Shannon Fable by Shannon Fable

I just passed my exam! Now what? 

I run across posts and messages just like this nearly every day from health and exercise professionals who have enthusiasm, knowledge and passion but are a little unsure of where to put all their energy. 

Here is a glance at a few steps you can take to explore the industry and find your place:

Define your Who, What and Why

The number-one mistake I see new professionals making (and even veteran pros looking for their next opportunity) is not taking the time to clarify what it is they are trying to do and why they are attempting to make it happen. 

Often, we enter the industry from a place of self-interest; we like to take classes, train or have a natural love for all things health and wellness. We’ve seen how other pros package their offerings: who they serve, what they deliver and where they work. While this is a great place to begin, you must spend some time determining your target market and the number-one service you are interested in providing. While these two items may change over time, getting clear about a who and a what can help you explore opportunities, amass additional knowledge and experience to capitalize on the opportunities, and get moving in this business. 

Your why is crucial. Other pros may have the same who and the same what, but your why is personally meaningful and may help set you apart from other professionals to get the job. Why did you choose this target market on which to focus your attention? Or, what made you choose the what? Clearly articulating the answer to these two questions provides the basis of your personal branding and helps you connect with those you hope to serve through both your marketing and your work.

Explore Opportunities

Armed with a clear who, what and why, you are now ready to explore what’s available. Do your research and think outside the box! Start with the obvious options, the ones you’ve interacted with or come across in the past. These might include teaching classes at a multipurpose health club or training at a recreation center. Just be sure to dive a little deeper and see if there are other places worth investigating. 

Here are a few blogs that break down current opportunities worth exploring for personal training (working for someone else or working for yourself), group fitness and health coaching. As you review these opportunities, resist the urge to “shapeshift.” In other words, instead of seeing a job posting and saying, “Oh, I could do that,” start with your who, what and why to ensure the opportunity will allow you to be at the intersection of purpose and profit. 

Even if the opportunity seems a little outside your reach, throw your name in the ring. Learn more about the expectations and experience required. Add this to your ongoing “to-do” list so you can start planning now for the continuing education you’ll need to grow into your chosen career path as an health and exercise professional.

Dive In

The best thing to do is dive in and get to work. Even if you haven’t yet landed a job or fully defined the business you’d like to launch, you still need to take some steps to get moving in the right direction. Here are a few things you can do to start gaining momentum in your career: 

  • Recruit and Rehearse: Find a few family members, friends and acquaintances to be your guinea pigs. Try to select people who would be part of your target market. Practice your classes or sessions and ask for feedback. Not only will this help you gain experience and fine-tune your skills, but it will re-affirm your who, what and why. Adjust as necessary.


  • Read and Research: Just because your exam studying days are behind you doesn’t mean it's time to put the books away. Now that you know who you’d like to work with, the services you want to provide and what’s needed to take advantage of the opportunities you find most appealing, it’s time to better understand where you need to go deeper in your knowledge. Identify books, formal and informal courses, specialty certificates and websites that are relevant and make a plan to learn a little more every day. This will not only add to your credibility (and confidence!), but it will also keep you motivated in your quest for finding the perfect path.


  • Reach Out and Round-up: Finally, find communities and mentors with which to connect. In-person and online communities can be a great place to socialize ideas, find opportunities or gain insight into your chosen profession. You’ll find several online, especially on social media platforms such as the ACE Group Fitcommunity and the ACE Health Coach Network. Mentors may be a little tougher to come by but finding a veteran pro who has blazed a trail before you can be extremely beneficial. Whether offering you an insider's peek at what the job is really like, pointing you in the right direction for continuing education or additional information to prepare you for the role, or even giving you feedback on your work, collaborating with colleagues is often the best method to finding your way.

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