A SMART Guide: How to Find, Further, or Change the Career of Your Choice

By David S. Chang

In today’s business world, it is important that you manage and take of your own careers. It may seem daunting at first but it isn’t as difficult as it seems. The key is to be so good that they can’t ignore you. In other words, you need to be an invaluable asset and focus on improving the company.

The key is to be so good that they can’t ignore you. 

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However, don’t assume you will get a promotion just because you have spent a certain amount of time in a position or have the knowledge, skillset, and intelligence. There is more to just having the right knowledge. Whether you are a young professional starting out in your chosen career, looking to advance in your current one, or at a career crossroads and looking to change your career, here are some SMART strategies to use.

The career path you choose has enormous implications for your life and future happiness. It affects your income bracket, how much free time you’ll have available to spend with friends and family, how stimulated you are on a daily basis, and how much room for creativity you will have. 


Understand that Some Careers Can Be Stepping Stones to Others

Most of us first encounter the question of ‘what you should do with your life’ at a young age. But few in the early stages of their life are equipped to make a choice with such profound consequences. Why? Because who truly knows themselves at the age of seventeen? Hardly anyone.

If you chose a career that either never suited you, or you have grown out of, don’t be down on yourself. Many people who have the courage to change careers midway through their working lives end up more satisfied than ever before.

Some people even make the change in their fifties and never look back! This doesn’t mean to jump ship at any potential opportunity, but if the right one comes up, try to think of the career move as a necessary swerve in your journey that will allow you to get where you actually want to be.


Learn to Embrace Transitions

Changing from one career into another or even being promoted into a new position can be really tricky. You’re essentially going from an experienced role in one field to an entry-level role in another, and you may not have the training and experience required to break into this new industry or a new aspect of your company.

The military is a good example: many people decide after a few years that military life has served them well but are ready for the next challenge. The two worlds are different and can be hard to reconcile. But you needn’t make this transition alone. A military transition program can help you out your strengths to work and enter the civilian job market.

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Know Yourself

If you’re thinking about changing careers, the question you should be asking yourself is, “who am I?” Many of us get caught up in the question of what job we should be doing before we really know what makes us tick, what motivates us, and what type of work is our true calling.

But how do you get to know yourself? Sometimes it takes life experience, or a conscious soul-searching effort to uncover the parts of yourself that will motivate you and inspire you in your working life. Taking personality tests can also help you gain better self-awareness. Once you have a strong sense of what matters to you, you’ll be in a much better position in deciding what track you’d like to take.


Discover Your Strengths

If you’re in a job that doesn’t utilize your true strengths, your motivation and performance will be hindered, and so will your long-term career prospects. On the other hand, when the work you do lines up with your interests and talents, you’ll have access to a well-spring of skill and virtuosity that will help you approach your work with a sense of purpose. It’s important to note that strengths aren’t necessarily things you enjoy doing.

For example, you might love drawing, but that doesn’t mean you’re the next Picasso and should get a job in graphic design. On the other hand, while you might not absolutely love mathematics, but you could have a seriously maths-oriented brain. In this case, maths ability is your strength, and you may benefit from finding a job that draws on this innate ability in a way that is enjoyable for you.


Ask Other People What You’re Good At

When it comes to recognizing strengths, you may not be the person who is best placed to notice what you’re excellent at. Other people who know you well, or who have had a chance to see you in challenging situations, maybe better at describing your strengths than you are. For example, if you’re regularly complimented on your people skills, language ability, or attention to detail, it’s worth taking note of these observations.

You could approach this intelligence-gathering project informally, or you could take the more direct step of requesting that your former boss or colleague spend a moment or two reflecting on what they perceive to be your strengths. Advise them that you would really value their honesty, rather than flattery, as obtaining accurate information at this crucial stage will help you in your future career.


Try New Things

One challenge when it comes to identifying your strengths is that you may not have had the experience required to know for certain what you are good at. If your previous role has kept you on a narrow track, there could be loads of things out there that you would excel at if you’d ever had the chance to try your hand at them. For example, how do you know if you’re talented at problem-solving if you’re always worked in a job in which you had no freedom to make decisions and solve problems for yourself?

One of the best ways to find out what you’re good at is to seek out new experiences in the working world. Whether its an internship, an assistant position, or a volunteer opportunity, work experience is a great way to test yourself in new environments and situations.

