Stepping-Stones for Successful Career Management

Martin Yate CPC
NY Times Bestseller
Professional Resume Services

When it comes to your career management think in terms of stepping-stones and calendars, not clocks. Today the statistics and the experts predict you will have a new job about every four years, and three or more distinct careers over what will be a half-century work life. This could well mean around twelve jobs over a fifty-year career, with major career changes happening every few years.


Changing jobs is tough enough; it takes careful planning and execution to keep the cash flow uninterrupted. A career change is a much more intimidating affair, because you want to avoid going back to entry-level earnings capabilities. If you are going to survive and prosper over your work life, you have to start

A successful career is not a sprint
it’s a marathon – Martin Yate

paying attention to the management of your career in ways your parents never understood.
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What do you want out of life? Re-evaluate your career to date and your goals for tomorrow. Look at where you want to be ten or twenty years from now, and what gives meaning to your life in its larger context. These long-term goals should influence all your short-term moves, “How does this assignment, that job, this company versus that one help me reach my long term goals?”

Focus your being on these long-term goals, “I want to be president of the company” or “I want to be president of my own company.” Don’t be scared by big dreams, and in these days of moonlighting, the two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. Look at the facts: you are somewhere in the middle of a fifty-year work life, you got nothing but time. And this is not an either/or world anymore, where ‘you can do anything you want so long as you settle on one thing and do it well.” You can have multiple career goals: for climbing the corporate ladder, for starting your own business one day, for writing a book and becoming a painter.

A successful career is not a sprint it’s a marathon, so whatever your goals the sooner you start towards them the better. Begin studying for that degree, or that real estate license, or what makes entrepreneurs tick and how small businesses succeed and why they fail. Becoming a student of business will help you be successful in your corporate career and will also offer firm foundations for your succeeding in your own business. If you have entrepreneurial dreams, then treat today’s job as on-the-job-training for the day you start a business.

Look for stepping-stones to take you from where you stand today to where you want to stand tomorrow. I once knew a guy worked for an employment agency, not a very glamorous job but he was successful, if unfulfilled – he wanted to change careers but had to keep paying the bills. What did he do? He looked for stepping stones, becoming a sales trainer looked like a promising option, and he got involved in training new sales employees with his current employer.

He used what he already had, in this instance sharing his knowledge, as a stepping-stone to get where he wanted to go. Training would give him skills to transfer not just from company to company but from industry to industry. Subsequently, he got a job with a franchiser of employment agencies as a trainer. Once there he was half way home: he knew about employment and management and motivation, plus he now had those training skills; soon he was qualified for any training job in any franchise company in any industry. He found career stepping stones, and moved from a vertically oriented career restricted to one industry, to a horizontally oriented career that could cross industry lines: more options for success, more opportunity and more security.

Stepping-stones take you across the river from where you perhaps are stuck to where you dream of being. This young man had other dreams too, he also dreamed of being a novelist and of working for himself. As a trainer part of his job was writing training manuals, he wrote dozens of manuals to hone his writing skills, and he wrote novels as he sat in airports or hotels on business trips. He got a book published five years after starting this new approach to life and career management, now twenty-eight years later he’s written fourteen, has his own company and is still nowhere near the end of his half-century worklife.

Maybe you’ll never make all your long-term goals, maybe you’ll fall a little short, my friend certainly did. You see he wanted to write novels but became a non-fiction writer instead; yet all those small steps over the years immeasurably enhanced his joy in life and his economic freedom. By striving over the long haul and for the big goals in life, even if you fall a little short you are still way ahead of the game; you have nothing to lose by making the effort and everything to gain. When it comes to career management think of stepping-stones, and calendars not clocks.

Calendars not clocks? You live in a world that encourages you to demand instant gratification, “have it all and have it now, life is tough and you are special, our product will make you somebody instantly, you deserve it, you owe it to yourself, be someone now!” This constant din of consumerism takes your focus away from the long term, and encourages you to live up to your income and not up to your dreams. The result is all too often that you get in over your head, and trapped like a mouse on a paddle wheel, you are too busy running in place to even think about moving forward. 

Look at the long haul and form meaningful goals for your career and your life, then break them down into tiny little steps, some small action that, taken today, will take you a foot closer to that goal in the distance. Every step takes you further on the journey towards your goal, and every journey starts with a single step. As far as I know we have but one life to live, and many years to live it, so when it comes to career management, think of stepping-stones and calendars, not clocks.

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Martin Yate
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