Just like building a business, building a career requires effort, dedication and persistence over a period of time. It involves a combination of jobs, skills, experiences, relationships, and qualifications acquired over a certain period of time. Whether you decide to build your career as an entrepreneur or employee, it helps you to acquire knowledge and nurture your skills while giving you the opportunity to create value in the long run.
Anyone looking to build a career should take into consideration where they will like to be in the next few years or even months. This approach helps you to look beyond your current dispensation and explore opportunities you need to leverage on in order to build the career you want.
The first step to building the career of your dreams starts with knowing what you want. This might sound easy but sometimes, it may be difficult to narrow down what you want. Nonetheless, knowing what you want will set you towards the right direction in achieving career success. If you dream of building a successful career, here are eight steps you can take:
- Get started
“I’m too old to do this.”
“I don’t have the experience to start.”
“I’m too young to do all this.”
Sometimes we give ourselves so many excuses. You are not too young to start, nor too old to follow your dreams. Whether you are just starting out or looking to transition, you can build that dream. The best time to start is now. A few years ago, Media icon, Anita Erskine recounted how an internship opportunity at Metro TV, Pyramid House became one of defining moments in her career.
Twenty three years on, she’s one of the celebrated icons across the globe. She had a dream and decided to go for it. Ava DuVernay started her filmmaking journey at the age of 32. Over the years, she’s become one of the most influential and successful filmmakers. There are several other people like Ava who started “late” but are pursuing their dreams.
Our dreams or career goals will not work unless we decide to put in the work.
There are three steps you need to take in building a career:
- Finding the field you want to build the career and getting your first job.
- Identifying and sharpening your dominant/selling skill even if it means working for free or taking on internships.
- Have career goals or vision- something that propels you to put in effort.
Recently, I saw a tweet which is very fundamental in building our dreams, “Think in decades. Plan in years. Review in quarters. Communicate in months. Execute in days.” This quotes highlights the importance of planning, focus,consistency and implementation. Building your dream requires that you build every day. It also requires that you plan ahead and think long-term.
This approach can help you assess where you are at the moment and map out realistic goals that match your objectives. This includes an assessment of your present position and the skills, knowledge and opportunities you need to leverage on in order to build the career you want.
No one can believe in you more than you do. You need to believe in what you are building. Sometimes, it will require you to go on the journey alone. Hone your skills and gain more experience. This will help you identify what you bring to the table. And when you finally get the chance, don’t talk yourself out of the rooms you have earned the right to be in.
The only way you can maximize any given moment is by preparing for it and leveraging on the opportunities that may seem too small. If you think of the big picture and work backwards, you will be able to build that career you envision for your life.
2. Build your brand/ reputation
Building your career involves brand building. Take up jobs and roles that sharpen your skills. Your reputation is your most valuable asset. It involves building great work ethics, morals, principles, developing a positive work attitude, building trust among others.
In 2016, I attended the second edition of the Starr Woman Project organized by Starr FM. One of the main topics which was discussed was the importance of personal branding. Personal branding is a key determinant in career success. Personal branding involves a lot of work, consistency and being intentional. What do you want to be known for?
On social media, some people are easily identified based on their industry or field simply by their name or bio. When your name is mentioned what are the foremost things people will say about you? How do you build a brand people can trust? Can people rely on you to get the work done? Brand visibility is very important to building your reputation. People want to see what you do and what you have to offer. You can build brand visibility by showcasing your works and achievements, providing solutions, talking about what you do and it’s relevance.
3. Find a Mentor
Footballers need coaches to thrive likewise individuals who want to thrive as professionals and business owners. You can’t do it all alone. We all need people to help us grow and become the best version of ourselves. Mentors are like football coaches. They lead and guide us on the moves and tactics to play. They keep you in ‘check’. Building a career is a lifelong apprenticeship. We grow and develop ourselves by learning and unlearning from our lessons, failures and experiences and those of others who have gone before us and even our peers.
4. Find a sponsor
Apart from mentors, there’s another group of people you should have in your ‘corner’; sponsors aka destiny helpers, promoters or what some might refer to as ‘who you know’. We all need sponsors. Even people in the Bible had sponsors. It took a word from Pharaoh’s head butler for Joseph to be taken out of prison, brought before Pharaoh and eventually appointed as Prime Minister of Egypt.
According to AGS Tribe, recent studies have shown that 4 out of 5 promotions are influenced by people in high positions. Find someone who will vouch for you, speak for you in rooms where decisions are being taken and help you get ahead in your career. You can attract sponsors depending on the reputation you’ve built, your values or work. Someone might even decide to sponsor you because he or she believes in what you have set out to do. This requires hard work and consistency.