Whether you’re sick of your old role, or simply need new challenges, changing careers can be daunting. These tips will help you work out which direction will take you into a career that will suit your future goals. Once you know what track you want to take, the next step is to equip yourself to succeed in your work! These steps below will help.


Be Clear About Your Career Goals

Your career goals are key to your success. This will help you create a promotion and career progression plan. When you clearly know what you want to aim for, you can focus properly on achieving those milestones.

This doesn’t mean you have to have a certain position in mind. In fact, specific positions can be very difficult to achieve and may change over time. Instead, try to make your goals based on the type of responsibilities you enjoy and are fulfilling. Instead of being CFO of a specific Fortune 500 company, aim instead to be head of finances.

This alleviates the stress of trying to achieve promotion within a specific company. It also gives you more flexibility to pursue a future career you enjoy. You don’t want to trap yourself into a specific position when another line of work may be better for you.

It is also important to reassess your career goals frequently. As you gain more experience, your values and desires may change and the goals you set when you were younger may no longer be relevant. If you need to adjust your career path, choosing new goals will help you stay focused on what is important and not waste valuable time and resources.

Once you know your career goals and have mapped out your promotion plan, it is important to delineate your long-term and short-term goals and set proper milestones.

1.    Create Long-Term Goals

Long term goals are great at keeping our efforts directed. By making both personal and professional long term goals, you can give your life the direction and purpose you need to lead a fulfilling life. You can’t achieve your long-term goals however without creating actionable steps to help you move forward.

2.    Create Steps or Short-Term Goals

To help you along your way, you will need to try to create short-term goals that will help you achieve your dreams. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Your long-term goals may seem difficult or impossible to achieve. Breaking it down into smaller steps makes it more manageable.

While your long-term goals may not change, your short-term goals will. Be flexible with your short-term goals, be humble and excited to learn. You may find another way to reach your goals. You have no control over tomorrow, just over today.


Determine The Qualifications That You Need

Look at the overall type of position and level of responsibility that you want to have. Then determine the type of qualifications you need. See if your company offers courses or training that will help you gain the qualifications you need.

If not, you can look for online courses, take classes at a local university or community college, or get a mentor that can train you. Look for ways to continue your education, continually improve your skillset and knowledge base. From gaining a degree to simply attending a conference or workshop – there are plenty of ways to learn more, network better, and make progress in your life.

1.    University/College

Some positions require a higher degree. This will take time and resources. Thankfully, online degrees are available and you can get the best education from an accredited educational institution from home. You could, for example, achieve an online master’s in engineering management from Kettering University Online if your career path requires an engineering degree.

Those with graduate degrees such as an MBA can expect to earn over $100k right after graduation. Studies show that those with a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees earn more throughout their careers.

2.    Night Courses

Night courses are great for updating or expanding your knowledge. You can usually take these courses for accreditation at a local college or university. They can be towards a degree or just to brush up on a topic. They can help you keep your expertise sharp and learning something new can be valuable in helping you expand your skillsets.

3.    Workshops/Conferences/Events

For a more career-directed approach, keep an eye out for conferences or events in your industry. These conferences may be critical to staying atop the industry you are in and continue developing your contacts and network.

4.    Books

Always read. If you spend time driving to and from work, listen to audio-books. Reading improves your communication skills, improves your knowledge, and boosts your brainpower. Countless studies show that reading is crucial to success. Whatever you do, try to make reading a daily habit.

5.    Podcasts

Listen to podcasts are another way to gain knowledge. Many experts, professionals, and authors go in-depth and discuss a wide variety of topics. You can pick up new ideas, know the trends of your industry, and also have an audio accompaniment to entertain you on your commutes.

6.    News

Paying attention to the news can help you direct your company based on current events. If you are in marketing, for example, your team can be on top of any disasters that may impact your industry and customers. This will help you respond accordingly. If you are an accountant then you need to be on top of changes in rules and regulations. The news can also help you understand current trends to help grow the company.

Putting Your Qualifications to Action

Having the correct qualifications is important. It may not however necessarily mean that it will guarantee a promotion. It is important that you follow these strategies to help you plan your career and take proactive steps to put you in the best position for your career.

David S. Chang

Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Wealth Manager and CEO | Chief Editor, Author, Keynote Speaker, Consultant ArtofThinkingSmart.com | Political Consultant | Army Officer National Guard | Living To Fulfill Needs, Solve Problems, and Live Passionately!

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