January is National Mentoring Month, so I’m sharing the top three career tips I discuss with all my mentees.

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In honor of January being National Mentoring Month, I’m sharing the top three career tips I discuss with all my mentees.

There is no such thing as perfect work/life balance. Like snowflakes, everyone is unique and everyone’s life evolves in a sort of waveform or cyclical rhythm. Nothing is a straight line with all aspects of life in perfect balance at all times.

There may be a time in your life when you are a single college graduate with time on your hands to dedicate 50+ hours a week to work — because you can and you want to. There will be other times, such as when you have children, that you’ll have less time for your career because you want to put more effort into raising your family. As the cycles of life continue, you may find you have more time, once again, for career and personal pursuits once your children are on their own.

Life is filled with peaks and valleys, and you will spend more time in certain pursuits at different times in your life. Instead of worrying that you’re not in perfect balance, celebrate the times when you’re off-balance —  this is usually when you will learn the most.

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The quickest way to take control of your career is to use the same strategic planning steps that businesses use when positioning themselves competitively. How? Treat your career as a business and treat yourself like a competitive product.

The popular notion that you graduate from college, join a company, go with the flow and hope that somebody recognizes your potential is false. No one is going to pluck you from the masses and help you rise to business stardom, unless you make the first move. Take the time during 2015 to create a career strategic plan to get you from where you are today to where you want to be in the future.

Like it or not, people do judge books by their covers. It takes only three to five seconds for someone to form a first impression. And while you might wish that opinion were based on your intelligence or experience, most studies show that first impressions are shaped by what can be seen or heard in those initial few seconds. A polished, professional wardrobe that colleagues and customers respect will send the message to your boss (and others) that you should be taken seriously for new opportunities, promotions and pay raises.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.