10 Strategies to Help You Build a Career as a Professional

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A successful career can have different meanings for different individuals. Regardless of what a successful career means to you, setting career success goals can help you achieve consistent professional growth and development and enjoy personal fulfilment with your job. Understanding how to build a successful career and knowing the steps for achieving it can help you accomplish your professional goals and attain recognition in your field. In this article, we discuss what it means to build a successful career and outline steps to help you actualise your career objectives.

What does it mean to successfully build a career?

Knowing how to effectively build a career that's successful is subjective, depending on how an individual measures success in their profession or role. While some people may consider their career a success if it gives them financial freedom, others might equate reaching the highest post in their field to success. Regardless of your criteria for measuring success in your career, achieving your goals can provide job satisfaction and self-actualisation and enhance your confidence to set and accomplish even more ambitious targets in your professional and personal lives.

Related: How to Make a Successful Career Switch

How to build a career in 10 steps

Here are ten steps you can use to build a career in any profession:

1. Identify and set career goals

To build a successful career, it's vital to identify and set career goals. Depending on where you're now in your career journey, brainstorm and think about where you want to be as a professional at a specific time. For example, maybe you're an entry-level accountant. Your career goal might be to become a chartered accountant in the next five years. Or maybe you're a mechanical engineer and hope to become an automation engineer in the next seven years. Identifying and setting career goals gives you a purpose and lets you monitor your progress towards specific outcomes.

Related: Career Planner: Definition and How To Outline Your Career

2. Use the SMART goal-setting method

Once you've identified and set your goals, use the SMART goal-setting method to create and execute your career success plans. SMART means specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Setting specific career goals gives you clarity on the specific results you want to accomplish to build a career. For example, if you want to become a chartered accountant, the body regulating the profession expects you to write qualification exams. The number of exams you write and pass each year allows you to monitor whether you're making progress.

To maintain your motivation to achieve your career goals, it's necessary for the goals to be achievable. For example, some positions require specific years of work experience in a managerial role. It's also important for your goals to be realistic, so assess your current position, resources and credentials so you don't set overly ambitious goals. Set specific deadlines to remain committed to achieving the goals while ensuring other commitments don't suffer.

Read more: SMART Goals: Definition, Template and Examples

3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

To build a successful career, it's essential to assess yourself critically to identify your core strengths and weaknesses. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses can help you determine the specific aspects of your profession where you have natural advantages over other people. This can help you make improved decisions about the roles to apply for to achieve optimal performance and productivity. Knowing how to leverage your core strengths can also help you match your skills to roles and responsibilities, resulting in improved efficiency and a higher level of job satisfaction and results.

This exercise can also help you invest in professional development to improve upon your weaknesses, enhance your ability to deliver positive results and increase your value for your employer. Because of the subjective nature of self-assessments, it's advisable to ask for feedback from colleagues and managers to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Mentors can also provide insights to help you identify your core advantages and leverage them to become a higher performer in your career.

Related: 4 Steps to Emphasise Personal Strengths in an Interview

4. Keep your resume updated

Achieving career success might involve changing jobs when you find suitable opportunities, which makes it important to always have an up-to-date resume. Updating your resume allows you to apply for new roles that better align with your career goals quickly before other people are aware of the opportunity. A current resume can also serve as a record of your work history, credentials and professional achievements.

Read more: Guide on How to Update a Resume in 3 Steps (With Tips)

5. Practise accountability

Holding yourself accountable allows you to assess your actions and thoughts with relative objectivity rather than blame somebody else for your failures. This can give you clarity and help you identify the decisions that led to the outcomes you didn't want. The insights from this exercise can help you develop improved plans, avoid mistakes and enhance future outcomes.

6. Raise your standards consistently

A key factor for achieving career success is to raise your standards consistently. In many professions, people require certain credentials and better results to attain higher positions. To ensure you remain relevant and competitive, it's important to challenge yourself, either by improving your skills through investment in professional development or by developing your ability to achieve managerial objectives. Setting a higher standard for yourself can prevent your skills from becoming obsolete and can also keep you motivated to achieve your career objectives.

Related: 19 Useful Skills to Learn for Your Professional Development

7. Reflect often

Frequently reflecting on your career progress, current circumstances and future options can help you build a successful career. It can help you pay attention to your successes and new opportunities. Pause to reflect frequently enough to make sense of patterns in your professional life and make adjustments if necessary. Consider setting a reminder on your calendar for time periods after which you'd like to reflect on your progress towards your goal, such as on a quarterly or monthly basis.

When reflecting on your career, ask yourself open-ended questions about your career path and stay honest in your responses. If you notice traits or patterns you'd like to change, try setting a SMART goal to address them. You might also develop a specific plan for making progress towards your new goals and objectives.

8. Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness or paying attention to your internal and external state of being can help you build a successful career by developing self-awareness, confidence and a sense of calm. Research mindfulness techniques or consult a mindfulness specialist to learn ways to do so. Notice your responses to certain situations and understand why you respond that way. Consider using these observations to build skills that can help you succeed at work, such as strong communication, foresight and conflict resolution.

9. Network effectively

Many successful careers are the result of strong networking. Use the tools you have available to network effectively, because your connections with other industry professionals can help you grow, make you aware of new and interesting career paths and make your career more enjoyable. Attend industry events to meet colleagues, if possible. Try leveraging social media to connect with others in your field who might live somewhere else. Foster positive relationships by offering support and using your network to find opportunities and ideas.

Read more: A Complete Guide on How to Build a Network (Plus Benefits)

10. Maintain a growth mindset

Growth mindset is a phrase that refers to the belief that you can learn anything if you give enough effort to learning it. Approaching your career with a growth mindset can help you succeed because it increases your ability to persevere when faced with a challenge that you might not know how to solve yet. A growth mindset can also help you develop a successful career by equipping you with the skills you require to continue learning and developing as your industry changes.

Try developing this trait by asking yourself open-ended questions when faced with challenges at work. For example, if you're faced with a task you're unsure how to accomplish, ask yourself how you can learn the skills to solve it rather than if the task can be done.

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