If you’ve been in the military or worked for the same employer for a long period of time, it’s difficult to make a change. In general, as we grow older it’s harder to modify our routine. But it’s never too late. Sometimes all that it requires is a change in mindset.

What would you like to change in your career? It could be anything from a small to a big change. Is there a skill you want to learn? Do you want to have a more flexible schedule? Your goal can be anything that you want to change or enhance about your professional life. Here’s how to make it happen: take small steps.

Lower expectations.

If you haven’t started on your goal, there’s a reason – you’re either too busy and can’t find the time or you’re simply not motivated to do it. No matter what it is, you can’t expect a change to happen overnight. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it done quickly. Some goals are small and others are larger, and we all have different tolerance levels for change. Some people adapt easily and others have a difficult time adjusting. No matter what type of person you are, developing and sticking to a plan will help.

Establish accountability.

Everyone is busy. But if you want to make a change it will require an investment of your time. If you’re too overwhelmed with life at the moment, don’t try to fit it in. Wait until you have some breathing room. Use the calendar you already use for tracking appointments, kids’ schedules, or work meetings. Mark dates when you reasonably think you can accomplish something toward your goal, and pay attention to busy work times and travel. Don’t plan to work toward your goal at those times.

Break it down.

Don’t schedule endless hours at a time to work toward your objective. Start by scheduling only 30-minute to one-hour increments to work on it. Also, there are many factors that can get in the way of your schedule, for example, sick children or a broken down car. When these occur, choose a new time as soon as you can and mark it on your calendar. You can also go with your gut – if you are feeling inspired when you wake up on Saturday and don’t have plans, dedicate time to your goal. You’ll accomplish more when you’re well rested and focused.


Celebrate your accomplishments. When you’ve finished updating your resume or enrolled in a course, celebrate! When you acknowledge small successes, it will make the larger goal seem doable and closer at hand. It also gives you a positive perspective on the process and takes away the dread of going through it all. It helps to share in these successes with a good friend or family member.

When you take a long break from exercising, it’s hard to get back into it, right? The same is true for your professional muscles when you’re out of practice. It won’t get easier as the years go by because what we establish as a routine when we’re young tends to stick. Empower yourself to make a change. The time is now.

If life gets crazy and you have to re-set the clock and start over, that’s alright. Give yourself a break. Change is not easy, but by chopping your goal into smaller chunks, planning, creating accountability, and celebrating small steps forward, you can make it happen.

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Marcelle Yeager helps people land jobs that get them to the next level of their career. Through her company Career Valet, she works with mid- to senior-level professionals on their branding strategy and job search materials to secure new roles. She co-founded a second business in 2015 called ServingTalent, where she finds jobs for talented military and Foreign Service spouses. Marcelle has spent over six years living and working abroad. She can be reached at myeager@careervalet.com.