5 Essentials for Building a Career

Career building bulb

By Alex Thompson

When I sought out Ron Culp for career advice in November 2016, I was struggling to receive interest from desirable organizations. Ron urged me to remain steadfast in my commitment to landing a job I was passionate about, and provided invaluable guidance and strategy I could apply to my job search. At the end of our conversation, Ron told me that after I get the job I’ve been seeking, I should write a piece on my key takeaways from the process. It’s an honor and relief to finally write this.

Following two post-graduate internships in, I finally landed a fantastic job. It took a heavy dose of patience, humility and hard work to put myself in this position. This post presents insight from my job search experience that may prove useful on yours:

1. Have Patience

Finding a job is a full-time job. Don’t be discouraged by the length of the process; the more time you put into finding the right opportunity, the more adept you become at navigating the job carousel. Opportunities present themselves at times when you least expect them. Recognize that taking a full-time job is an enormous decision and make sure you understand what the company stands for and what its expectations are for its people.

2. Find a Mentor

I cannot overstate this. Find a mentor! Leverage a contact from a previous or current job, or if you’re still in school, get in touch with a professor. Write to that person regularly and don’t be shy. Update them on what you’re looking for and what steps you’re taking towards achieving your goal. A mentor is an ideal person to go to for advice on a wide range of issues.

An added bonus: if they like you, it’s likely they’ll introduce you to friends and colleagues who can help on your journey. All of a sudden, your network has grown significantly.

Find that special person, and pay it forward. It is important to remember that mentors can come from all levels. A peer mentor can impact you and your career differently than a senior mentor can, but both can help you in many ways.

3. Network, Network, Network

This is arguably the most important skill you can acquire. You can never know too many people. All of my professional successes thus far (while limited) can be attributed to networking at some level. It doesn’t take more than a quick introductory email or LinkedIn note to get acquainted. People are usually willing to discuss their interests and experiences with you. Think about what would make someone want to pick up the phone and call you. When asking for asking for someone’s time and consideration, expresses your interest in them and hearing more about their career. Once you get acquainted, it’s more appropriate to then discuss what you are looking for. Have questions prepared, and make sure you have a well-rehearsed elevator pitch in mind when they ask about you.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back right away. I’ve had professionals write me back months after I expressed my interest in their career.

Networking in the workplace is just as important. Don’t overdo it, but if you meet someone interesting at work, send them a note asking them for a few minutes to chat over coffee. It can be a simple start to a great connection.

4. Be Intellectually Curious & Committed to Life-long Learning

One of my favorite and most impactful professors at Miami University regularly preached intellectual curiosity and lifelong learning. This way of living has dramatically affected my life.

If you are intellectually curious, whether that means reading history novels, following politics or the effects of global warming, you are also continuously learning. Remaining stagnant in our hyperactive world is a recipe for an unfulfilling life. For me, it’s keeping up with meditation and listening to Tim Ferriss’s latest podcast. Feed your brain with information that you find interesting! You don’t need to read a novel a night or become an expert on foreign diplomacy to feel accomplished. Start small; pick up the paper every day and read an article or two. Begin to develop meaningful habits and find what you enjoy.

5. Persevere – always!

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