10 Top Tips For Building a Successful Career

Building your career is exciting because it provides an opportunity to shape your life in the way you want. It can also be scary when you do not know what it is that you want to do and when you are not sure how you can make a living. The more you are in charge of your process, the better you will feel. So here are my top 10 tips to help move you forward as you create your career.

1. Know your values

The place to start building career success is with yourself. First, zero in on your values. Values are the core principles that run your life. The more your career aligns with and honors your values, the deeper the sense of satisfaction you will derive from what you do.

2. Play to your strengths

Second, find your strengths. It is easier and a lot more fun to play to your strengths than to compensate for weaknesses. A great resource for identifying your strengths is Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath where you buy the book and then take an on-line assessment which generates a report of your top 5 strengths. Then see how you can start playing to YOUR strengths!

3. Live your passions

Some people are able to live their passions every day. For others, tapping into passions is more challenging. Passions are often buried by belief systems and judgments that convince you that what you love is not worthy of or capable of sustaining you in a career. If that is your situation, think back to those childhood passions and see what it would take to introduce more of those things into your life right now.

4. Use your favorite skill sets

What are you good at doing? A great resource is the 7 Success Stories exercise in Richard Nelson Bolles’ seminal work, What Color Is Your Parachute? Think of the times that you have been successful and then zero in on the specific steps that you took to get there. These will tell you your best skills. Now pick your favorite skills and see how you can apply them in your career.

5. Figure out how much money you need to make

For anyone entering the job market or thinking about a career switch, take a long hard look at your finances. Do a budget. Decide on what kind of lifestyle is really important to you. Then think about how much money you need to make to support yourself in that lifestyle.

6. Have a plan

Once you have answered all of the foregoing questions, do some research into different career scenarios that combine your values, strengths, passions and favorite skills sets AND provide you with the money that you need to make. Imagine yourself in those careers. What will you be doing all day? Whom will you be working with? What do you want to accomplish? Then go out and find out more about these areas. Make a long-range plan for your career search and set quarterly, monthly and weekly SMART goals.

7. Stay flexible

There are probably a number of different areas that you could see yourself working in. Experiment and see what you like best! Volunteer at a local non-profit. Join a committee. Take a class.

Do you need additional skills? Take a course or go for another degree.

Do you need another job or two before you are ready for your ideal job? That’s okay since you are moving in the right direction!

8. Network

Here’s the real secret of career building: the best jobs come up because someone who knows you thinks that you would be the right person for the job. So networking is a critical piece of career success. Yet many people are afraid to network, thinking that it is somehow impolite to ask others for help. Even worse, they way wonder why would anyone want to spend time with someone new to the field.

And here’s another insight: networking does not have to be scary. Think of networking as connecting with another person so that the two of you are in sync and are relevant to each other. Yes, you have something to contribute! People are always looking for talent and those big executives/stars were once beginners just like you.

9. Get support

Seek out people who understand your situation or are a positive influence. Join a support group or create your own with like-minded friends. Hire a coach. Form your own personal board of directors. This is not the time to be with naysayers!

10. Be good to yourself

Building a career can be tricky so be good to yourself. Create a nourishment menu of fun, free things to do that make you feel great. Keep a success journal documenting all the things that you do well. If negative self-talk is holding you back, come up with a mantra or affirmation that can remind you of yourself at your best. Make these practices a habit throughout your life!

(C) Astrid Baumgardner 2010




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Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success.  In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and  Personal Branding and Networking.  She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.