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Build a Career Plan that Drives for the Best Results in 5 Easy Steps

Build a Career Plan that Drives for the Best Results in 5 Easy Steps

The future of employment is right around the corner and about to rear its ugly head to an already floundering middle class. It’s real and it’s starting to happen right now. Here’s the inside scoop on what growing employers really want from their candidates and employees, and how to create a career plan that fits.

For job seekers, today’s new normal economy calls for a strategic, multifaceted approach. Whether you are a janitor, administrative assistant, general laborer, accountant, or sales representative, taking your career to the next level begins with you. Employers don’t want do-it-all generalists; they want top performers who specialize in one field and have systematically built in-demand skill sets that make them masters of their craft. And they’re no longer looking for bodies to fill a seat and perform a function. They want an innovative, forward-thinking person they can call their partner. By being proactive and taking the initiative to speak up for your professional future, you are giving potential employers exactly what they are looking for: accountability.

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Most job seekers I interview have the same goal in mind: to secure a position in a company culture that brings them joy, presents new challenges, and offers opportunities for career mobility and salary enhancement. But there’s one factor missing: they have no idea how to make a career plan that leads to happiness. Left feeling stuck in their crappy job situation, working professionals often turn to their inner circle of influence (family, friends, mentors, and colleagues). They tap everyone around them for career support and neglect the one person who holds all the cards: themselves.

1. Treat your career like a business and yourself as its owner

An overwhelming majority of the candidates who walk through my door believe that an invisible force is guiding their future—the economy, their current boss, the tooth fairy, whatever. But my team’s extensive research tells us that it’s just not that complicated. The most successful people (physically, mentally, and monetarily) are those who recognize that it’s up to them to decide their fate. These people also approach each new position as an opportunity to add to their skill set in a way their previous position couldn’t. And they’re constantly evolving professionally in order to establish a well-rounded background. If you drop the self-sabotaging mindset that you work for “the man,” and realize that the choices you make guide your professional development, it can be incredibly empowering.

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2. Identify an in-demand specialty that aligns with your skill set and background

Although they’re undoubtedly well-intentioned, your friends, relatives, and colleagues aren’t expert career advisors. Too many people choose occupational choices based on outdated and limited viewpoints. “It’s the family business and I sort of just fell into it,” or “I went to law school because my parents wanted me to” are common excuses I hear all the time. Not enough professionals take the time to explore their options and find out what type of work makes them happy. Or they’re hesitant to follow their dreams because they were taught to think traditionally. Step out of your inner circle and research in-demand jobs that align with your skills. Take advantage of career assessments, which never fail to provide some much-needed perspective.

3. Choose educational/training opportunities that support your career goals

Because traditional higher education is a big promoter of stereotypical high-paying jobs that have been around for ages—medicine, law, finance, engineering, teaching—many budding minds miss out on new positions in emerging technologies and marketing, for example. So many positions go unfilled due to a lack of awareness, which is a shame since job creation is soaring. For those of you already working, be sure to keep your skills sharp both inside and outside of work. Very few companies that offer optional training programs have a healthy number employees who actually take advantage of them.

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4. Build a marketable, online professional brand

It goes without saying that your professional brand plays a significant role in your current and future success. Employers aren’t relying solely on resumes and cover letters to fill their next role. They want to get to know their candidates on every level possible. At the very least, candidates must create, optimize, and maintain a LinkedIn profile. But, make no mistake, I don’t support the “build it and leave it” approach. Keep active by sharing growing trends in your field, contributing to group conversations, and connecting with thought leaders you admire. Not only does it demonstrate your expertise and show that you’re not letting your skills soften, it also shows you’re tech-savvy and ambitious—traits employers look for in a new recruit. Not to mention the fact that the professional exposure is in itself worth it.

5. Map out a blueprint for achieving short-term and long-term goals

If you don’t know what your ultimate dream job is, that’s ok. That doesn’t mean you can’t accept positions strategically. The key here is to amass a variety of experiences that build upon each other. Staying at one job in one capacity is no longer a sustainable career plan. If you’ve spent some quality time working for a large corporation, try a smaller company. No matter your career situation or experience level, it’s important to have a written professional plan you can commit to.

