Back in college, I remember receiving the best career advice ever from a venture capitalist who was an alumni at my alma mater. He was recruiting at my school for positions at his firm, and after an initial interview, I piqued his interest enough to warrant a couple more meetings. One afternoon, he shared with me the secrets to his success, and I'll never forget his advice.
First advice: Be the hardest-working person in your team, company, group, etc. There's usually no way around hard-work, and if you don't put in the work (whether that be effort or hours), there's no way to advance. While it is true that some people are very lucky in their promotion or gaining the recognition of someone with enough influence to pull them up, it's usually unrealistic to assume that you will be that lucky person. If you want to actively influence your own success, the only way is to work hard. Keep in mind, however, that working hard and working efficiently are not on the opposite sides of the spectrum (as many people often assume). Not only will working hard make you more knowledgable and more competent in your work, you will likely be recognized more often by your superiors who will take note of your work ethic.
Second advice: Be the most honest person in the room. Heeding the first advice (hard working) allows you to follow the second advice. If you are not hard working, it'll often be difficult to express honest opinions. Slackers are often caught lying or twisting information because they are situational opportunists. Often, many employees cannot be honest because they are trying to cover up their mistakes or their slack. Commonly, employees support company decisions, not in the best interest of the company, but in the best interest of themselves. When you are able to give honest feedback and make honest decisions, even when these actions do not help promote yourself, people do take notice. Your co-workers and superiors will notice that you are not a sycophant or an opportunist, and they will trust you. Your honesty is a testament of your values and a testament of your courage to say your opinions.
Third advice: Always have three things (product, information, ideas, etc.) you can offer the other person (whether that person is a potential client or superior). Whenever you are dealing with people in a business setting, realize that people always want something from you (otherwise, they would be running a charity, not a business). People will only genuinely want to associate themselves with you only if you yourself have something to contribute. Otherwise, they may speak with you or deal with you, but they may not truly believe you to be worth their time (and if they think this way, you can sure bet that this relationship will not be sustainable). In order to be a valuable person, whether to a client or within your own company, always have something to contribute. Even if you don't feel that you have anything really substantive to contribute, at the very least, you can even recommend a good restaurant in the area. The point is that if you want to be recognized and valued, you need to become valuable yourself. Always be prepared to offer something the other person does not have or does not know. They'll definitely remember you and recognize you for your contribution (and perhaps a good dinner recommendation).
These three advice, when used in combination, can be extremely powerful in advancing your career. For more information about career advice, take a look at previous articles I've written about business and careers: