when it comes to career success. The hardest workers can easily be left rungs behind on the corporate ladder if they don’t take active steps to advance themselves.

With that in mind, I want to share my tips for levelling up your career across any industry (and the best part is, none of them involve going back to study).

Improve your soft skills, and the rest will follow. 

As a lawyer, I’ve found that there’s a significant focus on building hard skills to get a leg-up in my profession. Of course, there’s a hard skill set that’s necessary to perform any job in any industry, but in my experience, it’s often my colleagues with the best soft skills that climb the ranks most quickly.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of soft skills, you’re certainly not alone. Soft skills are all about how you present yourself and relate to other people. They can, without a doubt, make the difference between professional success and failure, but they’re rarely taught in schools or at universities, because there’s an outdated notion that they can’t be learned. 

Spoiler alert: they absolutely can and developing your soft skills is one of the best professional investments you can make, regardless of where you find yourself in your career.


Prologue by NIDA is the perfect place to start. Prologue's 'Act Natural' is a take-home communications course intended to build soft skills at your own pace. It focuses on how you relate to other people professionally, including your communication style, your presence in the workplace and even your awareness of your own unintentional habits which might be forming professional barriers. 

Image: Supplied. 


It's not an acting course, but to me, it makes perfect sense that NIDA is delivering it: professional soft skills and acting both involve confidence, projection and emotional intelligence, so whether you’re pitching a project to an investor (but hate public speaking) or fronting up to a job interview (but hate self-promotion), there’s a soft skill set you can build to assist. 

As a bonus, the course is delivered to your door and device as a hardcover book and as an app, packed with challenges, audio guides, videos, exercises using card games and real-life scenarios.

Image: Supplied. 


Stop avoiding the hard conversations. 

It’s me! Hi! I’m the conflict-avoidant employee who would prefer to fly under the radar than ever draw attention to myself by asking for what I need. It’s me!

If you’ve ever heard the career advice, "The worst they can say is no" and thought, "But if they say no, it would cripple me emotionally for the rest of my life!", I hear you. I have been there. But spending all your working hours mulling over your grievances rather than getting on with things is not the path to career success. 

The more you avoid a frank discussion, the longer you draw out your time in purgatory. Whether you think you deserve a promotion you didn’t get, you’re unhappy with how work is being allocated, you’re interested in a salary increase or you’re not vibing with the workplace culture, it’s time to verbalise those feelings to someone with the power to make a change.

The truth about having tricky conversations in the workplace — whether about salary, workload, promotions, flexibility or taking on more challenging work — is that they really do get easier the more you have them. 

Not only does practice make perfect, so you’ll feel a little less sweaty under the armpits with each new issue you bring to the table, but the people you work with will come to expect that you won’t shy away from the tough conversations and won’t be surprised when you’re candid with them in the future.


And if the outcome isn’t what you’re hoping for, at least you’ll have all the information you require to decide whether your current job is, in fact, the right fit.

Forget the idea of a single path to success. 

We’ve all heard the emerging wisdom that a career is a lattice, not a ladder, but it’s easy to get stuck on train tracks when you’ve been in a single job or workplace, for a long time. 

It might feel like the only way is up, but it’s worth remembering that, more so now than ever before in history, you can also move across, diagonally and even "backwards", without throwing all your hard work to date down the drain.

Being open to lateral opportunities, even if they didn’t fit into a specific path to success I’d imagined for myself, is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my own career. It’s worth considering what success looks like to you — it might be a specific job title, but it might just as easily be a salary, or a particular level of flexibility or the first Sunday afternoon you realise you’re actually looking forward to heading into the office on a Monday morning. 

Whatever it is, let that be your guide, rather than being constrained by the traditional path to the top. You might be surprised where you find yourself.

Shop Prologue by NIDA, a one-of-a-kind course that delivers essential skills for professional and personal development. 

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia. 

NIDA Corporate Training
Prologue by NIDA's first course, Act Natural, offers you a new toolkit, so you can adapt and thrive anywhere, and with anyone. And as an added bonus, Act Natural, can be delivered to your door and to your device, where ever you are in Australia. For more information - including a template for a letter to ask your boss for one - and/or to order, go to Cost: $759 and available via Afterpay (and also tax deductible for some).