Building a satisfying career in today's workplace is more challenging than ever. Excelling at your choice of career starts with gaining the skills you need to perform in a certain industry or function. Career planning, along with acquiring competitive interpersonal skills, will help you succeed where others fail. Use this guide to starting a career and planning your next steps.

Some competitive career skills don't involve going to school. No workplace is perfect, so it's important to practice listening more than speaking. Remember, too, that sharing negativity or complaints affects everyone. Stay positive and encouraging to others. Supervisors, clients, and co-workers want to be around someone they like. View any obstacles you encounter along the way as problems to be solved. Problem-solvers are today's workplace heroes.

In this guide to starting a career:
Planning Your Career
Assessing Career Opportunities
Developing Your Career
Establishing Interpersonal Skills
Credit And Your Career
How Your Credit Affects Your Credibility
What's A Pre-Adverse Action Disclosure?
In Conclusion

  1. Planning Your Career

    Selecting the career path that's right for you is one of the best places to start a career. Whether you're choosing a first career or planning a second or third, start by choosing something you enjoy. Acquiring the hard skills needed to practice as an accountant, attorney, or architect always involves higher education.

    Take time to meet with a college or university career counselor, or obtain independent career counseling, in order to choose the program that helps you establish career entry goals.

    Paying for higher education is also part of this stage of career planning. Evaluate the costs of private and public colleges and universities and gather input about the best choice for you. Taking out student loans can be considered "positive debt" if the graduate has exceptional career opportunities. Career placement is often an important reason to choose an educational provider.

    Personal Interests. Establishing a successful career is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Start with your personal interests. If you're passionate about your career, you're likely to enjoy the work and ultimately succeed in performing it. Discovering how to apply interests to a career goal can be challenging, so taking an interest assessment offered by a career development counselor or educational psychologist can help.

  2. Assessing Career Opportunities

    It's also important to consider how much job opportunity exists in any career field. A highly competitive career field can be a restrictive choice. Even after obtaining educational or other career credentials, available openings may be limited.

    For instance, obtaining a Ph.D. in Egyptology could be considered a restrictive choice. If planning to practice in the Egyptology field, the individual must write an original Ph.D. dissertation and perform post-doctoral research. Getting a teaching job or dig funds in the field may be difficult, because few colleges and universities offer these studies.

    Flexible Careers. Selecting a flexible career field can be important if the individual plans to marry or have children. Let's say you want to become an accountant and pass the CPA exam in your state. Your spouse gets a fantastic job offer across the country. That's no problem for your career because it's a relatively simple task to become a licensed CPA in another state. Short and long-term demand for certified accountants makes this a flexible career choice if you enjoy math and financial planning.

    Career Priorities. Choosing a career involves determining priorities. A job that requires frequent travel or long hours isn't a good choice for the careerist with children at home. Achieving work-life balance is possible with some effort. Some employers offer telecommute or flexible schedule options. Other people want financial rewards and choose career opportunities that make earning a high income and financial benefits a reality. In this scenario, accepting the reality of longer working hours or frequent out-of-town travel is part of the career decision.

  3. Developing Your Career

    Regular introspection and goal tracking benefits career development. Writing a self-evaluation is part of the annual review process at many employers, but accurately evaluating your short-comings or strengths isn't always an easy task. Keep a career diary and note strengths and weaknesses according to assignments, projects, or leadership. Then, do your best to build on strength. Address your weaknesses as part of the self-assessment process.

    Identifying goals, and including the steps or resources necessary to meet them, is more easily accomplished. Attach a time period to each task and review your performance of accomplishing goals each day. Creating an accurate and in-depth self-assessment benefits you and your employer.

  4. Establishing Interpersonal Skills

    Your job title and function are just the beginning on the long career road ahead. Look around you to assess the lay of the land. Some co-workers obviously believe that talking more than others is the way ahead.

    The development of listening skills is far more important in the workplace. Sharing meaningful information is always important, but only when you take the effort to understand and interact with others around you. Relating well to others, including your boss, customers, co-workers, or direct reports, is an essential career skill. Knowing what the boss requires, or what the customer really needs, will improve your performance at work as you build rapport with everyone.

  5. Credit And Your Career

    To err is human, and making mistakes happens to the best of us. However, sharing your financial past or public record with a prospective or current employer can chill or damage your career prospects. Months or years of great performance can dissolve in an instant if the employer reviews your poor credit history before offering a plum promotion.

    The states of California, Washington, Connecticut, Vermont, Hawaii, Oregon, and Maryland already restrict employer credit checks. If you don't live in one of these states, you can refuse the employer's right to access this information. Of course, refusal to grant permission probably means you won't get the job or promotion. When an employer asks to review your credit history, you can offer to obtain the reports and turn them over. This is called a proxy request or order.

    Although national legislators want to remove or reduce the impact of poor personal credit in the workplace, the practice of checking current or future employee credit happens. It's important to review your credit reports from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax on a regular basis. A quarterly review of your reports can keep credit problems from affecting your career.

    For instance, you have a great interview with a senior manager at a top-ranked firm in your industry. The manager invites you to complete an official application, and you authorize the company to check your background. In doing so, the employer learns you're slow to repay student loans. You might not receive a desirable employment offer because of it.

    Checking your credit before a job search is just as important as writing an effective resume and interviewing well. Employers make decisions based upon an individual's personal credit. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), more than half of today's employers check employee credit reports. Certain types of employees must submit to credit checks more often than others. Individuals who handle money and securities, or those who must have high-level security clearances, should expect more frequent credit and/or public information requests from employers, state or federal governments and/or their agencies.

  6. How Your Credit Affects Your Credibility

    Some employers say that personal credit assessment is one of the ways to evaluate employee reliability. Since credit reports are built over time, the prospective or current employee's credit report offers a type of long-term perspective. If a current employee's work performance has declined, an employer might rightly or wrongly conclude that personal financial irresponsibility is involved.

    For instance, an employer sees past-due payments on a prospective employee's credit report and surmises that the applicant might have a problem meeting deadlines. If a tax lien or default on mortgage payments is found, the employer is also likely to reason that the matter didn't occur overnight. Even though many other contributing factors are the reality, the employer may believe that the individual could have turned finances around but chose not to.

    In some industries, the employer may give the prospective employee an opportunity to respond to negative credit report items. A single missed payment can cause an immediate drop in credit scores. If the applicant's credit report otherwise reflects current payments, and if the applicant assures the employer that the negative item can be corrected or addressed, getting a job offer or desirable promotion might still happen.

  7. What's A Pre-Adverse Action Disclosure?

    If an employer decides against hiring you because of information found on your credit reports, you must be advised on the decision in writing. The employer should also include a copy of FTC's "A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act."

    It is important to evaluate your credit reports on a regular basis to identify and contest errors contained in them. The FTC estimates that more than 25 percent of U.S. consumers suffer the impact of credit report errors.

    Communicating with the employer about your credit reports may make good financial sense. Let the firm know you've identified errors on your credit reports and you're taking steps to correct them. Show the business you're an accountable, responsible individual.

    Write to the credit reporting agencies about the errors and send supporting documents, and review your reports to ensure that errors are removed. Send corrected credit reports to the firm to present your case. Without negative credit report information, the employer may consider you an ideal candidate.

  8. In Conclusion

    Enjoying a career is different from getting a series of jobs to pay the bills. Planning and paying for education required to gain career skills, developing interpersonal communications and problem-solving skills, and managing personal and professional credibility are all keys required to start and grow a career.

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