There’s a significant difference between having a job and having a career. Jobs are important: they help people meet their financial needs and can provide critical benefits that empower a person to live well. But a career is something bigger. A career is a long-term employment path that not only provides workers with financial support, but can also fulfill them creatively and intellectually while creating a sense of purpose in their lives. A person might have many jobs throughout one career.
Here are six helpful tips to build a career you love:
Successful careers do not happen by accident. They take focused, intentional, daily effort and long-term planning, so it’s important for you to commit to crafting your dream career, even when the going gets rough. Every worthwhile endeavor has obstacles to overcome - and your career is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. One key to this approach is keeping a designated and organized workspace. Having a cluttered desk (or worse, having no designated workspace at all) is distracting and can create a sense of overwhelm, which will prevent you from focusing on your daily tasks. Keeping a regular schedule and giving yourself time and space to succeed are also critical to success. In her 2013 book, “What the Most Successful People Do at Work,” Laura Vanderkam explains that every day is lived by the hour, and each hour accumulates to create success. So keep that in mind and make sure that you are using each hour and each day to the fullest.
Learn from the Past
Think back to past experiences that made you happy, fulfilled, and confident. These can be work experiences, volunteer opportunities, or community activities - whatever feels formative and significant from your background. Consider what about those experiences impacted you in a positive way - and just as importantly, think about other experiences that had more negative impacts on your confidence and personal fulfillment. By understanding your history, both positive and negative experiences, mistakes and successes, you can start to understand what a fulfilling and empowering future might look like for you.
Know Your Strengths
Consider what you’re naturally good at, and what you love to do. By crafting a career based around your strengths, you increase both your chances of success and your chances of enjoying what you do. This does not mean that you should ignore things that are difficult for you, but simply that reflecting on your strengths is a good starting place for considering what you might want to spend your career doing. We spend a significant amount of our lives at work, and it’s important for our overall well-being that we can look forward to that time. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For example, if you’re great at math and love art, consider looking into graphic design or drafting careers, which combine elements of those passions.
Seek Out Challenges
As mentioned, challenges are a necessary and positive part of career development. We live in a rapidly changing world, and there are always new technologies and strategies to learn to stay up to date and competitive in the market. Consider taking online classes, attending a local seminar, or simply asking for opportunities to take on challenges that are out of your comfort zone. For example: if you’re worried that you’re not a strong public speaker, you might consider volunteering to lead a meeting and get in some practice. Learning new things and practicing new skills builds confidence, and it increases the amount of value you can bring to an employer.
Find a Mentor
John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island.” This is especially true in business. We cannot maximize our growth without help, but luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help you learn from the experts who inspire you. This might be someone you work with who has a career you admire - a mentor you know personally whom you can meet with at regular intervals to discuss your short-term projects and long-term goals. There are community-based professional networking organizations that can introduce you to a broader network of professionals in your area, and you can also reach out to people you admire on social networking sites like LinkedIn. Even exchanging occasional messages with someone for advice can help you stay on the right path and guide you through a successful career.
Don’t Rush Yourself
You don’t have to figure out your entire long-term career path today. It takes time! In a world that places an emphasis on instant gratification, patience can be hard to practice when it comes to your career. It’s easy to feel as though things aren’t moving quickly enough, or as though someone else’s career is surging ahead much more quickly. Just remember: this is your career path, not anyone else’s. No two careers look exactly the same, nor should they. Don’t rush yourself. Slow down, embrace failures as learning opportunities, celebrate successes, and continue to take steps every day to ensure that when opportunities arise, you are prepared to seize them.
Your career is an important part of your life, and you deserve to have one that challenges you, fulfills you, and meets your needs. It’s not always easy, and building a long-term career takes hard work and sacrifice, but these six tips can help you build a lasting career that you love.