Top-climbing: 10 tips improve careers

It often seems like you don't have much say about events in your hectic life. But when it comes to your career, there are some areas you can control.

Here are 10 things you can do to help you meet your professional goals:

1. Make a 10-year plan

 Then break it down. What 10 things need to happen for your 10-year plan? Do the first thing this year. The 10-year plan takes more than 10 minutes to make. It might even require a few sessions with a career coach. But if you don't form a path for the next 10 years, you will go exactly where you plan to go: nowhere.

2. Find a mentor

 You can get to the top a lot faster if someone is helping you. Lucky for you, people love to help, as long as you take their advice. So find a mentor. Explain your goals, and ask for advice on how to get there. Take her out to lunch at nice restaurants – it's a tax deduction. (A boss is not a mentor. A boss is the person your mentor helps you to impress.)

3. Get seven hours of sleep a night

Studies show that sleep deprivation has the same effect on your brain as alcohol. If you're getting four hours of sleep a night you are no better than an alcoholic at work. Your thinking is slow, your patience is low, and your co-workers know you have no control over your life. A good manager can manage everything well. Start with yourself.

4. Hire someone you'd never hang out with

Diversity is a proven factor in corporate success. Diversity isn't five guys from five different fraternities. Diversity is hiring someone who scares you because she sees things so differently than you do and she will challenge you.

5. Take a public speaking lesson

You might say, "I don't have to give speeches." But every day you talk to people at work, you display your public speaking skills. You use tone, gestures, posture, and eye contact– all the things a public speaker uses– to convey your message. I'm sure you could be doing it better, so get lessons before you get your one chance to impress the CEO.

6. Exercise regularly

People who work out earn more money. There are many reasons for this correlation: Good-looking people make more money, and people who work out look better. People with self-discipline make more money, and people who work out have self-discipline. Maybe you think the correlation is unfair, but it is true. So ponder the unfairness in the weight room.

7. Get yourself on projects that matter

Your resume is going to suck if your projects suck. Your resume is a place to brag about how much you improved the company's bottom line. If you never get the chance to impact the bottom line, you will never get the chance to move to the next level. So figure out which projects matter to the company, and tell your boss why you should be on them. Weasel out of projects that don't matter. After all, if they don't matter, why does anyone have to do them?

8. Be on time

This means being a hair early because no one can make it on the dot every time. Hand in proposals to your boss early, and you'll look like you can handle more responsibility. Get to your co-worker's meeting early and he'll think you really respect him. Get to your kid's weekday soccer game early, and she'll know she's more important than your work.

9. Do lunch

Ask someone to lunch once a week. And I don't mean your best friend so that you can bitch about your boss. Use this time to network. There's nothing like lunch to get to know someone, and the best way to get what you want at the office is to be friends with people. Ask your boss to lunch and don't talk about work. You want your boss to like you on a personal level, so she has to know you on a personal level. Ask the person who never gets asked to lunch. He'll never forget your kindness.

10. Get a life

People who succeed in business know the world and know themselves. They are well rounded. Make a friend outside of your work specialty. Make another. Spend so much energy on your family that your parents really believe you will call when you say you will. Read nonfiction to learn what people regret. Read fiction to find out what's possible. Use your spare time to dream.