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A Strong foundation for the future you want.

You’re in the process of building your future. Or, at least, in the process of deciding how to actively work toward the future you’ve been dreaming of! But knowing where to begin,creating the foundation you need to move to the career you want, can be frustrating. You may not even know exactly what you want to do yet! Earning a new credential or furthering your education can be the first step on your journey to the career you want. If you’re new to online education or if you’ve been out of school for a while, you might be nervous about getting into the swing of things. Here’s how you can work on strengthening your  foundation and continue building yourself — and your skills — up!

1. Figure out what your dream job is by asking yourself some key questions.

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Whenever you build something from scratch, you need to have the final product in mind, with clear steps planned out to get yourself there. When you build a house, you have blueprints that outline the “bones,” or the frame, of the building. Do the same with your career goals. Start by making a list of what you want to achieve, what big goals you want to accomplish, and outline what you need to get done. Ask yourself a few of these questions if you don’t know where to begin:

  • What do you like doing? This could be a list all on its own, but knowing what you like to do can help you narrow down possible careers that will make you happy.
  • What, specifically, do you like to do that translates into a job? You’ve made your list of things you like, but can you make a career out of them? Absolutely. Get specific and consider what activities you love and think about what jobs involve doing those activities.
    • Here’s an example: You love animals and taking care of them. You routinely volunteer at local shelters and would love a career in animal care. You’re interested in business, too, and you love leadership and keeping things organized. You’ve considered working in a veterinary office, but you don’t want to see the blood or mess of surgeries. You don’t have to become a Veterinary Technician; the Vet Medicine industry also needs people to run the business side of things. Becoming a Vet Practice Manager could be the perfect job for you!
  • What skills do you need to get the position you want? You’re confident in the direction you want to take your career, but you’re not sure you have what you need to get the job. Whether you’re looking for a complete career change or just want to move up in your current company, there may be a few skills you don’t have yet.

Check out job postings in your area for the career or position you want. Browse the internal job boards at work to see what similar positions have listed as qualifications. Skills and education requirements that appear in multiple positions in several companies will give you a solid idea of what the industry looks for overall.

  • What education do you need? Go back to those job posts you were scanning. Did they require applicants to have a degree? A diploma? Certifications? While many careers can begin with hands on experience and training, most employers look for formal education or certification.
  • Where do you see yourself in a few years? Maybe you’re dreaming of that corner office or you just want a job that will make you happy. Whatever your vision for the future, it’s important to know what your end goal is. Knowing that, you can set realistic milestones to get there. Having a plan will help you move toward the success you want without wasting your time reaching for any and all opportunities.

Answering those questions will help you put together a blueprint for how to go about achieving your desired outcome. You may even start the plan with one idea in mind and find that, after consideration, there’s a better way to get where you want to go.

Once you settle on what you want to do, the next step is to gather what you need to start building. What’s in your toolbox when you’re working on finding success?

Use the right tools to build a future that will last.

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Having the right tools and resources makes the process of building yourself up smoother. You don’t use a hammer when you need a screwdriver, right? You want to start with a steady foundation you can trust and that means you need to take the time to do it right.

Avoid shortcuts that seem satisfying and effective in the short term. You may find yourself getting where you want to go a lot faster, but the steps you skipped on your way will catch up to you eventually.

This is true for any career. If you skip a class or training that your employer values or the HR department requires, you may find yourself being passed over for promotions and additional responsibility after you’ve landed your entry-level position. You’re good at your job, but someone else took the time to learn every step, making them seem more appealing to your employer during promotion time. Keep these questions in mind:

  • What are the steps to being successful in the career you want? Talk to someone you know already doing the job. This could be a supervisor or mentor in your current company, or a friend who’s already working in the position you’re hoping to get.
  • What did they do to get there? They’re established in their career, so asking what they did to get where they are can give you an idea of what steps you’ve already completed and what you still need to work on.
  • Don’t forget to do your research. Before enrolling in a course, certificate, or program, make sure that when you complete it, the program and skills meet the requirements you found in the job searches you’ve done. Companies and schools have varying prerequisites, so ensuring that the work you’re doing to build your resume and your skills will make a difference is key.

If you’re excited about your big goal, taking the time to get there the right way now can help you avoid disappointment or failure down the road.

Celebrate the small wins.

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Success isn’t always immediate and that’s okay. When you’re building yourself up or building out your skills and resume, small goals and milestones are important. They’re what keep you motivated and working toward your big goals.

  • Set weekly or even daily goals for yourself. That could be anything from making sure to read at least one section of your study guide to getting an exam done each week. Your small win will bring you closer to your goals while making you feel confident that you can do what you set out to do.
  • Set meaningful goals to keep yourself on track and motivated. A meaningful goal would be something that pushes you to progress toward your endgame, something that makes an impact, however small, on the tasks you need to complete. For example, completing a lesson in your study guide is one small yet meaningful win toward completing your class, which is a step toward finishing your degree.
  • Keep yourself accountable. Record your goals in a planner or journal. You can even use the downloadable and printable goal tracker on the Student Community to make sure you reach every milestone. Writing out your small goals to show how they add up to your larger plan will help you easily visualize your progress.

Build your future with confidence.

small clay homes

No matter what your finished goal looks like, taking time to build a strong and long-lasting foundation for success is essential. Building confidence doesn’t end after you’ve completed training program or a degree, either!

In addition to what you learn through your studies and on the job experience, taking the time to talk to people in your industry, staying up to date on relevant information for your field, and listening to informational podcasts or audiobooks can reinforce your confidence in your skills. Being confident that you’re in the know will help ensure you’re never caught off guard in a meeting or when talking to your managers at work.

Not only can you be confident that you know what you’re doing in your new role, you can be confident that what you chose was the right career for you. Even better, you can walk into an interview with a degree that will back up what you say about your expertise and the ability to easily speak about your goals with a future employer.

Whether you’re just finishing high school and looking for your dream job or you’re looking ot make your current situation in the workforce better, Penn Foster can help you start building the foundational skills and confidence to do what you love. From certificate courses to boost your resume to college degrees aimed at preparing you for real-world success, we’ve got you.