American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

You passed your certification exam and are now ready for a long and rewarding career as a certified personal trainer! To establish a strong foundation for personal and professional growth, there are five important steps you should know at the start. Read on to learn how to set yourself up for career success.

1. Gain as Much Experience as Possible

Education and certification are a must. However, nothing replaces actual “in the trenches” experience with training, leading and coaching clients. New personal trainers may have preconceived notions about the type of clients with whom they want to work, when they want to train and how many hours per week they want to work. While having a vision for your future career is extremely important when it comes to clientele, scheduling and work-life balance, when first getting started in the industry you may have to take small, but meaningful steps in the direction of your long-term vision.

Making yourself available to serve your clients is invaluable, even if it means you have to work toward your ideal schedule, clientele, pay rate and location. Be patient and persistent and do not lose sight of your ideal vision of success. During this early phase of career exploration, you can gain insight into who you want to help and how you want to help them. With this experience, you can set an intentional course for a long and successful career.

2. Build Your Professional Network

Building and maintaining a professional network is a key aspect of creating momentum and moving forward that is often undervalued and overlooked by newly certified professionals.

How many people you have in your network is not nearly as important as who you have in the network. This is because the benefits of networking can flow in multiple directions. Consider who or what type of professionals you might want to connect with and take the necessary steps to start bringing those connections to life.

Here are some ideas worth exploring:

  • Join ACE Fitness, ACE’s Facebook page for health and exercise professionals.
  • Attend live in-person and virtual trainings, especially those that offer specific networking opportunities.
  • Become a member of a professional organization.
  • Participate in community events.
  • Seek out opportunities to present to groups, businesses, schools and clubs. Many organizations are looking for engaging speakers who can inspire and motivate their members, employees and students.

While social media offers numerous opportunities to network, investing your time and energy into creating a solid professional network with likeminded individuals can prove to be invaluable to your career growth. Be on the lookout for people and groups that share similar beliefs, values and goals to align yourself with and see how strong your network can become.

3. Complete a Personal SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a useful tool for recognizing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that you should consider when making personal professional decisions or when exploring business opportunities and challenges. When performing this simple exercise, it is important to be as honest as possible and to look for ways to reframe weaknesses as new opportunities. Begin by dividing a sheet of paper into four sections and labeling them Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and fill out each section.

Once you have completed this exercise, look to the identified weaknesses and opportunities for inspiration and direction for determining what your next steps should be. 

4. Develop a Plan for Continuing Your Education and Get Started Right Away

The thought of continuing your education immediately after earning your certification may seem a bit overwhelming but it is important to have a plan in place that outlines your areas of interest and how you would prefer to learn new skills and gain new knowledge. Trying multiple formats for taking in new information can be helpful to determine what style of continuing education best meets your needs. There is no shortage of topics and formats to choose from, including additional certifications and specialist programs, as well as online courses covering everything from sports performance to helping older adults maintain their independence. If you are not sure where to begin, ACE offers a variety of free webinars on many topics related to the  health and fitness industry that may lead to future educational goals.

Early on in your career, investing in education can be a challenge and cost can be a major factor in determining which courses you choose. Check out the On Sale Now section of the ACE website to see some unique options that are currently being offered at a discounted rate. You can also explore new areas of interest while earning continuing education credits by reading CertifiedTM, ACE’s monthly publication for health and exercise professionals, and taking the online quizzes.

Finally, for a complete list of creative ways to earn continuing education credits, visit the ACE Recertification Handbook. Here you’ll find great ideas for gaining new skills and knowledge, as well as help in navigating the options and staying focused on the content areas that will allow you to grow the most and best serve the clients with whom you work.

5. Maintain a Positive and Grateful Attitude

Getting started in a new career can be both rewarding and challenging, but with the right attitude, these challenges can become unexpected benefits or rewards. You coach your clients and empower them with the tools they need to maintain a positive attitude along their behavior change journey. However, you also have to remember that you need empowering, too, during your professional journey, especially when you are first getting started and navigating new challenges. There is always much to be grateful for and focusing your attention on these aspects of life can keep you moving forward with intention and purpose.

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