Most of us get our start in the fitness industry the same way. We are hard-studying kinesiology students in college trying to earn some extra money on the side by filling our schedules with a few clients here and there. After graduation we take that all-important step toward becoming a full-time certified personal trainer (CPTs) and dedicate ourselves toward developing our career rather then simply making money. The time for treading water has come to an end and it is now time to progress towards establishing credibility within the CPT community and with your current and future clientele. The first few years of being a career-based personal trainer is a phase I like to call "paying your dues." 

While paying your dues you may have to work some floor hours in which you will be asked to clean equipment and recruit new clients, as well move weights around, take out trash, maintain equipment and file paper work. The next step in paying your dues is working the dreaded split shift -- a few clients in the morning and in the evening but not enough at either end of the day to make a solid living. I know none of these responsibilities sounds sexy however it is an important part of your career development in that you earn the respect of your peers as well as become a fixture in your facility. 

Part of paying your dues is establishing a line of connection with the members. The members don't have to know your name but they do need to remember you. A great way to make a lasting impression is by making solid eye contact, waving or saying hello and being seen as a busy and hard working individual. These little cues performed consistently are well worth the rewards after the time you've put in. The day may come in which the client that you have been waving to every morning is ready to take the next step in their training. The two of you may have never said a single word to each other however the daily eye contact has established a small connection. In most cases, you will be the person they approach to inquire about a training program.

Once the connection has been made it's now time to establish credibility with the members and your few clients. To assist in establishing credibility you need to make it a personal goal to educate the individuals you work with on a daily basis. This can range from proper running form on the treadmill and weight room etiquette to squatting anatomy and correct technique. Your educational interactions with these people should leave them feeling like they accomplished and learned something both physically and mentally. 

As CPTs it's our job to train our clients’ minds just as much as their bodies. In a sense, we are the front line of the health care industry and it's part of our professional responsibility to help our clients in every way we can. In doing so you show your clients how dedicated you are to helping them improve their health. This is one of the most basic ways to develop a committed, trusting and working relationship.

Once you have established yourself as a consistent and reliable trainer, having paid your dues, it's time to make a decision. Your career has developed to the point where you don't want to have to work the split shift any longer. I suggest you select one time of day to make your "regular" schedule (morning or night). Either time of day can be extremely successful however I feel there is greater potential to be had in the morning, as the majority of individuals want to start their day with a solid workout.

Paying your dues is a very important part of your career. I know it can be remedial wiping down equipment, picking up towels and recruiting clients during floor hours. These basic responsibilities help you develop professional character, earn respect from your peers and learn the basics for being a successful certified personal trainer. The qualities that you can instill in yourself during the "paying your dues" period of your career can set the tone for a very professional and successful training career down the road.