What I’ve learned about how to have the career of your dreams

When I began this list, I had six things. I tried to trim it to five. But I found that I was unwilling to drop even one. So, I attempted to enhance my list so I could reach the friendly number ten. But, I couldn’t find ten things I really feel passionate about. Thus, I have seven. These seven are a really important half-dozen plus one.

This isn’t like school where if you check the boxes you move to the next grade.

  • Career movement is much more nuanced and subtle. I hear people ask for a ‘defined career path’ or a career map. I honor their ‘need’, but am a bit puzzled. A career is such a personal thing, and how could a piece of paper possibly tell me what’s next or where my capabilities will have impact? That’s up to me to find those places, get to know my company and employees, and identify where I can add unique value. With the pace of change in our world, what may be an important skill to get in order to succeed in your next role could change between today and tomorrow.
  • Instead, think about the types of things you love to do. Where your strengths are. What you’re doing when it stops feeling like work. Then…try to do more of those things.
  • Learn! We are living in a time where we can’t escape learning opportunities. I listen to podcasts during my commute. For me, I get a tremendous amount of current information about professional topics from thought leaders in small doses of 20 minutes a day. But, some of my most adventurous ideas or challenges to leadership solutions have come this way.

Move on when you aren’t giving your best

  • Whether you’ve stopped growing or whether you’ve become really good at something, it’s time to move on when you dread Mondays. You know what I’m talking about. That feeling at 4pm on a Sunday. When you get it…you need to really consider if you’re doing the right thing with your Mon-Friday time.
  • You deserve to feel excited about your work. The people you work with deserve it too.

It’s critical to have a manager who believes in your potential and wants to enable your success

  • I once read that you should never work for a manager who doesn’t believe in your potential. It made so much sense.
  • We need managers who see something we might not even see in ourselves. Who will push us to grow and who will coach us through failure.
  • It’s not just believing we can do it, but they are also helping us gain visibility, make the right connections, and get to know who we are

Fight above your weight

  • I used to work with a leader who would use this expression “You fought above your weight” or, sometimes, “you were fighting below your weight”. It’s a reference from boxing to a fighter who is fighting an opponent who is heavier and more dominant. Essentially, it is a way to assess did you come into a meeting or an interaction and exceed expectations.
  • One thing that has been useful to me is to think ahead to key meetings and what ‘fighting above my weight’ might look like. Sometimes that’s bringing knowledge into the room, sometimes it might be asking good questions.
  • If you want to grow, be given new opportunities, and really impact your team…think about how you might ‘fight above your weight’ more often and more consistently.

Work for the leader you want to learn from

  • People get so hung up on the job they want to do that they fail to factor in the leader who will be ‘molding’ them.
  • Sometimes, you’ll want a leader who does things in a way that is very different than you so you can ‘sharpen your saw’ and develop skills or a way of thinking that doesn’t come naturally to you.
  • Other times, it might be appropriate to experience a leader who has a style much like yours so you can better understand what it feels like to be on a team that is led that way.
  • The point is, diversify your exposure. Figure out what you want to absorb into your own leadership style. Grow from new ways of thinking, negotiating, influencing, addressing conflict, and growing people.
  • At particular points in my own career journey, I’ve chosen a leader first…job second. I’ve never been sorry.

Say ‘yes’ to the things that scare you

  • We hear career advice to ‘take risks’. What this means to me is that every time an opportunity arises that puts a small pit in my stomach…, I say ‘yes’. ‘Yes’ I’ll deliver that workshop, ‘yes’ I’ll cover that meeting, ‘yes’ I’ll have that tough discussion. I usually say to myself ‘why did I say yes to this??!’ before it happens, but with 10 seconds of courage…I get through it and then I’m glad I did.
  • The moments you find yourself a little nervous are the ones you can turn into excitement. Excitement that you’re growing.

Help other people

  • Sometimes it’s easy to make career growth about us or about our own career. But, some of the most gratifying moments in my professional life have been when I’ve been able to help someone else. When I’ve realized that I can offer something they need or make something easier for another person. And, it’s interesting, because I’ve never done it for a self-serving purpose, but over time…this has opened doors to conversations or opportunities. Or, even being part of a virtual team. It’s also enabled me to find advisers outside of my management line or direct team. 

What have you learned and are willing to share with this community that is focused on the fact that Nobody Makes It Alone? What are your guiding principles for a great career? Share it in the comments!


  1. Love this! Very insightful, honest, and to the point. I honestly don’t think that I could come up with numbers 8-10 either. “Six plus one” it is.

    1. I’d like to see your top 7, Doug. I can guarantee you’d have us laughing…when are you going to start your blog, btw?!

  2. This was terrific Amy! Each one is perfect!

    1. Thanks, Michelle! I’m so glad you liked!

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