Wall Street Guru and Director at Morgan Stanley, Carla Harris reiterates the importance of having a sponsor to help you develop your career. Sponsors are a blessing to your career or business and come in different forms. People who recommend you for jobs, contracts and other opportunities can be your sponsors.
Ghanaian PR Specialist, Faith Senam Ocloo had the opportunity to work on the launch of a beauty brand because she was recommended by a colleague PR pro who thought she would be the best person to handle the project due to her niche in Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle. The person who gave the recommendation knew her track record so she knew she could pull it off.
Recently, someone reached out to me to work on a project based on a recommendation. I have also got the chance to work on other projects with different people because someone recommended me. Your sponsors will not always speak or work in your favour just because they like you. Like business, event or boxing promoters, sponsors can lay the foundation but your work will have to speak for you.
Some promotions are based on a merit-based approach. One of the requirements for promotion is to show a proven track record. A friend applied for a promotion. As part of the requirements this person had to show proof of what he had been able to achieve over the years and how he had helped to achieve the overall objectives of the business. You need to show proof, or receipts of the work you’ve done.
How have you helped the company or business record significant growth , what value addition service have you provided so that in the next meeting you are recommended for a promotion, billed to lead a particular project or given a referral? Your sponsor needs to know these facts and figures so that he can make a case for you in front of the jury.
5. Build your network
One of the best ways we can build a career is to learn from others. Networking is the new currency. Your network is your net worth. Who you know can give you access to so many opportunities. Find people who are where you want to be or are on their way there. Invest in people and building relationships. Building relationships can help you unlock several opportunities. Don’t look out for opportunities because of what you stand to gain but rather look for ways you can provide value.
Another thing you have to do is collaborate and partner with others. The power of collaboration and partnership cannot be underestimated. Teamwork makes the dream work and if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Social media has provided a great medium for people to connect, learn and get interactive.
Before social media, learning was mostly via in-person interactions; traditional classroom based teaching. Learning new skills require both online and offline interactions. Connect with people relevant to the industry you are in or the career you want to build. Connect with them beyond social media. Learn how they built their craft. Read their content, watch their live sessions,attend their events, sign up for their courses. Make use of internship or volunteer opportunities. This will help in building the skills you need. Sharing your works can also attract the network you need.
6. Never stop learning
Learning is an ongoing process. No matter how much you think you know, there’s always more to learn. Be willing to learn the ropes and go through the process. Learn from your failures as much as you celebrate your successes. Building a career is not a one way street. At certain points you will be in jobs and positions you won’t enjoy, different career paths, lose jobs, and sometimes give up on working entirely etc. All these experiences will serve as a learning curve for you. Ask relevant questions and share what you know. That is how we continue to learn and develop ourselves.
Make it a point to invest in personal development. It’s never too late to learn something new or develop your craft. The digital world has provided easy and exciting ways to learn. With plenty of online tools, products and resources to use, learning skills relevant to your career development is easily accessible. You need to find out how others have been able to build those skills you want to develop.
Read, study and analyze the strategies they have applied. This will provide the building blocks you need. Make use of relevant webinars, vlogs videos and other online tools and resources to enhance you skills. YouTube is one of the most popular interactive platforms you can use to learn various practical skills. On the other hand, you can build other personal development skills by investing in digital products that have been designed to suit that purpose. For example, you can make use of eBooks, masterclasses, courses and coaching sessions to build your skillset or other aspects of your personal growth.
7. Pay it forward
When you get a seat at the table or build your own table, don’t build a fence, build a longer table so that through you others can also have a seat at the table. Invest in your community, give people the opportunity to learn the ropes, share lessons you’ve learnt along the way, nurture talents.
Some years ago, one of the most renowned actors in America paid the tuition fees of a college student he didn’t know. This act of benevolence pushed this young man to work hard and make his benefactor proud. This benefactor is American Actor, Director and Producer, Denzel Washington. The young man he helped through college is Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman.
Remember that building anything worthwhile takes time, effort and dedication. Building a successful career will not happen overnight. It takes years of learning, growth and preparation.. If you have a dream, chase it. The best time to start is now. See every opportunity no matter how minute it may seem in the grand scheme of things as an opportunity to build your dream.
>>>Nana Akua Frimpomaa Amofa is a Writer and Creative Lead of Scripted Impressions, a creative consulting agency that helps individuals and brands tell their stories. She works as Senior Editor at El-Evangel Publications. Her work involves content development, strategy and review of publications. She’s also part of the review team of My Story Magazine, an entrepreneurial resource magazine. Connect with Nana Akua via Instagram/Twitter: @missamofa, LinkedIn : Nana Akua Frimpomaa Amofa, Email: [email protected]