Here’s the thing when it comes to career success — there’s no clear-cut definition.
Now, of course, there are ideas of what career success looks like, but these are largely driven by our peers, family members, those within our chosen industry, and society at large. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for people to lack clarity when reaching for a definition of what career success looks like and how it aligns with their personal values.
Maybe that means a certain number of zeros on their paycheck, or perhaps it means making a living that’s comfortable but allows more room for time with family or hobbies. Those ideas are rather vague and really only scratch the surface.
Achieving the level of career success that you want really boils down to two simple things: defining what it looks like for you and forging a path to get there. There are obviously other factors that come into play, but those two things are paramount.
We all need a purpose. It’s one of the characteristics that define us as human beings and without it, a person is at risk of aimlessly wandering through life depressed and very possibly broke.
Sorry to sound like a downer here, but what I’m getting at is that purpose is a huge part in defining and then achieving career success.
If you were to ask the world’s top 50 CEOs what their purpose was, it’s a guarantee that they would each have precise answer, and their answers would likely be very different.
In order to define what success looks like to you, it’s a good idea to step back and cast aside what others have told you success is.
This is the part where a lot of people make the mistake of listing off accomplishments they want to hit such as making X amount of money or having X title beside their name on their resume. Accomplishments are great, but make no mistake, they don’t necessarily equal a lasting feeling of satisfaction and success.
Famed LA Lakers coach Pat Riley, a man who won five NBA championship titles, but said he was still never satisfied and called this the “disease of more.” Psychologists have long argued that it’s all too common for people to put too much of their self-worth on their accomplishments. At best, those accomplishments leave them with a fleeting sense of satisfaction that only results.
I’m going to get a little bit Zen on you here. When you attempt to define your idea of what career success looks like, include those goals you want to reach, but also ask why you want to achieve them. Perhaps it’s important to you that you make a lasting impact in your career field or carve out a career that continually presents new and exciting challenges. Maybe you want to achieve a level of success that combines both of those factors and allows you to work at your own set schedule.
Don’t be afraid to spend some time digging down asking yourself how the accomplishments you want to achieve align with your personal values and outlook on life. You’ll probably find that your idea of career success changes at different points in your life. It’s learning how to clearly define what that success looks, though, that will always be a key component to finding it.
According to a 2019 survey, a third of American workers thought about turning in their job resignation over the last year. Among that group, 57% said that they were “somewhat” or “very well paid” — meaning money wasn’t the issue.((Access Perks: Employee Benefits and Perks Statistics – The Ultimate Collection))
The problem was that these people weren’t getting the level of satisfaction in their job that they needed. If you’re not satisfied with the work you’re doing or the job you’re at, then guess what, you’re probably not going to feel like you’re hitting it out of the park in terms of career success.
As for why a person may not feel a level of satisfaction, that could be a whole host of reasons ranging from unchallenging work to little room for job growth or simply an unpleasant office environment. The more aware of what your personal idea of career success is, then the more adept you’ll be at analyzing how your job satisfaction plays into it.
Truly successful professionals strive to make it a habit of looking for the best aspects of each job role they possess. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to land our dream job with our very first job, and even if the planets do align for you, there’s a good chance your idea of a dream job will change.
With every job you take on, however, you should be consciously looking for the aspects of it that you find the most rewarding. A person may take a job simply because the pay was decent and it aligned with their skill set, but surprise themselves to discover that the highest level of satisfaction resulted from the relationships built with customers.
By taking an inner look at what is satisfying or unsatisfying about a particular job, you’re better prepared for taking the next step that leads you to the dream job and building your definition of a successful career.
So you’ve blocked out what outside influences have told you career success looks like and carved out what it means to you. Fantastic!
You’ve made a habit of recognizing what areas of job satisfaction are important. Great!
Now comes the hard part — taking some risks and blazing your path to career success.
Whatever your particular idea of career success looks like is, it’s not going to happen by accident. Successful careers are forged through a number of ways, but a certain amount of strategy is always going to factor in with a lot of hard work.
Some form of risk is almost always going to be involved in achieving your career success. This could be anything from moving to a new city for a job or taking a lower-paying position because it puts you on the right path to where you want to go.
You must overcome the fear of getting out of your comfort zone and embarking on a new challenge if you hope to find satisfaction and ultimately career success.
The good news to that discomfort is that more often than not, the benefit of doing so is greater than the risk of failure. Furthermore, taking those chances will give you some incredible insight into what you’re really made of. Keep in mind that never stepping out is far worse than falling down.
As far as creating some strategy for taking those risks and building a successful career, there are numerous ways of applying strategy to success:
Doing this can provide some valuable knowledge on what to do and what not do as well as help you recognize what your own version of what career success looks like.
This doesn’t mean trying to suck up to the boss simply in hopes of getting something either. What I’m talking about here is putting yourself around people who have a positive outlook and can teach you, or at the very least encourage you.
Fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger once told CNBC:
“I’ve always surrounded myself with the right people and people who are very bright, passionate and hard-working.”
For Hilfiger, this meant building up a strong circle of friends and mentors such as Terrence Lundgren, the CEO of Macy’s, who he could turn to for support and insight.
Get some inspirations from this article: The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You
Building a successful career you want is never going to be easy. Not everybody is going to have what it takes and a certain amount of mental fortitude is required. This isn’t meant to be discouraging but it’s simply a reality of life.
With the right mindset, however, and some strategy and sweat, you can carve out a personally rewarding successful career and find a deep level of purpose and satisfaction.
Keep in mind on your own journey what career success looks like for you and don’t be afraid to regularly ask yourself — are you’re making the moves and taking the risks necessary in order to find it?