Whether you’ve recently graduated from college, are looking to begin work in a new field or want to plan ahead for your dream career, when you decide what you’d like to do with your professional life, you’re likely eager to begin making progress toward your career goals as soon as possible. Everyone hopes to end up in a job they love, but the journey toward a satisfying career that feels fulfilling and enjoyable is filled with pits and peaks that carry various setbacks and successes on the way. The sooner you start to take steps toward the career of your dreams, the more you increase the likelihood of its realization.
Your strong ambitions may be enough to carry you to where you’d like to be in your professional life, but certain steps can help you to improve your chances at getting hired, building a name for yourself and earning an ideal salary. This guide will advise you on the best ways to direct your efforts to get your career off on the right foot from the start.
Practice Regular Self Care
Professional organizations such as USANA Health Sciences have touted the lasting rewards of keen devotion to personal health and wellness for everyone, but especially for working professionals. The stresses of work can take a toll on your mental, physical and spiritual health, so before you take on the demands of a new career, it’s important that you have a steady foundation for your personal health in order to give yourself the best chance at enduring success.
Healthy habits are key to a successful career. Long nights at the office, sedentary days filled with little physical exercise and a diet that features several unhealthy or processed convenience foods are all part of a recipe that will lead to burnout sooner than later. When you’re adequately nourished, regularly active and well-rested, you’re more likely to maintain the mental clarity and stamina you’ll need to operate at your fullest potential.
Part of setting off on your career path is ensuring that you prioritize a healthy work-life balance right away. It may not always remain at a perfect equilibrium, but striving for harmony between your career and your personal life will ensure sustainability and help to ward off potential career-related fatigue due to a lack of perceived symmetry in your life.
Hone Your Skills
No matter your current accolades, skill sets and accomplishments, it’s always a good idea to continue to develop your knowledge and qualifications. While it’s important to focus heavily on the tasks that most directly relate to your desired career, it’s also beneficial to brush up on industry-adjacent skills, too. Anything you can do to further qualify yourself as a strong candidate, and set yourself apart from other competing candidates, will pay off no matter your chosen field.
Even with a busy schedule, or a limited budget to devote to continuing education, skill development and refinement are important habits to maintain at every point in your career. If you’re short on time, try to dedicate just a few minutes a day or at least one lengthier time block per week toward boosting your own expertise. If your budget is tight, look for inexpensive courses, webinars or certification programs, or even seek out free resources online to help boost your abilities.
Refine Your Brand
The moment you determine your field, and what you have to offer in the landscape of your chosen career, start to build a reputation for yourself. A personal career brand doesn’t always require a brand kit, a logo or registration as a corporate entity. Your brand is more about establishing your place in your industry. The more solid and impressive your personal brand is, the more likely you are to see referrals and opportunities directed your way.
It’s easier than ever to create a personal brand with the use of online social media platforms, professional networking sites and personal websites.
Use these digital spaces to display your capabilities, such as:
- your accomplishments,
- educational history,
- and your portfolio or work history.
A personal brand page must be updated regularly, as routine refreshes demonstrate your own relevant movements in the industry.
Seek Out a Mentor
There is much on your career path that you can only learn through experience, but there are others who’ve walked the road before you that can offer wisdom and advice to help you avoid common pitfalls and obstacles on your way. Mentorships often grow organically, and you may have a mentor in mind, whether that’s a previous professor, colleague, employer or family member.
When you’re beginning in a new field, however, you may not have many industry colleagues with whom you can connect. Try to seek out a mentor in your chosen field early on in the process. Many seasoned professionals are happy to help ambitious newcomers, and can benefit from your eager desire to gain experience by assisting with their workload, too.
Build a Network
Networking can be uncomfortable for some, but it’s an important skill to develop to expedite your own success. As soon as you can, start to build a network of like-minded professionals to keep in contact with throughout your career. Try to regularly attend conferences and industry events, join organizations catered toward industry or alumni associates.
Ask For Help
The support of your family and friends will be invaluable no matter where you are on your career path. Your loved ones can provide a sounding board to help you make important decisions, share your name and qualifications with their colleagues and even just provide a valuable reprieve from the stresses of building a career. When you involve your inner circle in the details of your career journey, they’ll have a better idea on how to support you.
Beyond your closest community, there are also a variety of other resources available in every field. Career coaches, resume writers, alumni associates, coworkers and even social media personalities are great resources to start to seek connections and guidance.
Learn the Art of Presentation
It isn’t enough to have exceptional skills. You also have to know how to competently, clearly communicate what you have to offer. If your verbal or written communication skills need a little fine-tuning, consider taking a few communications courses or writing classes to get more practice. Volunteer regularly to speak in front of groups whenever you can, even in small doses, to practice speaking clearly and build up your courage and ease when talking to a crowd.
Confident, positive self-promotion is also an incredibly invaluable skill. It may feel egocentric or disingenuous to share what you’ve been up to or show off your proficiency, but doing so is one way to open a lot of doors for you. After all, people don’t know what they don’t know, and opportunities can knock even when you least expect them to.
Set Attainable Goals
You deserve goals as big and lofty as your ambitions, but setting those goals the right way is the key to success. Think about where you’d like to end up eventually, and try to picture what steps you will need to take to make it there. Then, break those steps down into even smaller goals, ones that you can tackle on a daily or weekly basis. The SMART goal setting method is especially helpful for career progress.
SMART goals are:
S: Specific with objectives, responsibilities and requirements,
M: Measurable enough to track your progress,
A: Achievable and realistic,
R: Relevant to your desired outcomes and
T: Time-based to establish parameters for completion before moving on to the next step.
Job seekers often lament the amount of experience required for their desired positions, but candidates that meet the experience prerequisites listed in job descriptions are considered long before those without the hours under their belt. It isn’t always possible to jump into the right role for your talents right out of the gate, but it is possible to gain experience that will help you climb the ladder more swiftly.
Look for internships, job training, volunteer opportunities or side gigs that you can complete at reduced rates to build up your reference list and portfolio. Sometimes career training or experience-building hustles can feel unproductive and fruitless, especially when you’re not exactly making a living out of it, but the right opportunities will always lead to bigger and better things down the road. Just remember that if something isn’t working, you can always switch gears and try another avenue.
Track Your Progress
As with any journey, keep an eye on how far you’ve come along the way. Setbacks and moments of discouragement are inevitable, but when you’re able to visualise your progress, it can give you a slight lift in your spirits and reignite your motivation. Keep track of all the moves you make to see what works and what doesn’t, and keep a dated journal to help you to place your progress along a perceivable timeline.
Tracking your progress can also help you to remember to celebrate the wins along the way–even the smaller ones. It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come while you’re in the thick of progress, but gratitude for your efforts only adds fuel to the fire. When you’re feeling invigorated by your career growth, you’re more likely to remain motivated and ready to achieve your goals.