When I was just starting out my career in finance after undergrad, one of the best pieces of advice I received from a mentor was to “own my career development.” He went on to explain that if I don’t take an active role in planning out my path, no one else will, or worse, someone else will. Thankfully, I listened. Now I know that future planning and thinking critically about where you want to be in 10 years is tough to do when your days are filled with client meetings, deadlines, angry bosses, and if you’re lucky, a few after-work cocktails. But it’s critical in ensuring that you don’t wake up one day and wonder how you got stuck in your job. With that said, here are some best practices I learned along the way to put yourself in control of your career and chasing your dreams. First things first, you have to know what you want! Do you want to start your own company? Awesome! Now start listing out what you would need to be ready to start the entrepreneurship journey. And if you don’t know what you want? Start doing your research and narrow that down. It’s OK if this goal evolves along the way but the key is to have one. Think long-term! And don’t be afraid to dream big. While planning out how to get promoted or how to land a job at that cool start-up your friend works for is important, you shouldn’t stop there. You still need a “north star” to be pointing towards in the long-run. Be open to different paths! While I’m recommending that you set goals and a vision for your career, don’t be too rigid in how you get there. Sometimes the best opportunities are ones that you hadn’t considered before and you don’t want to be closed off to those. Consider if further education is right for you. Sometimes, the path to your dream career involves going back to school. What degree you pursue depends on your goals but it’s generally a good idea to start planning this out early. An MBA, for example, has a certain window within your professional timeline when it’s ideal to attend. Lastly, don’t keep your goals and objectives to yourself! Share them with your friends, colleagues, and family members. While you may get some unsolicited advice, you may also get some really helpful tips and build a powerful support network along the way. Melody Jones is the co-founder of Vantage Point MBA Admissions Consulting, a boutique, full-service MBA admissions consulting firm that advises applicants to the top MBA programs in the world. With Vantage Point, Melody and her co-founder, Meredith, have developed a unique 360° approach to the application process, delivering the perspectives that matter from not only experienced consultants and former admissions directors from top 10 MBA programs but also current MBA students and post-MBA professionals at some of the top companies in the world. By providing its clients firsthand insights from people who understand the process from the inside out, Vantage Point helps each candidate develop the most competitive and differentiated applications possible, maximizing his or her chances of admission to the most selective MBA programs.