How to Build a Successful Career

Success means the achievement one’s desired goals. Your career accomplishments and the realization of your career dreams signify success.

How to Build a Successful Career

The Nigerian Institute of Production Management (NIPM)


By Dr. Olaniyi Opanuga, PhD, FNIPM, FCIAM, FIMC, CPSOCOM, COPOM(c) 

Provost, Operations, Logistics and supply Chain Leaders Academy (OLSCLA) 


Success means the achievement one’s desired goals. Your career accomplishments and the realization of your career dreams signify success.

Whether you have just completed your University or Polytechnic or College education, entered into a career field, have some experience already, need to change or advance your career there is no time too late to plan. Now, let’s review each of the seven steps to successful career success.


Step 1: Start with your interest, potentials and aspirations

Know yourself first and understand clearly what you want in life. Looking for a job is not the same thing as looking for a career. A job may simply be a means to earn a living while a career involves a series of jobs you perform progressively as an occupation or a profession. A career requires passion and commitment as it involves a path you are taking for a long time or for life.

Taking a serious career decision requires deep thinking, critical evaluation of your interest, personal attributes, qualities, talents, abilities, aspirations, values, passion and life goals. Rushing into a career without due consideration is like a house without a strong foundation.

Step 2: Evaluate the Prospects

Look around. Do your own research. Learn from mentors, friends and associates. Learn from experienced people in the career field. Asses the opportunities and threats viz-a-viz your own strengths and weakness (SWOT ANALYSIS). Find out the prospects-job opportunities, pay structure, career progression patterns etc. but note the risks and hazards involved. I have made a point that your career choice must align with your interest, potentials and aspirations in life. But for you to be sure of what the future holds you need some discernment about peculiar and general prospects.

Step 3: Plan ahead Prepare and Aim High to achieve your goals

You need to think ahead and plan ahead to get ahead. Have a vision for your career. Engage in focused and strategic planning. Set your goals high and don’t blink, waver or stop until you achieve your desired goals. However let your career goals be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time – bound.

Planning involves understanding where you are going, the preparations, provisions and actions you need to get there. You don’t go into a career blind. You need long – term, medium – term and short – term career plans. For instance you need to acquire the knowledge and build skills or develop new competencies in the face of environmental dynamics such as technological change, new trade regulations, new job structure, professional certifications sought by employers, current industry practices, global best practices etc.

Step 4: Take Advantage of education, training and development opportunities

Identify and utilize career development opportunities to the fullest. Organizations are expected to have their own career planning systems and processes. However, you need a personal career plan. Explore career development opportunities available in your organization but never limit yourself to them. Career advancement which come by the way of increasing responsibilities, higher roles, promotions, increased salary, additional staff benefits and so on await those who take proactive steps to develop themselves e.g. self-sponsored trainings, certifications, further education, professional diploma, post graduate courses, professional networking etc.

Don’t forget this; learn the essential skills and keep learning. Yes, you need continuous and lifelong learning.


Step 5: Take Advantage of education, training and development opportunities

Joining a professional body does not end with placing the membership certificate on your shelve and putting professional letters after your name.

Attending annual general meetings, at a branch or committee level, participating in national and international conferences, workshops and seminars and tapping into collective knowledge, expertise, experience and connections are crucial too.

Step 6: Career Building is not a one – time affair

Success is about growing in different areas. It involves setting and achieving career success milestones. Career success has a ladder. Hence, there are things you must do to ensure you move up faster and never give room for stagnation. Build relationships internally and externally. Carve a niche for yourself. Perform your role and responsibilities with ethical integrity.

Step 7: Prepare for Retirement well in advance: The Transitioning Question

Success in any career is incomplete without a glorious, remarkable, memorable and happy exit. You need a carefully thought – out exit strategy whether you wish to transition into a new career or your own business. Successful entrepreneurship requires early and adequate preparation, strategic planning, capacity building, new mindset, attitudes etc.


Know what you want in life. Discover your purpose, your interest and your talent. You should know what resonates with you. Take the necessary steps to achieve career success.

Passion, capability, personal resilience and professionalism remain critical career success factors.  Life changing opportunities cannot be missed when the right values meet core competencies.

A successful career toyou may not be the same with another person. So, it is a personal matter. It depends on how you measure achievement. How you define success in your career may change in the course of your professional life. The steps stated above are meant to guide you so that you have a greater chance of reaching your goals whether you want a job that gives you opportunity to earn high salary, provides rapid promotions, takes care of your welfare and that of your family, offers you certain position or title, enables you to enjoy work – life balance, enables you to handle challenges and so on. Many of my students who are presently working chose financial stability, recognition, promotion, opportunities, involvement or participation in management, job security, job satisfaction, professional development and chances to rose to the top as indicators of career success.

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