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If you are like most people we know, you lead a busy life. When do you have time to think about moving your career forward?

What we have learned, both as career coaches, and in our professional lives, is that the key to making any change is to slow down and focus on just one thing at a time.

It is the same when you want to move your career forward. There are techniques you can learn about discovering what you are good at, discovering the kind of work environment that would bring out your best, networking, interviewing, getting along with other people, and figuring out what your greatest contribution could be to your organization, etc. However, before you try to tackle all of these at once, our advice, based on our own personal experience and counseling thousands of people about their careers, is to focus on just one thing at a time.

No matter what you have decided is your number one career issue that you want to work on, here are a number of strategies.

1.  Ask a powerful question.

Ask yourself one burning question about your career. Use this question to drive the rest of your strategy. Is your question, Should I change careers?, Should I start my own business?, How do I learn office politics?, Who would be an excellent mentor for me?, or the age old query, What do I want to do with my life? 

2.  Get focused.

Get as specific as you can and then write your burning question down. For instance don’t simply ask; what do I want to do with my life? Instead ask; what do I want to accomplish by the time I am sixty years old? Or how can I improve my presentation skills? Put your question somewhere you will see it every day such as on your appointment book, your calendar, your computer, in your office, on your refrigerator, etc.

3.  Remove distractions.

Do something that will reduce your stress. Career change is tough – managing it requires that you remain focused. Consider taking up yoga, getting a massage or exercising. Replace worry, self-recrimination, avoidance, procrastination and denial with emotional and physical well-being. 

Eliminate nonessential busy work in all areas of your life that does not help you reach your goal by leaving it for later, grouping similar tasks together, hiring someone else to do it or giving it up altogether.

4.  Learn from others.

Most burning questions have been asked by others before you. Find out how others have answered burning questions for themselves and study the lessons they learned to shorten your path. You can do this by reading about famous people, speaking to people where you work, or getting a mentor.

5.  Think creatively.

Take a non-conventional approach to answering your burning question. We know one entrepreneur who took an acting class when developing her business mission statement because she wanted to learn how to listen to her inner truthful voice. We know customer service professionals who took up knitting because they found that quiet handwork helped them listen to their customers more closely over the phone. What would help you answer your burning question?

6.  Be ready.

Once you have put your powerful question out into the world, and are focused on it, people and situations will present themselves to you. Take advantage of opportunities to learn more as they present themselves to you.

7.  Evaluate.

Last, set a date to evaluate your progress. Keep doing what is working. Stop doing what is not working. Ask others for feedback on how you have done. And, ask yourself then if your question is still relevant or if you have another burning question.

By slowing down, and focusing your energies on one specific goal, you will move your career forward, one step at a time.

Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved

                This Personal Development article was written by Judith Lindenberger and Marian Stoltz-Loike on 3/30/2005

                Judith Lindenberger, MBA, President, The Lindenberger Group, can be reached at (609) 730-1049, or Marian Stoltz-Loike, Ph.D., CEO, SeniorThinking, can be reached at (718) 380-1252 or