Career success is important. Whether you are searching for a job, desiring a promotion, or working in a job you have had for years, you want to be successful. No one wants to be miserable in their career, be underemployed, or forever searching for a new job.

What is Career Success?

We all know the person who seems to have it all, a great job, good pay, lovely things, and yet they are unhappy and always complaining. They have not found career success. They are accomplished in what they do but not happy with their choices. So what is career success? According to an article on Forbes, career success is a combination of achieving a reasonable level of financial stability while doing work you enjoy and then finding that you are also happy and fulfilled with your life and career choices as well.

Keys to Career Success

Below are ten things we feel are vital to making your professional future and life a lot easier and more successful:

1. Know how to explain ‘what you do’.

Refining your elevator pitch does take practice. It may have changed throughout your career. Spend time thinking about this. It isn’t a cookie-cutter type thing. Everyone’s elevator pitch should be personal. Be so good at explaining what you do that those who hear it will never forget it.

2. Know your career non-negotiables.

Be honest with yourself about what you need out of a career, make a list, and don’t waste your time on jobs that don’t line up. If certain things really matter, don’t take a job that doesn’t serve you. Often, we are in a hurry to find a job or move up the ladder; we take a job that will limit our happiness because it goes against what we deem important. For example, you want to be home in the evenings to spend time with your children, but you take a job requiring several evening meetings per week. It won’t be long till you are feeling frustrated with this job.

Another example is that you desire to have a job requiring some travel, but you take a position that requires you to be in the same office every day with no chance of travel. Or you want to work for a company that supports something you believe in, yet you take a job whose policies do not line up with your beliefs. All these will hurt your success.

Know your non-negotiables and stick with them. You will be much happier in the end.

3. Jump off a cliff every once in a while.

Push your boundaries, get out of your comfort zone, and do something that terrifies you at least once in the early stages of your career and every so often as the years go by. It is so easy to get comfy and go through the motions and never challenge yourself. Sometimes we need to shake things up and try new things. You don’t have to be in a new job to shake things up. Look for opportunities in your current position to challenge yourself, take on something new, etc.

4. Learn how to take criticism.

It is important to take criticism seriously and not personally. Knowing where you are not meeting expectations will allow you room to grow professionally. This is a big one. Learn from your mistakes. No one is perfect; if you use constructive criticism to improve and grow, it will contribute to your success. Ask for feedback, use it constructively, and it will carry you to new heights in your career.

Lear to say NO for Career Success5. Learn to say No. 

Sometimes this can be the hardest word to say to your boss. Knowing when and how to use this word when it is necessary may save your sanity. This is especially important if you have a boss who piles things on and doesn’t realize the time component involved. A great example of this would be when a boss tells someone who works with technology they want this and this and this done. The boss only sees the end product and has no clue how long each project takes to complete or the steps involved. As an employee, you might have to say, I’m working on this and this and this, and I can’t take on another new thing till at least one of these is completed. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Or ask the boss to prioritize all the projects he has assigned to you. That way, he can determine which you should spend your time. Sometimes when they see the list in black and white, they are surprised with how much they have assigned and are willing to take an item or two off your plate and give to someone else, or at minimum tell you which are low on their priority list so you can work on the items that will make you look like a hero.

I also need to point out that learning to say NO will come in handy not only with career success but with life in general. Learning to say NO reduces stress.

6. Know how to negotiate.

In most cases, this is the only way you will get what you deserve and want. Negotiation skills are valuable for your long term career and future happiness. Just a word of caution…don’t expect to get everything you want. Negotiation is give and take. I refer back to know your non-negotiables and make sure you remember and fight those things when you negotiate.

7. Find a to-do list system that works for you.

Whether you need 30 post-it notes or a list synced on all your devices, learn to manage your workflow. Trello, Asana, and Slack are all programs that can help with your to-do list. Not only are they helpful for you, but if you have a team, it helps to keep everyone on the same page and organized. Whether you use a paper tablet with a list or an online program, just be sure you prioritize items on the list, so you get the most important things done first.

8. Know when you are the most productive.

Use your energy levels to your advantage. Don’t spend your peak mental hours on wasteful things. This is so important. If you are the most productive first thing in the morning, then do your hard work, which takes concentration at that time. Save checking email or returning calls for a later time. To do this, you may have to tell yourself NO for a while till you get into a new routine, but once you see how much more productive you can be, you will realize it is worth making the change.

9. Know how to manage stress.

Stress can ruin your life if you don’t cope with it. Learn what helps you de-stress and make it part of your routine. Everyone handles stress differently. Some exercise, some spend time in nature, some meditate, take relaxing baths, read books, etc. Find what works to reduce your stress, and then make an appointment with yourself to follow through on these items on a routine basis. Reducing stress helps make you more successful, more fun to be around, and helps you to live longer.

10. Make a career emergency plan.

What would you do if you got laid off tomorrow? Instead of panicking, get started on an action plan. During the past seven months, many of us have dealt with layoffs we never expected. Many people have started new businesses, freelance work, or hunting jobs in different fields. Having an emergency career plan with several options is always smart. When something happens, you know what steps you need to take to implement your plan. Without a career emergency plan, it may take months till you figure out what to do next. Create a career emergency plan and revisit it every year, so it is up to date and ready in case you need it.

Do You Need Career Search Help?

If you need help updating your resume, practicing for an interview, or organizing your job search information during these challenging times, consider reaching out to Rachel Schneider at Career Find to assist you.