Whether just entering the work force or attempting to re-enter, there are several key components of success that you should take into account. Three of these will be familiar to the traveler. When planning a trip, you must know at least the following: the destination, the starting point, and the path to be taken.
A life journey such as your working career or vocation requires similar information. You must be clear on your destination, your starting point, and the path you'll take.
If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there. ~ unknown
Visualize Career Success
Though career success is more journey than destination, it is helpful to reflect on success as a place to reach, and allow for revisions as one's career progresses. What will a successful career look like? Most successful people view their work as a vocation or calling, rather than a job. What might your vocation be?
One approach to visualizing the future is to have an internal discussion with your future self. Imagine being successful and having a heart-to-heart discussion with the current you. Listen as the future you describes obstacles overcome and hints learned along the way.
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There is no success but your own success. ~Leslie Grimutter
Listen carefully as your future self describes success. Be attuned to the emotions of the future you. Success is a range of feelings: satisfaction, fulfillment, meaning, and happiness with the way things are. No one can define or describe success for you. It is for you alone to define.
The Starting Point: Qualifications
The next step is to fully understand where you are now. What are your qualifications? Qualifications include degrees, certifications, demonstrated experience, and achievements. Though your achievements were made under specific circumstances and applied to particular situations, broaden them to project how they might have more general application.
For example, a successful college project to analyze trends in the entertainment industry can be broadened to describe your skill at data analysis, statistics, and research. Perhaps you also showed imagination, creativity, and insight in the conclusions and recommendations reached.
Paths to Success
Now that you've envisioned what your success looks like–your destination–and you've updated your qualifications–your starting point–you can take a first cut at your path. It's important to recognize that many paths can build on your qualifications and lead you to your vision of success. This is because success is more a set of feelings about your path and achievements than it is about specific things you do or positions you hold.
This next step in career success planning is to identify viable paths that might be available to you based on your qualifications and which offer the potential of supporting your career vision.
Job Boards and Newspaper Ads
When looking for employment, it's tempting to focus entirely on the popular Internet boards and local newspaper classified ads. Remember though, that you're looking for more than a job, you're looking for a successful career. Use posted jobs as a resource for the various kinds of work that require your qualifications. For example, your research and analysis skills might be specified as requirements for a wide array of positions. Note the industries and job classifications.
Your network of connections is an excellent resource. They may not be able to provide you with employment, but it's likely they will have knowledge of various kinds of work. What you're after is not necessarily an available job, but information about work in their areas of experience. Ask them to describe the characteristics of successful people in their line of work. Compare the success characteristics with your vision of success, looking for matches and alignment.
Most cities have networking groups that meet at local coffee shops or other informal, convenient locations for group discussions. These groups are formed for the specific purpose of connecting people, and usually represent a wide array of occupations. Use these connections as extensions of your personal network to further identify occupations that provide success opportunities in alignment with your vision.
The First Three Keys to Success
The three initial keys to a successful career are: having a vision of what success means to you, clearly understanding your qualifications and experience, and identifying a set of paths that build on your qualifications and can lead to your success. There are several more important keys to career success, which are covered in The Foundations of Career Success.