Entering the professional workforce can be an intimidating time for many people, especially those who choose to go into a competitive field or industry. That being said, regardless of the industry in which you choose to work, there is always going to be a degree of competition for the top positions.
With so much competition out there, those who are just getting started in their careers might well be wondering what the best ways to distinguish themselves in a positive light are. It takes much more than a well-written resume and a baseline education to get ahead professionally. Depending on what sort of career you plan to pursue, you might need to take definitive steps towards preparing yourself for future success.
As with most things, one of the keys to finding professional success lies in your ability to lay a solid foundation for your career. This means putting in the work at the front end of your career to acquire as many relevant skills and expand your knowledge as much as possible, among other things.
You should know that properly laying a foundation for your career is something that will take some time. However, if you are willing and able to make the necessary investments in your professional development, you can find yourself enjoying a successful career of your choosing.
With that in mind, here are five things that you should look to do if your goal is to lay a solid foundation for a successful career.
- Educate Yourself
Once you decide where your professional passions are and what sort of career you would like to build for yourself, it is important to earn the right level of education for the job. Some industries require those who work in them to hold a higher level of education, while others might only require you to earn an undergraduate degree.
You might find yourself in a scenario where you earn your undergraduate degree, spend a few years gaining practical work experience in an entry-level position, and then enroll in a graduate degree program. If this is going to be the rough roadmap of your education, you should take care not to lose steam when it comes to your motivation.
One way in which you can make the graduate education aspect of your professional development easier on yourself is to earn your degree online. Institutions like Saint Bonaventure University offer online degree programs that allow you to earn your degree at a pace that suits you.
It also isn’t unheard of for certain types of professionals to find success without a university degree. However, just because you might not need to attend college in order to become a successful candidate in the field of your choosing, that doesn’t mean you don’t need any education at all.
No matter what you decide to do with your career, you will at the very least need to acquire certain training. Whether that is training, you will do ahead of time or that which is done on the job, you need to make yourself aware of what that training will entail and dedicate yourself to it fully.
Not all education takes place in the classroom. By committing yourself entirely to the education process, regardless of what it might entail, you will be able to lay a more solid foundation for your future career.
- Set Achievable Goals Early On
If you are going to successfully lay a foundation for your future career, you need to know what sort of accomplishments you would like to achieve throughout that career. If, for example, breaking into the career of your choice requires you to land an internship of some sort at the start, that should be the goal towards which all of your efforts are focused.
If there are certain skills that are required for you to be successful in your chosen field, you should set goals that pertain to acquiring those skills. Bear in mind the fact that your goals should change and develop as your career progresses.
Even though it is important to have long-term goals, those looking to lay a solid foundation for future success should be able to achieve short-term goals as they go along. This is because taking smaller steps along the way as opposed to looking at a potential career in its entirety allows you to focus on those things that you can do in the moment to develop professionally and advance your career.
The sooner you are able to get into the habit of setting these goals, the better off you will be. Think of each goal as a stepping stone to your future success. Once you complete one step, it is time to identify the logical next one to take.
- Become a Perpetual Learner
Those who are truly dedicated to finding success in their careers understand just how important it is to adopt a personal philosophy of continual learning. Bear in mind that just because you have graduated from a degree program doesn’t mean your educational process has ended.
There are some industries that are in a constant state of development. However, even if you aren’t in such an industry, there are still going to be changes and advancements in the one you do work in. They just simply might not be happening at as fast a pace. Regardless, understanding just how important it is for you to stay current with developments in your industry as and when they take place is an important piece of the puzzle when laying a solid foundation for a successful career.
Ways in which you can continue to learn throughout your career will vary depending upon the career path you choose. Networking events, professional development training, and mentorships can all contribute to your ability to learn throughout the course of your career.
It is also a good idea to simply become as observant as possible to those around you. You might have a coworker or two who are more proficient at a certain aspect of a job than you are. Instead of looking at this as a competitive disadvantage, consider it an opportunity to observe and learn from others while you are on the job.
- Face Your Weaknesses
Accepting your professional shortcomings can be a difficult thing to do. However, if you hope to find success in your future career, ignoring your weaknesses is simply not an option. Rather, you need to have the humility and maturity to face them and address them as best you can.
Sometimes, one’s professional weaknesses aren’t always obvious. It is a good idea to become comfortable with the concept of asking for constructive feedback about your work performance. If you have a mentor, then they would be an ideal individual to go to for honest feedback. If not, you should look to your manager or direct superior for such professional feedback.
Going to your boss or manager for feedback can have an additional added benefit as well. Such an action demonstrates to those above you that you are ready and willing to acknowledge your shortcomings and work to correct them. This sort of initiative is what most managers look for in those to whom advancement opportunities are given.
These opportunities might not become available overnight, but by placing yourself on your manager’s radar in this way, you can help to build the idea in their mind that you are the sort of employee who will go above and beyond in order to acquire the necessary skills to do the job properly.
- Get Networking
So much about advancing a career these days is about who you know. While this isn’t everything, networking and building professional relationships are a big part of building a successful career for yourself.
Being able to connect with people on a professional level demonstrates many positive qualities, such as communicating well and acting as a team player. These are characteristics that many hiring managers look for in potential employees and that candidates for advancement tend to possess.
If you aren’t sure where to begin with your networking efforts, you can always start with the online resources that are available to you. Don’t underestimate just how powerful a tool social media can be when it comes to building your professional network. You can easily add others who work in your industry and join groups that help facilitate professional relationships.
Before you jump to any of these points, though, take the time to tidy up your social media profiles and ensure that they are giving off the right impression. You want to demonstrate professionalism on your social media pages, so remove any posts and photos that might be construed as offensive or unprofessional.
Other opportunities to the network might be available through your place of employment or your school if you are still earning your degree. Attend any networking events that are open to you and start making those valuable professional connections as soon as possible.