Guest Post by Dr. Ann Gatty

Is there such a thing as a stress-free career path?  Probably not but at least we should try to minimize stress while working as much as we can.  It is a fact that most of us have to work to pay the bills.  We invest a lot of our time making a living so, doesn’t it make sense that if we are going to invest so much of our precious time earning money, can’t we try to find work we enjoy?  Can we develop a life that is fulfilling for professional ambitions, personal enjoyment and family connections?  I want to offer some advice from my many years in the workforce.  Hopefully, some of the information will make sense to you and offer some strategies for crafting a more stress-free career path.  So here is my list of 10 strategies to build a successful (and hopefully stress-free) career.

Know thyself.

You really can not know what type of career to choose until you take a honest look at yourself.  Identify the strengths that you can bring to a job, the weaknesses that need to be improved and your genuine interests.  Be honest with who you are.   As you set your goals in life- make certain that they are your goals that you are trying to accomplish for your own self-worth, not for family members, friends or colleagues.  Choose a career because it is the right fit with your personality and a career in which you believe. There is nothing worse than working in a job you hate.  One other thing about personal assessment–don’t forget identifying your learning style.  How do you like to learn new information?  On the job learning is important and constant, and if you find that your style of learning does not match that of the job you are pursuing, you will be frustrated and stressed.   Through your assessment, you should be able to identify what your competencies are knowledge-wise; what your skills are that you use with job performances; and what your abilities are that you can add to your organization.  This unique combination that you possess is your competitive edge and indicates why an employer should hire you.

Know your passion.

As you consider a career path, ask yourself, “What do I love to do?”   Where is the passion in your life?  Have you considered how you can make money pursuing this passion?  When you identify what you really love to do, then pursuing the passion will bring you the most satisfaction and allow you to stick with the learning curve and the ensuing tedium without loosing your enthusiasm.  Remember that doing exceptionally well is the result of obsessively focusing on one thing and getting passionate and inspired by it.  I believe that by pursuing your passion means that you will shine.  And people will notice.  They will notice competency, self-confidence and a smile.

Guard against career stress.

What causes you stress within your job?  Is it the long commutes, or the obnoxious bosses?  Maybe you feel career instability or burn-out from the long working hours.  The flip-side of knowing what you like, is knowing what you don’t like.  So take time to define what stress looks like in your life and then identify where it shows its ugly face in your career.  Can you label the targets of your stress or describe what triggers your anxiety attacks? Some of you may be looking to change jobs soon in your career path so it is best to identify job patterns to avoid.  The economic climate is shaky at best right now so you don’t want to be job hopping.  That causes more stress.  And a word of caution for you single ladies.  Single women can feel additional burdens as you pursue your career path.  You may be afraid to make a job change, even if it is warranted, because having a single income.   Financial fear is a real issue and often causes stressful choices for those reliant on a single income.

Enjoy the journey.

It will be full of surprises, some good, some not so good.  By journey, I actually mean action plan.  And the action plan is really a set of directions that allow you to move down a path toward a goal.  But the goal is just the end point, and getting there is the most important activity. Learn from the people you meet and the experiences that occur.  Learning is a lifetime activity.  It never stops. With your career path, strive to enjoy the process and use all of these components to enrich your perspective and continue towards your goal.  Find the benefits in the work you are doing now that can make positive contributions moving you forward.  Be optimistic and keep looking ahead.   Change the path if you need to, but keep a forward perspective.  Know when to move on, when to stay and keep your head up, looking forward. The experience needs to be enjoyed.

Play nice.

As you keep moving up in your career path, take care of the people behind you.  Let them have the benefit of what you have learned.  Help women climbing below you on the corporate ladder.  Give back to those who helped you.  Don’t make enemies.  You may need them and never know where they will end up in their career path.  It is much better to work together to accomplish goals.  It applies to all facets of life.   And this is a good networking tactic.  People notice who they can trust and rely on to get their work done.


Yes, you need to read and read different types of news and different types of books.  If you read the NY Times, then read the Wall Street Journal.  Get different perspectives.  Know what is happening in the world around you.  The more you read the more you shape your personality.  And you become more interesting to your colleagues.

Keep a portfolio of your work.

Put aside materials that you have produced reflecting relevant skills and accomplishments.  These can be work assignments that you have produced in various phases of your career or reflective of different job capacities.  Choose about five examples of your very best work that make you proud.  Keep these works as a reminder to yourself about what types of assignments and tasks you prefer.  Having concrete reminders is helpful for your self confidence and allows you to sell your capabilities to future employers when job interviews come down the road.

Build your self confidence.

It is the best gift you can give yourself.  But show confidence not arrogance.  Confidence comes from doing your job well and also from feeling good about yourself.   Take care of yourself, know where you derive your confidence and protect that attribute.  Confidence comes from many targets including the way you dress–clothes–your shoes–or the accessories you add.  You can also gain confidence knowing that you are taking care of yourself with good skin care, proper diet and exercise. Maybe you enjoy relaxing after a long day at work.  Taking care of your well being goes a long way towards feeling good about yourself.

Develop a game plan.

What is your dream?  I have talked about the journey but really a journey is only as good as the plan that creates it.  Your plan should provide a sense of direction, but leave your doors of opportunity open so you can make changes when appropriate.  Your career plan is developed with a sketch of information as you start, and then it becomes more detailed as you learn and experience more.  You become more knowledgeable and your expertise actually comes from your many contributing experiences.  Yes, it is ok to fail as long as you learn from it.  As a matter of fact, I don’t know anyone who has not failed at one point or another when building a career.  Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t lose track of the big picture.

Know that your life is not always in balance.

Really, work, family, community, and you are never in balance.  Sometimes there is a tradeoff.  I have found that you can not wait for time to be exactly right in order to make a decision.  You are always living in the present, not waiting for some future event to occur.  Emotions can only be felt in the present.  Past is a memory and future is unpredictable. So live now, listen to others, and know who you are and what you want to do.  Then do it.

About the Author:

Dr. Ann Gatty is an educator, author, organizational strategist and personal consultant.  She has taught in classrooms, museums, boardrooms and employee seminars.  She has mentored and coached.  From her work and personal experiences, she finds a continuous need among women, of all walks of life, to find answers to questions about their life balance, goals, and health.  Because of these needs, Ann Gatty hosts a website,  The purpose is to answer the questions women share as they negotiate life’s many challenges.