A successful career is not a coincidence: 8 habits of people with perfect careers

Author: Milena Pervanje
January 2018

A successful career does not happen on its own. People who achieve their professional goals and are a success in business have 8 key habits to thank for that.

You can adopt these habits, too. Combined, they form a strategy which will enable you to plan your career successfully and which will lead you to exactly where you want to be in your profession. In this article I will present these 8 habits for a successful career planning and I advise you to incorporate as many of them in your daily routine as possible.

A smart employer is well aware that experts and other key employees carry a major responsibility for the company's success.

1. Start now

People who approach their career in a strategic manner are looking to the future all the time. Even if they are happy at their current position, they think ahead. That does not mean they are disloyal to their current employer because a career can develop within one organization as well. Such a strategically oriented individual can, in fact, drive the whole organization forward, to new markets or to new fields.  

Together with your employer look into promotion possibilities for yourself. Explain how you see your personal and professional advancement and how you can contribute to the development of the company you work for. Make a career plan together and plan for the additional formal and informal education you might need. An employer can hold similar discussions with other key members of the organization and can, in this way, guide the development of the company and of the employees. 

A prerequisite of such a relationship with your employer is that you do your job flawlessly and that you are an active employee who gives useful initiatives. Be a valuable member of the organization and let your employer notice that. 

2. Educate yourself

Analyse your competitive advantages and disadvantages in the work force market and based on the results create your plan for a formal and informal education. 

If you feel you know enough and that there is no need to expand your knowledge you won't progress in your career. Sooner or later you will be faced with a position you won't be able to handle any more.

We are living in an era of life-long learning where a professional specialization is essential but on the other hand so is a wide knowledge about communication, presentation, management, negotiation and sales and, of course, also technical and business skills. A constant quest for knowledge makes sense, alternating less intensive periods when we only follow articles and books relating to professional areas of interest with more intense times when we take a course or decide for a longer additional educational programme. You can even decide to enrol in an educational programme abroad, perhaps in co-operation with a foreign business partner. 

3. Consult with an expert

When setting career goals it is a good idea to consult an expert. You can turn to the HR manager in your organization or to an independent expert – a psychologist, a coach or a headhunter. 

But you have to know that a consultant will merely guide you while you alone must set your own career goals and put in the work to achieve them. A consultant guides you and helps you through the mental process, points out certain facts and helps you recognize options but can not and must not make decisions for you. 

Don't worry if you don't know anyone who has decided for such a consultation. I assure you that you will gain useful directions and this alone will push you a step ahead of the competition in your field of expertise.

4. Network

Build your own social network, be active in establishing and maintaining connections with people. This might seem simple and as fun socializing at first glance but it is so much more. Networking always means a win-win situation for both sides involved. A relationship in which you expect only benefits for yourself from your business and personal network of people without giving them something in return is not possible in the long run.  

This does not include only going to business and expert conferences and social events. Mutually beneficial contacts are worth maintaining with occasional personal meetings for which the time before end-of-the-year holidays is perfect as well as a more slow-paced summer time. Use such a meeting to quickly and unobtrusively present information about your recent work and projects or achievements you feel particularly proud of and inquire about the other persons well-being. Offer help should they need it and if you can provide it. When you come across something an individual in your network might find interesting send them the information about it via e-mail or use a different appropriate channel. 

An efficient maintaining of your network will take up at least 10 percent of your time. 

Take care of your on-line network such as LinkedIn as well. When someone asks the community for an advice or an opinion respond if you feel competent for it. Follow what other people do and regularly update your own profile.  

5. Follow opportunities

Follow what is going on in the work force market in your field or in the field you are interested in. That does not necessarily mean you are actively looking for new employment, only that you need to know about current trends and wages in your field of interest, about the supply of personnel with experience similar to yours on the market and about any major new employers from your field which are potentially coming to your local market. 

Looking for a new job is the hardest once you are forced to do so. To avoid such a situation keep looking for good opportunities at all times. 

There is a big difference between being one of many contending for similar positions and being a rare expert in high demand. This is how you will know if you can easily find a new job, should you wish to do so, or not. It will also help you evaluate if your current pay check is where it should be or if you could be earning more. 

6. Set your goals

All too often I meet people “looking for new challenges” who “want to become somebody” but can not answer a concrete question about their actual goals. When planning your career you must know what you want to achieve. Planning a career is the same as any other kind of planning – without a known goal there can be no good plan. 

Think about your interests, remember the projects that brought you real joy, imagine what you honestly want to do. Shape those thoughts in to a plan consisting of smaller goals and think about how you will go about achieving each one of them. This will give you insight into weather these goals are realistic and if you are willing to do the work to achieve them or if perhaps you would prefer to set yourself some different goals. 

If people don't know where they want to go they are like leaves in the wind. Sometimes they end up sky high and at other times in a muddy puddle.

7. Start achieving your goals

Once you have defined your long-term goal, start working towards it. Stay alert: an opportunity can present itself at any time and any place. 

That is why you must be prepared and focused on recognizing opportunities and on achieving those intermediary, shot-term goals. Maybe you need to upgrade a certain area of your knowledge or perhaps you need to add to your formal education. But the first step in any case is preparing your CV and regularly updating it. As the second step you definitely need to master the art of a good self-presentation so you will know how to present you competitive advantages, your professional achievements and ambitions, your knowledge and good practices all without boasting. 

The voyage to a career goals starts in the same way as any other voyage – with the first step. Make it!

8. Keep focused on your goal at all times 

Form your career goal in to a clear image which you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night with. 

When you get offered a (selective) educational programme ask yourself if it is in line with your goals. Do the same for each research project you get invited to. Time to ask yourself some important questions also comes when the organization where you work thoroughly changes its direction or strays from the direction it was taking when you joined it. Or when someone offers you new employment. Think strategically and never loose sight of your goal. 

Your career goal should not be something vague, like “I want to do something interesting sometime in the future”, but rather something tangible, simple and concrete. 

Perhaps you are driven to think about a new career step by a bad situation of the organization you work for or by boredom due to doing the same job for years. But I advise you not to plan your career and think about your career goals only in times like those but to make it a part of your daily working routine. So do try to adopt as many of the habits described here as possible. If you know what you want and what you need to do to get it, you will spot the opportunities faster and easier.