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Featured photo credit: Black coffee in a white cup on a table with a computer. via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on October 18, 2018

10 Key Characteristics of a Highly Successful Entrepreneur

10 Key Characteristics of a Highly Successful Entrepreneur

When it comes to starting your own business and pursuing your dream of becoming an entrepreneur, it can be advantageous to go all in and embrace the flexibility of finally quitting your day job.

Keep in mind, though, that it takes a special kind of person to take the business world by storm: a person who has cultivated the key characteristics of entrepreneurial success.

People with these characteristics are likely to succeed, whereas people without them have difficulty moving forward with even the most brilliant business ideas.

These characteristics of an entrepreneur are so important that I’ve decided to cover all 10 of them in detail so that you can start your business with your best foot forward.

1. Successful Entrepreneurs Practice Discipline

Plenty of business experts claim that you can’t get anywhere as an entrepreneur without vision or creativity, but that’s simply not the truth. Instead, the one quality that no entrepreneur can be successful without is discipline.

To build an idea into a business, you have to have the discipline to spend time slogging through the least fun parts of running a business (like the bookkeeping), rather than taking that time to do something fun.

Andrew Carnegie, one of the most financially successful Americans of all time, grew up working dull and difficult jobs in factories. Despite going to bed hungry some nights, he continued doing his best work. He was eventually hired by a railroad company and continued to move up the ladder until starting his own successful businesses. Carnegie is a fine example of an entrepreneur dedicated to discipline and hard work. He truly earned his dreams of prosperity and success.

When you’re the boss, there’s no one to keep you at work except yourself — and there’s no short-term consequences for skipping out early.

Sure, if an entrepreneur plays hooky enough he knows that the business just won’t happen, but it’s very hard to convince someone that ‘just this once’ won’t hurt (and to keep ‘just this once’ from becoming a daily occurrence).

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2. Successful Entrepreneurs Keep Calm

Things go wrong when you run your own business.

Most entrepreneurs go through crises with their businesses — and more than a few wind up with outright failures on their hands. But when you’re responsible for a business, you have to be able to keep calm in any situation. Any other reaction — whether you lose your temper or get flustered — compounds the problem.

Instead, a good entrepreneur must have the ability to keep his cool in an emergency or crisis. It may not make the problem easier to solve, but it certainly won’t make it harder.

Honestly, losing your calm is a quick path to becoming the kind of person who gives up in the face of adversity. Instead giving in to frustration, remember classic entrepreneur Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin kept his calm as he experimented and tweaked his inventions again and again in pursuit of success. He didn’t give up during his many failures – he chose to innovate. You can choose innovation, too.

If an entrepreneur can handle failure without frustration or anger, s/he can move past it to find success.

3. Successful Entrepreneurs Pay Attention to Details

Restricting your attention to the big picture can be even more problematic than ‘sweating the small stuff.’

As an entrepreneur, unless venture capital has magically dropped out of the sky, a small expense can be a killer. It’s attention to detail that can make a small business successful when it has competition and it’s attention to detail that can keep costs down.

Attention to detail can be difficult to maintain — going over ledgers can be tedious even when you aren’t trying to pay close attention — but keeping your eye on a long-term vision is just asking for a problem to sneak in under a radar.

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After a business grows, an entrepreneur might be able to hire someone to worry about the details. In the beginning, though, only one person can take responsibility for the details.

Skeptical about the importance of details? Look no further than Howard Schultz, who grew a small coffee shop called Starbucks into one of the most globally successful coffee businesses in the world through his extreme attention to detail.

He is famous for taking all aspects of growing a business into account, paying attention not only to financially smart business decisions, but also focusing on socially responsible business decisions. Details can take you far.

4. Successful Entrepreneurs Embrace Risks

No entrepreneur has a sure thing, no matter how much money s/he stands to earn on a given product. Even if a product tests well, the market can change, the warehouse can burn down and a whole slew of other misfortune can befall a small business.

It’s absolutely risky to run a business of your own and while you can get some insurance, it’s not like most investment options. Even worse, if something does go wrong, it’s the entrepreneur’s responsibility — no matter the actual cause. In order to deal with all of that without developing an ulcer, you have to have a good tolerance for risk.

You don’t need to channel your inner frat boy and take on absolutely stupid risks, but you need to know just how much you can afford to risk — and get a good idea of how likely you are to lose it. If the numbers make you uncomfortable, the risk is too great.

