Seven Time-Proven Ways to Create and Sustain a Successful Career

time to plan

There is a profound misunderstanding among many working people that “career management” is only for people that are driven to seek promotions or new opportunities. Those people could not be more wrong.

A career management plan certainly can be an important element in getting a promotion. However, it is really about coming up with a plan to ensure that all the hours you spend at work leave you completely satisfied and fulfilled. It’s about making sure that you look forward to going in to work each day, and that when you leave, you feel that you have made a difference.

That’s quite an accomplishment for most of us. You might even think it’s a bit unrealistic. However, throughout the years I’ve accumulated a list of time-proven ways that can help anyone create and sustain a successful, rewarding and satisfying career.

  1. Seek and get help from above. To really get everything you want from your career, you need to seek out advice and guidance. This help will likely come from someone above you in the organization. Consider finding a mentor, either in your work organization or from some other area of your life. Listen to what they have to say.
  2. Track your success. Demonstrating success and achieving top performance markers is critical to finding your happy place at work. Make sure you know the expectations of your current position and manager. Focus on exceeding those expectations. When it comes time for you to move up or on to new challenges within your organization, this track record of success will be the card to play.
  3. Demonstrate an appetite for success. Let people in your organization know that you are fully committed and focused on success, and that you want to progress to other duties and challenges. Ask for feedback on your performance. Listen and respond to those suggestions. Show people that you can adapt and improve. Those are the hallmarks of success.
  4. Actively manage your relationships. Organizations are only as good as the ability of people to work together. You must demonstrate that you can build positive, productive relationships, and that you can work well in a team environment. Remember that to accomplish your objectives, you need to be able to get help from, and offer help to, others in your organization.
  5. Be willing to take career risks. There will be times in your career when you need to make bold decisions and take decisive action. Successful people are not afraid to make decisions and do what needs to be done. Always consider the organizational culture and internal politics. And remember that good decision-making means seeking consensus. However, be that person that is willing to step to the fore.
  6. Establish your presence. Sometimes called “executive presence,” this is your ability to ‘show up’ and be counted on when your organization needs you. Everything you do helps to build presence: your behavior at meetings; the presentations you deliver; how you respond in a variety of different scenarios. If you want to be viewed as cool, calm and confident, then project that demeanor in everything you do.
  7. Remember the importance of ‘cultural fit.’ In the world of career transition we often say, “you are hired for your skills, talents and abilities, and you are fired for your inability to fit in.” Take time to understand the culture of your organization and determine how best to fulfill your role within the expectations of that culture.

Take stock of your current job and write down how you think you are doing in each of the areas noted above. If you don’t know, ask some of your co-workers for feedback. And remember, your career happiness will come from having a firm plan.

About the Author

This is one in a multi-part series from Nancy Sullivan offering insight and advice to get you back on track, working and living in the career that is right for you. Nancy is a board certified executive coach with Lee Hecht Harrison. She is the author of "Transition Points: Finding Your Career Intersection of Skill and Passion.” To bring Nancy to your organization, have her speak at your conference or consult with her, email:


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