How To Build a Career: a Useful Step-by-Step Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 September 2021

Building a career can be more rewarding than simply focusing on your current job. The path to a successful career differs for everyone, as each person defines what success means to them. However, there are certain steps you can take to venture on the right path to building a career. In this article, we discuss the definition of building a successful career and explain how to build your career in 11 steps.

Why is it important to build a career?

A successful career means something different to everyone. For many, a successful career combines financial stability with their passions or something they enjoy. It's important that there is a good balance between these two factors to achieve happiness. Some people know exactly what they want, while others struggle to figure it out. This is completely normal, and the key to understanding what a successful career means to you includes a degree of introspection. You can't rely on others to determine your career or tell you when you're successful. This is something that is personal and unique to every individual.

How to build a career

Learning how to build a career can allow you to achieve your personal goals whilst pursuing a profession that you love. For many, career-building combines joy with empowering experiences. Ultimately, how you interpret each of these steps depends on how you perceive success or what success means to you. Create your own self-criteria to building a career with these 11 steps:

1. Identify your goals and passions

Clearly outlined passions allow your career goals to become a reality. Whilst some people can identify exactly what their passions are; others have a hard time trying to figure it out. Consider what you enjoy doing, whether it's in the context of a current job or a hobby. This helps you better understand where your interests lie. Once you know your passions, it's time to bridge the connection between your inner desires and career goals.

Another idea is to brainstorm ideas or mind-map any thoughts you have regarding your career. Consider how your personal goals align with your professional targets. At some point in your career or journey, you may find that your career goals change. This is a normal part of the process. Whatever career goals you consider, make sure they align with the SMART framework. This means that they are:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant

  • Time-based

Related: How To Develop SMART Goals

2. Know your strengths

It's helpful to outline your strengths when trying to get a better understanding of what you enjoy. For some people, what they're good at brings them joy. Even better, knowing your strengths means that you can tailor your job search according to your unique skills. This builds confidence in the early stages of your career as you begin to align what you're good at with what you want to do.

Self-awareness is key when building a career. If there's a specific skill that you lack that is crucial to the job you want, then you can factor in new career goals which pave the way for professional development. For example, if you're a program engineer wanting to become a technical lead, then you likely need to develop your leadership skills. Knowing your weaknesses is also a strength that allows you to overcome them.

Related: 10 Valuable Soft Skills That You Need to Succeed in Your Career

3. Clear your vision

When people start identifying their goals, strengths and passions, they sometimes get stuck in the finer details of where they want to end up. You can't formulate a proper plan until your vision is clear. Envision a future, based on the above factors, that gives your life direction. You have to know the end goal before you can start channelling all your resources into intricate measures that get you there.

Related: How To Choose A Career Path

4. Make a plan

Putting your ideas and goals into perspective with a well-developed plan ensures you stay focused when building your career. It's important that you stay flexible when planning, seeing as some circumstances are always beyond your control. Some things may take longer than expected to achieve, or you may encounter some challenges along the way. Realising this is completely normal ensures that you create an accurate, time-based plan that accounts for all scenarios. Make sure your plan takes into account your established strengths.

Related: How To Write an Action Plan To Help You Achieve Your Goals

5. Build a good CV

Your ideal career requires a certain level of education, experience and skill. There are ample opportunities out there related to your field that look good on your CV when you eventually apply for the role. Look at some job specifications for your chosen career and identify what criteria are common. Then, start building your CV by gaining relevant qualifications and experience. You've already written down a list of your skills, so use these on your CV and consult them when writing a cover letter.

6. Stay flexible

There are probably a number of different jobs that are suited to your passions and strengths. Although you have envisioned your future, it's important to experiment and keep an open mind when taking on experience. You could take an extra module at university which specialises in a different area of a field you're interested in, or you could volunteer at a charity and realise you prefer non-profit work. Flexibility ensures that you head in the right direction, even if your plan has to change.

7. Readjust when necessary

Regardless of whether you discover a new passion or strength, always reflect on your progress. This ensures that you pay attention to your current circumstances and seize future opportunities. Set up reminders or appointments with yourself where you reflect on your progress and make adjustments. It's important that you're honest with yourself and remember that it's normal to change things up. Frequent check-ins allow you to continually develop your plan and be more specific with your values and goals.

8. Network effectively

Connections in the industry allow you to network with potential employers and demonstrate your skill set. Additionally, being aware of other professionals in your field helps you learn and grow from their experiences. There are several ways that you can meet like-minded individuals that share your passions and goals. These include:

  • industry events

  • conferences

  • university courses

  • social media

  • your workplace

Social media are the networking tools with the furthest reach. You can connect with people from across the world who can share opportunities or ideas. You can use their skills to your advantage and foster meaningful, positive relationships in the process. As long as your career goals align, these relationships are relevant and profitable in some way.

9. Stay positive

There is a certain level of change and adjustment involved in building a successful career, and understanding this is the key to remaining positive. Always look for the best in any given situation and remain confident in your abilities. Remember that any successful professionals you meet had to build their careers too. You can overcome your future worries and anxieties by practising replacing negative thoughts with positive alternatives. Associate with people who share a similar mindset to reinforce this behaviour. Positive thinking allows you to remain productive by boosting your morale and keeping you optimistic about new opportunities.

10. Get support

Sometimes, you might face new challenges or setbacks which knock your confidence. It's important to remember that you're not the only one who may have faced this challenge and to recruit the support of others. Mentors, friends or colleagues can help talk you out of quitting when you lose sight of what matters to you. These people are more than happy to use their experiences to pass on knowledge and wisdom to those who need it.

11. Keep a growth mindset

The key to building a successful career is consistently dedicating effort to learning new things and taking it upon yourself to do better. A growth mindset allows you to face any challenges head-on by prompting you to think of ways to overcome them. Perseverance is an important part of many careers, and developing it whilst pursuing your goals is beneficial to your future. Answer all questions about how you can solve the problem and what skills you need to do so.

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