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Whether you have known what you wanted to be since you were a small child or you are still trying to figure it out, having a career that you are proud of is important. Deciding what that means to you is intensely personal, and there is no one right answer. For some people being a high earner is the key to feeling successful while others want to have a job where they feel their work is improving their community. Before you can build a successful career, you need to know what that looks like to you.

Question Where You See Yourself

Imagine yourself five or ten years in the future, or even next year, or maybe at retirement. What does your life look like? What type of work are you doing? Are you spending long days at the office or do you have a more flexible schedule?

Map Out a Plan for Growth

Look at your life now, how does it compare to the future you see for yourself? What will it take to get you from where you are now to where you want to go? Maybe you should start looking at ways to switch to a different industry. Perhaps you need to continue your education to advance further.

Additional schooling is one way to push your career forward, but you need to have a plan when doing so. Finishing an undergraduate degree or heading back for a master’s is not something you should do to avoid making other tough decisions. Returning to school should be a method used to enhance your career and life. Student loans to borrow money make it possible to get the education you want to build a career you love. Investing in education is never a waste of time or money.

Be Objective with Self-Assessments

Once you know where you want to go and have a plan to get there, it is time to get very honest with yourself. What habits have you picked up that may slow your advancement? What qualities do you have that can boost your career? It makes sense to play to your strengths in whatever you do, but it is also important to improve your weaknesses. If you are not comfortable giving presentations, don’t seek out ways to avoid them, volunteer for the task. This helps strengthen skills where you are lacking and helps you become more comfortable moving outside your comfort zone.

Ask for Feedback from Others

Regular feedback is important to understand how you are managing your career. If your company provides personal reviews you can use this time to get some insight into what your strengths and weaknesses are. To get the most out of your reviews it is important to spend some time ahead of the meeting considering what you think your strong and weak points are. While you are in the meeting it is important to take the information as constructive and look for ways to build on what your supervisor talks about. Use your strengths as an opportunity to take on more responsibility and develop strategies to work on weaknesses.

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