6 Tips to build a successful career

A seasoned marketing professional Naveen Choudhary shares career tips to build a long term successful career. Naveen is former Marketing Head of Oxford University Press, Author, and Public speaker. You can listen this blog on his YouTube and Spotify channel.

Understand the Difference Between a Sprint and a Marathon

Your career is like a marathon, not a sprint. Unlike a 100-meter race where the runner gives their full strength from the start to achieve the goal, a marathon requires building and maintaining your strength throughout the race. Similarly, to build a successful long-term career, you need to maintain a consistent pace and continuously develop your skills.

Often, middle-class individuals start their careers by chasing fast promotions and higher salaries, sprinting like a 100-meter racer. However, this approach can lead to mistakes and setbacks down the line. To avoid this, it’s crucial to understand that your career is a long-term endeavor that requires a different mindset and approach.

1. Clearly Define Your Career Objective

The first and most important step is to clearly define your career objective. This is not the same as the generic career goals you may have listed on your resume during job applications. Those are often copied from each other, with everyone in your MBA batch aiming for the same roles, be it in sales, marketing, or the FMCG consumer sector.

Instead, you need to think seriously about what you want to achieve in your career. What do you want to be? For example, in my case, I was very clear that I wanted to be in marketing, not in sales. I wanted to be a CMO and a marketing head, and I enjoyed working in marketing.

Similarly, you may find many IT professionals who know they want to be coders and experts in coding, without any desire to become managers. On the other hand, there are people who want to be managers and have no interest in management roles. Each job requires a different kind of learning and a different attitude.

So, the first step is to know your objective – what do you want to be? Do you want to start your own business after a few years, or do you want to continue in a job role? Which side of the spectrum do you want to be on?

2. Identify the Skills and Knowledge Required for Your Desired Role

Once you have clearly defined your career objective, the next step is to understand the path to reach that goal. What skills, knowledge, and attributes do you need to develop to achieve your desired role?

There are two ways to go about this. First, you can talk to people who are already in the field you want to enter – your seniors, family members, managers, or colleagues. They can provide valuable insights into the requirements for the role you aspire to.

The second approach is to look at job descriptions for the role you want to attain. This will give you a clear understanding of the skills, knowledge, and experience that are required for that position. You can then assess which of these you already possess and which areas you need to focus on improving or developing.

By understanding the specific requirements for your desired role, you can create a roadmap to prepare yourself and make the necessary efforts to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge.

3. Prepare Yourself for the Next Job

As you progress in your career, it’s important to not only focus on excelling in your current role but also to prepare yourself for the next step. Many employees make the mistake of not preparing for their next job, leading to missed opportunities for promotion or job changes within the company.

When you join a new job, your initial responsibilities may be relatively basic, such as taking orders, preparing reports, and executing activities. However, as you move up, your role and responsibilities evolve. You may be required to coordinate with different departments, manage creative projects, or engage in cross-promotional activities.

By understanding the skills and knowledge required for the next role, you can proactively develop those capabilities within your current position. This will not only make you a more valuable employee but also position you for the next step in your career.

4. Identify and Adapt to Industry Trends

Another crucial aspect of building a successful long-term career is the ability to identify and adapt to industry trends. As you progress in your career, it’s important to be aware of the changes and shifts happening in your industry and to ensure that you are prepared for them.

For example, when I was working at Adcom, my initial role was in North India marketing, where I was responsible for customizing national-level communications for my region and executing BTR activations. Later, my role shifted to national-level air activations, which involved more creative and cross-promotional work.

During this time, I noticed that digital marketing and social media marketing were gaining traction in my industry, even though they were not a significant part of my work at the time. I recognized this trend and made a conscious effort to prepare myself for the changes that were coming. I learned about digital marketing and started implementing it in my work, which helped me stay ahead of the curve.

Similarly, you may have observed how news channels like NDTV, which traditionally had lower TRPs compared to other channels, were quick to understand the potential of the digital medium. They launched their digital platform, ndtv.com, and focused on it, which has now become a significant part of their business.

The ability to identify and adapt to industry trends is crucial, as it allows you to stay relevant and valuable in your field. By spotting these changes and preparing yourself accordingly, you can ensure that you are not left behind in the race.

5. Focus on Developing Your Soft Skills

Every job has specific requirements, not just in terms of technical skills but also in terms of soft skills and attitude. These soft skills and the right attitude are essential for success in any role, and they often evolve as you progress in your career.

Many professionals make the mistake of focusing solely on their technical skills and neglecting the development of their soft skills. As a result, they may excel in their current role but struggle to move up to the next level, as the required soft skills are missing.

It’s important to continuously work on your soft skills and adapt your attitude to match the demands of the next role you aspire to. This may involve improving your communication, leadership, problem-solving, or decision-making abilities, depending on the specific requirements of the job.

By focusing on developing your soft skills and maintaining the right attitude, you can ensure that you are well-prepared for the next step in your career, regardless of the industry or company you work in.

6. Ensure Your Next Job Aligns with Your Career Objective

When making job changes, it’s crucial to ensure that the new role aligns with your career objective and helps you progress towards your desired goal. Many professionals make the mistake of joining a new company solely based on factors like the brand name, salary, or designation, without considering whether the job will truly help them advance in their career.

After joining the new company, they often realize that the job does not match their skills or the skills they need to develop to achieve their career objective. This can lead to disappointment and a feeling of being stuck in a role that does not align with their long-term goals.

To avoid this, always thoroughly research the job responsibilities, the skills required, and how the role will contribute to your overall career development. Ensure that the new job will not only provide you with a good salary and a reputable company but also help you acquire the necessary skills and experience to move closer to your career objective.

By following these six tips, you can build a successful and fulfilling long-term career. Remember, your career is a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires a strategic and proactive approach to ensure your continued growth and success.

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