Creating long-term success in your career should start the moment you enter the workforce, and possibly even before. Even if you’re just starting out in the workforce at a low-level position outside of where you’re planning to end up, you need to already start working on creating future success for yourself.
How to create success
Creating success requires you to be aware of two things: where you are currently, and where you want to be. This sounds simple but it is easier than you might think to lose track of what you’re doing, and just let the days start sliding by while you continue in your safe routine without actually knowing where you are and what you’re doing. To stop this from happening, you should start tracking your time. I like to use apps such as Google Calendar and NoteEverything for auditing my time. However, even a small pocket notepad and pencil will work just fine.
Once you’ve started thoroughly tracking what you spend time on every day, you can see where you actually are. You might be surprised to find out that it wasn’t where you thought you were at all – or a place you want to be. Next, assign a value to your time based on what you think you could be making at your current experience/skill level. Assigning a monetary value to your time is a great method for determining how much the things you’re spending your time on actually mean to you. For example, if you decide your time is worth $20 based on what you could realistically make at your current experience level, and you know that you’re spending two hours per day watching TV, you then know that your TV habit is something that you’re spending $40/day to do. Added up over a year, that works out to $14,600 spent on TV.
I use the TV example because statistics show that the average American spends nearly 3 hours per day watching TV, but tracking your time thoroughly will also tell you all of the other areas that you’re spending your time (money) on.
Along with tracking and auditing your time, you can further understand and stay on top of where you are in your career by asking yourself every day what experience or skills you gained in your current role. Too many people think of their job as a money-making exercise, and while it’s true that the primary purpose of every job is to make money, there are many other benefits that you need to consider if you want to create long-term success in your career.
Where are you going?
Every position in your career should be considered a rung in the ladder that you need to use to climb higher. This is where it becomes important to set both short and long-term goals for yourself. For example:
Where do I want to be in one year?
Where do I want to be in five years?
Where do I want to be in ten years?
I don’t recommend setting goals shorter than one year or longer than ten years. It’s impossible to accurately gauge where you could be in ten years because life is a complex thing with many twists and turns. Similarly, thinking about a goal less than one year away doesn’t actually allow you enough breathing room to achieve that goal. Setting goals without enough time to realize them will encourage you to consistently make decisions that benefit you in the short term while harming your long-term ambitions.
It’s always a smart plan to write down your goals in a notebook for app so that you can check back on them later and see how you’re doing. Furthermore, writing out your goals will help set them more concretely in your mind to help give yourself that extra push you need to attain them.
How to change
Now that you have a thorough understanding of where you’re spending your time, what skills you’re learning every day, and where you want your career to go, you can start making changes to help you get there. These changes might simply mean adjusting your attitude in your current job. One of the most common mistakes I see young people make is failing to take every bit of value they can from even the simplest and most menial of jobs. If you’re making minimum wage working the counter at McDonalds, you can still be obtaining valuable skills that will help you get into a better position. For example, learn to smile when people come up to you – yes, it sounds simple and obvious, but learning to smile and be friendly is a skill you’ll use at every point in your career.
- If you can’t make an interviewer like you, they aren’t going to hire you in that new job you want
- If you can’t make a customer like you, they aren’t going to buy your product
- If you can’t make your bosses like you, they aren’t going to give you a promotion or a pay raise
Next, understand as much as you can about your company and why it operates the way it does. Continuing with the McDonald’s example, is there a reason the kitchen is set up the way it is or why the there are multiple drive-thru windows instead of only one?
Once you’ve learned absolutely everything you can in your current role, you can make a decision about whether to ask for a promotion or find another job where you can earn more money and learn new skills. If you ask for a promotion and don’t get it, that’s okay. Rejection is something you need to become comfortable with and you can do that by opening yourself up to other options. If you don’t get that promotion, don’t be afraid to ask why – then work on fixing the issues that held you back either by improving how you do your current job, or by looking for a new job if it’s not possible to improve where you’re at.
The best thing about asking for a promotion – even if you get rejected – is that your boss will know you’re hungry for more. That tells him maybe he needs to spend more time training and working with you so that you’re ready the next time a promotion opportunity arises. It also tells him you’re not just there for a paycheck, you’re there to expand your career and get better at what you do.
Build your network
Now that you’ve got the basics covered and you’re consistently working on getting better every day, you need to start building a network of other people who can be there to help you throughout your career. 70% of job opportunities come through word of mouth. That means you’re missing out on 70% of your career potential if you aren’t regularly talking to and engaging with other professionals. Start with your colleagues in your current workplace, then build out from there by chatting with former classmates, friends on Facebook, and your neighbors. These are all people who can tell you about job opportunities, invest in future businesses, or provide advice if you’re not sure how to do something. Most importantly, don’t forget to create a professional LinkedIn profile and use it regularly for building your network. With over 50 million employers on LinkedIn, it’s a great resource for connecting with others and finding new career opportunities.
Finally, don’t be afraid to build your career with the help of professional services who can assist with your resume, cover letter, social media, and other tools to help you get more job offers.