Excited  business woman sitting at office desk and rejoicing her successBold as this may sound, the key to professional success is actually in your own hands. You’re set on making it big and determined to do whatever it takes. In that case, you’re halfway there and no joke. A successful career rests on your readiness to go that extra mile to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself. There are also a couple of other things that it rests on, such as being clear about your goals and sure that you have what it takes to accomplish them. Sounds simple enough, but is it?

Many of us lean toward thinking that we’re better at something than we are in reality. This could be a result of our upbringing, when mom and dad never stopped telling us how great we are and how the world’s ours whenever we want it, or it could be just some general human tendency. On the other hand, many underestimate themselves for a variety of reasons, most of them, again, rooted in childhood. Whatever the reason, the fact is that few have a realistic image of themselves, but in career development it’s important that you have the most realistic possible idea of what your strengths and skills are, to make your dream career come true. This may sound like an easy job, or it may sound scary, but it’s not the most difficult thing — just compare yourself against those around you who are of similar education and have a similar skill set. How do you feel about yourself after that comparison? Unless you feel totally shattered or extremely flattered, you’re alright. Next, ask others about what they think your talents are. You may be amazed to discover the size of the discrepancy between how we see ourselves and how others see us, but this outside view will only do you good. It’ll give you a more complete picture of yourself, a picture you can then work on, honing the skills you already have and toning down whatever pulls you back. Say you really want to make a name for yourself as an investigative journalist but you were born shy, something which would get in the way of letting your great skills of observation and analysis thrive. Work on it; find the best way to overcome it and don’t give up on that dream.

Once you’re clear about what you can do to reach the peak you’ve set your eyes on, start thinking about how to do it. Career development is a process, and a dynamic one. Set yourself milestones to make sure you’re on the right track and don’t budge if achieving them turns out to be harder than you imagined. Having a career plan is a great start, something set in print that will feed your motivation and help you keep your ultimate goal in sight. That and the willingness to do everything it takes to climb that peak of yours. Ask yourself if you’re ready to go that extra mile and if you get a positive answer, put on your climbing gear — education, skills, mindset and determination — and be sure never to regret any step you make on the way. Play fair and play steady, and ultimately the view from your own personal career peak will compensate for all you had to give up on the way. That’s a bit of a downer, yes, but it’s something to keep in mind: great things require sacrifice that you should be ready for, but the results always pay off.