Paving Your Own Career Path

One cannot balance on a bike without pedaling to move forward.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. — Confucius

The average American that is employed full-time works an average of 47 hours per week. If we are spending that much time of our lives working, shouldn’t we at least love what we do? Of course, life is not perfect, nor is it easy, and that is why utilizing your strengths combined with your interest should lead you to your next career move. Although not many of us can claim that as reality, there are ways to connect the dots.

The first big decision you probably made is resigning from your current job. For whatever the reason may be, you should applaud yourself for finding the wisdom to move on. Paving your own career path isn’t easy, so how do you figure out what is going to be your next move?

Millennials have a reputation for job-hopping. Unattached to organizations and institutions, people from this generation — born between 1980 and 1996 — are said to move freely from company to company, more so than any other generation. — Amy Adkins

Know your strengths and what you are interested in. Working as a Personal Trainer for 3 years, I never planned to go into management. When the opportunity presented itself, I seized it and became Assistant Fitness Manager. It was apparent to me that I belonged in a profession that is centered around people.

Now, what are my strengths? A Personal Trainer’s job is more than writing fitness and nutrition programs for your clients. It entails building your own business, marketing yourself, and sales. I had the innate ability to develop trust and relationships with members that led them to purchase training sessions. Being an Assistant Fitness Manager required time management and organization skills, and the ability to lead a team by coaching and developing your players. I had the natural ability to understand my people and how to coach them.

Use social media and your network of colleagues, friends and family to start your research. Since I developed a higher interest in leadership and business management, I knew I did not want to be in the fitness industry anymore. I utilized LinkedIn and Indeed to start my research, typing “events coordinator, public relations, social media” and reached out to former colleagues and friends. I also asked my clients and trainers — ranging from Executive Directors, Business Consultants, and Entrepreneurs — for their input.

The best advice and practice that is not well-known but helped the most, was scheduling Information Interviews. An information interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an industry that interests you. It can provide you with a wealth of information, and can lead to another interest, a job lead, or a new connection. One thing led to another that finally pulled me towards Marketing.

A Careerbuilder survey showed that 45% of employees plan to stay with their employer for less than two years, so we ought to get comfortable with the idea. — Kaytie Zimmerman

Accept the fact you may have to start at an entry-level position and work your way up. But apply to jobs that interest you, and if you are offered an interview, take it. I read carefully about each job description, and it confirmed that a career in Marketing was the industry I was drawn to. However, there are many branches in Marketing and I had to figure out what was the specific niche I wanted to focus on.

My interview with a business consultant educated me on the industry and asked me thought-provoking questions on the spot. He helped me brand myself, suggesting to use my past experiences and skills in creating a story on how to apply that into marketing.

The fact is that it’s easier for employers to settle into default mode and hire cookie-cutter candidates who all have the same background and experience. The trick is to remind employers that quick studies can learn the language of a new industry. — Kathryn Sollman, founder of the career advisory firm 9 Lives for Women.

If you are financially capable, upgrade your skills with further education. Transitioning into a completely different career, I was discouraged because I did not have the required credentials. However, I was confident in my skills and experience, and accepted the fact I needed to learn the language of the industry to help me get ahead.

Universities offer Advanced Graduate Certificate, and there are companies, such as General Assembly, that offer certifications for those who are transitioning careers. They will educate you in mastering new skills, as well as help you network to get your foot through the door into a new industry.

One must be proactive in research and utilizing social media networks when deciding on your next career move. Action is always favored, as nothing great will come easy or be handed to you on a silver platter. Create a strategy and alternative plans, but don’t forget the big picture: utilize your strengths and move towards professional growth.