Emerging Fitness Leaders: 9 specific ways you can quickly advance your career without acting like a jerk

Three weeks before my college graduation, I decided employment would be a good idea. I searched for something like “wealthiest neighborhoods in Indianapolis”, found a gym in the epicenter of that area, and completed a contact form on said gym’s website stating that they were my “dream” employer. The week before I sent this unsolicited resume, one of their trainers resigned. Somehow, I got the job. Two months later, the other trainer resigned and I now had over forty clients (that’s a lot for 1-on-1 personal training). I eventually got my head above water, hired a few great people, and started to scale the successful 15-year old business.

After four years there, I sent another unsolicited resume to my current employer with the hopes of managing corporate fitness for a global company headquartered in my home state. That same week, one of the fitness managers for said company resigned. Somehow, I got the job.

Take these two stories for what you will. Am I lucky? I’d say so, the benefactor of three timely resignations. There are also a lot of small things I didn’t include. The following tips are some of those small things I have learned along the way.

9 specific ways you can quickly advance your career without acting like a jerk

  1. Listen and learn from everything and everyone, even if you think they’re wrong. There were many times I truly despised my first boss but I find myself using things he taught me every week. You can’t shut smart people out just because they are socially unskilled.
  2. Be humble, know your role and understand your team dynamic.
  3. Serve the community. If you’re new to an area like I was, ask your clients what they do for community service and get involved. Not only will you help others, but you’ll feel better about yourself and build positive relationships in the local community.
  4. Be helpful. If your co-workers or supervisors need something, step up. Specifically, find the jobs that your boss hates the most and volunteer to do them. You have to find that balance between being reliable and being a doormat. Make others look good and they will usually do the same for you.
  5. Take ownership of your mistakes (even when it’s not your fault). The important point here is how you take ownership — you must be authentic and confident, not bitter or weak.
  6. Read the news and know current events (don’t get too personal). I listen to a short news podcast each morning and then check CNBC’s website for market updates. Having something to talk about early-on makes a 30-minute session much more enjoyable and less awkward. Do not take a strong personal stance on something that is socially controversial unless you’re willing to risk your job, career, and/or business.
  7. Study business foundations and personal finance, etc. — the stuff we didn’t learn in college. Also, start some type of savings strategy ASAP.
  8. Work on your writing, start a blog, offer to write in local publications for free. You don’t have to be a novelist, but the moderate ability to put words on paper has opened some huge doors for me in the past.
  9. Never stop sharpening your sword. With all of this other stuff to focus on, it’s easy to think you don’t need to learn anything more about exercise science and training. I’ve worked with people who literally stopped re-certifying because they didn’t feel like there was anything more to learn. This happens for many underlying reasons and one of the big ones is “burnout”. When you go all-in on something and it doesn’t work out the way you imagined, we tend to use this term “burnout” instead of saying “failure”. I’m at an interesting place in my career where this is true. Six years ago, I would have told you I’d own a world renowned fitness company by 29 — it seemed so far away. That is not the case. Although I’ve definitely had a successful early career, there are hundreds and hundreds of failures. All of the failures and hours-worked recently forced a breaking point with me and I truly felt burnout for the first time. I’ll tell you how to address this later, once I figure it out for myself.

For now, I’m back to the books and looking up conference schedules.

Our industry changes way too fast to be complacent.

The world is changing way too fast to be complacent.
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