Friday, August 1, 2014

Back to Basics: Tips For Career Success, Emily Ellis, MBA '07

Whether you are gainfully employed or actively seeking employment, there are a few universal tips that will be helpful in putting yourself on the path to success. While the individual details may vary, we can all agree that we are in pursuit of at least one universal goal: to be successful. To be successful in our current careers, in finding a new role, in the pursuit of a completely new career path, or just in finding general, personal fulfillment. Here are a few universal tips that you can apply to pursuing your goals, regardless of what stage you are in.

1.       Know who you are. This seems simple, but have you done an honest self-assessment yet? Write down your strengths, weaknesses, personal and professional values, likes and dislikes, etc. into a document in which you will be the sole reader, allowing you to be completely open and honest. Include your vision for where you see yourself going professionally in the next 5-10 years. What types of roles are you looking to pursue? Do you have the skills for those roles, or are there gaps that you need to address? What kind of growth opportunities do you need to feel successful? What type of work environment do you prefer? When you are done answering these types of questions, you should have a lengthy document that gives you a better picture of what you are looking for. This is the start of your Professional Development Plan. Your path should align with who you are and what’s important to you.

2.      Brand yourself. Know who you are and what you have to offer an employer. You’ve done your self-assessment and, hopefully, have a good handle on the types of roles you want to pursue (whether they be new roles or growth opportunities within your existing company). Craft your resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profile, and any other materials, to reflect your strongest skills and abilities, along with your professional values. You need to succinctly deliver the message to employers about who you are and what you have to offer. This is your brand. Once it’s developed you need to maintain it and continue to promote it. Maintain your credibility by not losing sight of your goals and values.

3.      Keep an open mind. It’s good to have a plan in place and know who you are, but you need to remain flexible. We live in a very dynamic world with ever-changing factors that impact our lives and decisions every day. Your Professional Development Plan is meant to be a living document that you modify and adapt as you gain new information. Consider all possibilities before ruling them out.

4.      Stay positive.  No one wants to work with or hire a negative person. Attitude really can be everything. Have you heard the saying “People won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel”? It’s true. If you are a negative person, you exude it and it can be very apparent the minute you walk through the door. Stay optimistic and be friendly! You are always making an impression on people. Make it a good one.

5.      Take responsibility. Own your role and the outcomes of your actions. Having trouble finding a job? Get turned down for a promotion you were hoping for? Missed a project deadline? Don’t blame others. Every experience is a learning opportunity. What could you have done differently, in retrospect? How can you improve going, forward? Sure others may have been involved in the outcome, but do you have control over them and their actions? You are responsible for your own success. No one is going to define it for you or lead you to it.

6.      Make friends. Get to know people. Find out how you can help them by utilizing your unique knowledge, skills and abilities. The positive attitude mentioned above can really help you with this! Networking is important. You hear it all the time, but it really is invaluable. It can be your key to getting noticed for advancement in your career. Knowing the right people who can speak to your talents and abilities favorably can be the extra leg up you need. Everyone knows something that you don’t. Learn something new from them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and utilize your network in different ways. Create your own personal board of directors to help guide you and act as a sounding board as you make career decisions. Utilize your network to identify contacts that can give you a heads up about upcoming positions opening up at a company you are really interested in working for. Have someone review your resume. We can all help each other in some way. Don’t be afraid to reach out and initiate a connection. Promote your progress!

There is no doubt that the job market can be tough, and it is always easier to look for paths to success while you are still employed. However, I think all of us lose site of the basics at times. We get tired and frustrated of pursuing goals that seem like they may never come to fruition. Don’t be afraid to step back and modify your plan and strategies. Seek outside assistance if you can’t seem to get out of a rut on your own. Maybe you are missing something because you are too close to the situation. Regardless, don’t lose sight of these simple tips for success.

Emily Ellis, MBA '07, is a Higher Education and Career Services professional.  We welcome guest posts on any topic related to career and job search success.  Email Kris at if you'd like to contribute a post.


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