[IMGCAP(1)] You made it. After the grueling pressure of finals, all-nighters, working several jobs, and extra-curricular activities, you have graduated from college and landed the job that made it all worthwhile.

You probably did not get where you are today by taking the easy path – so now is not the time to start. Approaching your career development early distinguishes you as one who has a larger vision for your future, someone who can strategize and one who has ambition. By advancing your career yourself, you develop skills and traits that can also be used to take your company places.

While proficiency is a key to future success, it takes more than just getting the job done well to stand out. Knowing the technical basics of your job will only get you so far. To propel to the higher ranks of your organization, you must demonstrate continuous development, leadership ability and a strategic mindset.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking based on my personal experience. While not an exhaustive list by any means, you can use these tools to get your career started in the right direction.

•    Develop your own job description. If your company engages employees to participate in setting their goals for the year, come prepared to these meetings with ideas for what you want to accomplish. Steer your job requirements to areas that will both benefit the company and provide you with experience in a new area.

•    Find a mentor. Mentors can take the form of a formal relationship, where the mentorship is specifically defined, or an informal relationship, where there are respected professionals in your life from whom you can take advice. If you identify behaviors that work in others, try to emulate those characteristics.

•    Demonstrate a commitment to professional development through certification. The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) are both well-known choices. Certification shows a commitment and dedication to the finance and accounting fields. It is a clear demonstration that you have set your sights on a career goal and that you have the drive and ambition to achieve your goal.

•    Get involved in committees – both internal and external to your organization. The vast array of benefits provided through committees, like the Institute of Management Accountants’ Young Professionals Committee, includes networking, leadership experience, public speaking and even promotion of your company. These opportunities may not be apparent when you are first considering joining a committee. Look for the committee’s purpose. See how you can use its activities to complement your development needs. This may be one of the best areas to create your own opportunities.

•    Seek training opportunities that fit with your strategic development plans. Sell those ideas to your manager in order to gain organizational support and even financial support when needed. One way to do this is to make a presentation for the training (particularly if a cost is involved). Break down the event into each element and tell your manager why each of those elements directly supports your development needs.

•    Read. Stay current on economic and industry trends. You can show your ability to advance in the company by being aware of the global aspects affecting your company’s decision-making.

Take the initiative to look for things that can expand your experience. Be strategic about the decisions that you make and put yourself in positions to create your own opportunities. Landing the job is only the beginning of your career development journey. Stretch yourself into different roles and activities; you never know what may happen.

Jessica Allen is a financial analyst with Rolls-Royce, where she has worked for the past two years. She recently became a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), is a member of the Institute of Management Accountants Young Professionals Committee, an item writer for the CMA exam and a member of the Rolls-Royce Energy Women’s Networking Committee. She received a B.S. in financial management from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in 2007.