The self-improvement genre is exploding these days. That's good news for the masses, and it's good news for everybody thinking about advancing or switching their careers.

Why? You don't need to be a reader of Success magazine (or the website's career section) to know the world of self-improvement has so much to teach us about career growth. From employment searches and interview skills to goal-setting and purposeful advancement, the on-the-job applications from this industry/movement are endless and there are lessons for everyone.

Goal setting

Let's start with defining career goals. The first thing every self-help guru will tell you is you need to know where you're going. Then you need to write it down. So, determine your current goal(s) for career success. Is it to start working for Company X? Learn a role in a certain field? Study under a specific type of professional? Increase your responsibilities (along with the chances for a promotion)? Whatever the aim, write it down, then tell at least 5 other people about it. The very acts of documenting and sharing your career goal will help to solidify your resolve to achieve it.

If you want to go bigger with three-, five- and 10-year plans, you can try, although some experts think with today's rates of change those distant timeframes should best be left vague so you can adapt goals when the world inevitably tilts another direction. The key is to think big and long-term, then write down the steps to getting there.

Job searching

Job searching is a 'numbers game.' What do I mean? It's all about volume. Just as a salesperson obsesses over keeping their pipeline full and working all the leads, you too need to be applying for multiple jobs and talking to even more people as you network and potentially shadow role models on the job.

Also like a salesperson, you can't take rejection personally because you know that some people are just not the right buyer … or just aren't ready to buy. Either way, you believe each rejection is getting you closer to the right job, and you appreciate the opportunity to practice your skills (e.g. skills used in the application process, interview presentation, job researching) along the way.

Ultimately, looking at the job search as a numbers game means you won't dwell too long on any particular opening. It means you take your ego out of it when an employer rejects you because you know it's their loss. It means you have several options going at once, always setting up the next interview, sending out the next application, or going to the next job fair. Keeping up with regular, job-search activity increases your odds and keeps yourself balanced if any one of them doesn't work out.


The old cliché 'practice makes perfect' is well, perfect, for emphasizing how to ace job interviews. You need to sell yourself, and the best sales presentation starts with diligent preparation. By working on your 'elevator sales pitch' every day, you hone your interview skills the same way Jeff Olson of The Slight Edge would recommend: One step at a time, consistently. Over the long haul this consistency accumulates into a critical mass of momentum, what Olson calls 'the edge.'

Even if you don't have an interview on any given day, you can still strengthen your skills by role-playing with a friend or former colleague, practicing alone in front of a mirror, or writing down and memorizing your best answers to common questions (e.g., “Describe one of your weaknesses,” “Tell me how you responded to one of your biggest challenges,” “Tell me about yourself”). Continuous improvement is the name of the game here.

An often-forgotten part of interviewing is that it provides an opportunity for you the candidate to say no to an employer. So many of us fear rejection going into the process, thinking that the evaluation is only one-way; remember, it's a two-way street! Rejecting a job offer from the wrong company is as important as finding the right one, and there's power in holding the 'rejection' card.

In fact, when you determine a company is not the right fit for you during the preliminary hiring stages, it's your obligation to reject it. You owe it to yourself. On the first date that is a job interview, you have every right to walk away afterward with no obligation if you don't like what you see. This is also a skill: Identifying the right fit for your talents and conversely, avoiding the bad fits.

Purposeful advancement

What self-help coaches invariably preach is the power of being well-read. Being well-read gives you a more grounded life (and keener intelligence), which also applies directly to your career. Whether cultivating a reading habit means keeping up with industry news/opinions, world events, or trade publications, or letting your imagination roam with novels or subjects you ordinarily wouldn't encounter in your work life, the goal is to be reading frequently.

A steady diet of reading broadens your perspective, gives you a more sophisticated world view, and keeps your mind sharp by allowing you to get at the heart of what matters to your employer and the people you serve. It's hard to think of a better selling point for somebody wanting to advance in their current organization or general professional role.

Having great ideas and being savvy in your ability to think outside the box often starts with being a voracious reader and self-educator. Plus, the better you educate yourself by feeding your mind useful information, the more you add value to every project you undertake, group you join or meeting you attend.

Take small steps, not massive leaps

To borrow again from The Slight Edge (or Darren Hardy's The Compound Effect, which carries a similar message), I'd argue making daily incremental progress in your career plans is way more important than any big singular breakthrough. Following this logic, you want to look to the future while gradually improving yourself every day … taking one step at a time to bring you closer to your current career goal, whatever it is.

I'll leave you with this: An old saying tells us, The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

What's your first step to career success?

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