Embracing risks is essential for growth and additional success, as well. Walt Disney, for example, could have stayed comfortable with his advances in the film and animation industries, but decided to expand his brand with a new dream: a theme park that soared above the competition. Without taking this risk, the incredibly successful Disney theme park empire would never have come about.

An entrepreneur has to be willing to accept pretty big risks, with some level of comfort.

5. Successful Entrepreneurs are Balanced

You can take any characteristic too far. There’s a point at which attention to detail can become obsession or calm can become unemotional response.

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As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to balance your characteristics, getting the most of them without going over the edge. But balance for an entrepreneur goes far beyond keeping your characteristics in check, though.

Just as an entrepreneur doesn’t have a boss to keep them at work when necessary, they don’t have one to send them home when they’re done. If you are working for yourself, you have to decide how to balance your work and home life — and if you have a day job to add into the equation, balance just gets more complicated.

Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful and influential entrepreneurs out there, understands the importance of balance. Winfrey has a lot going on; she runs her own media kingdom, acts, produces films, publishes print, and more. In an interview with Fast Company,[1] she talks about her efforts to balance priorities and self care, saying that she must ask herself what is truly important in each limited day.

You may or may not have as much on your plate as Oprah, but learning how to balance whatever you have going on in life will certainly help you farther along down the road as you learn to be a great entrepreneur.

6. Successful Entrepreneurs are Passionate and Motivated

In order to develop any of the above characteristics, you must have a foundation of passion. Staying disciplined day after day during the building of your business takes unrivaled motivation.

Before you start any business, ask yourself if you can sustain true excitement about your idea during even the darkest days ahead of you. If the answer is yes, then good for you! Nurture your natural motivation by taking these action steps throughout your business journey:

  • Commit to making short and long-term goals. Check in with them often to stay on task.
  • Have a plan in place for the inevitable days when you feel discouraged. Make a list of things that will help keep you motivated and focused.
  • Share your ideas with trusted individuals who are just as excited as you are. They will help keep your enthusiasm rolling even when you are feeling down.

By being prepared for apathetic days and holding fast to your authentic passion, you can actually enjoy your journey to success.

7. Successful Entrepreneurs Adapt

Remember this one word: flexibility. Seasoned entrepreneurs know that change is not only a part of life, but also a part of the business world. Expect change and choose to adapt.

As a new entrepreneur, it will be tempting to cling to your original business plan with no exceptions, even if you notice it isn’t working. Good entrepreneurs know that it’s okay to make smart, informed changes in order to ensure efficiency.

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8. Successful Entrepreneurs are Marketing and Sales Experts

No matter what kind of business you are starting, a knowledge of marketing and sales will save you many headaches. A passion for creating a beautiful handmade lifestyle product is not enough to run a successful lifestyle brand; it is critical that you understand key business principles in addition to your natural skills or great product line.

Not sure how to start? Taking business courses is a great idea, but you can also easily brush up on sales and marketing through free online resources. Check out these 10 Sales Skills Everyone Should Master To Be Successful to begin now.

9. Successful Entrepreneurs Have Strong Money Management

Along with sales and marketing skills, money management is a very useful tool in the box of the entrepreneur. Understanding how to best manage your money can be the difference between early success and early failure in the business world.

If money management isn’t your strongest skill, prepare to hire a financial expert to help you with any tricky business that comes up. Financial guidance and knowledge is never a bad idea.

10. Successful Entrepreneurs Ask Questions and Continually Improve

Pride is a natural human quality, but it’s important to humbly conduct some constructive criticism every now and again on both yourself as a leader and your new business as a whole.

Assess how things are going and be willing to make positive changes if necessary. Here’re 15 ways to cultivate lifelong learning.

If you are always improving, then how can you ultimately fail?

The Bottom Line

Let me remind you of one important fact: the qualities of an entrepreneur listed here are not exclusively available to some people and elusive to others.

Although some people may have natural strengths and weaknesses, these qualities can be learned by anyone interested in taking up the entrepreneurial challenge. It might not be easy to change old habits, but it is absolutely possible to cultivate these characteristics in yourself.

Whether you’re a business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, with hard work, you can train yourself to develop the qualities that truly determine the entrepreneurial spirit and future success.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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