What is career success, for you?  

A common definition of career success reads: Career success is achieving a reasonable level of financial stability while doing work you enjoy.

Whether you resonate with the above or not, it provides us with a starting place to examine what elements we need, personally, to feel a sense of “success”.

What constitutes career success?

Measures of career success are personal. My own needs have shifted over time. Some aspects, like learning and doing meaningful work, have remained the same over my adult life. Others, like ‘moving up’ have looked different over time.

In my own mind, success is not the end goal; rather, the end goal is something closer to Seligman’s PERMA model of well-being, with components that include:

  • Positive Emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

For example, I foster relationships with my colleagues at work, so I can feel connected and happy; this is an element of success, in my life. Another personal example is that I feel successful when I am “in demand”. Unlike the first example of connection, the belief that ‘demand for my work is a measure of my success’ has not always served me. You might also have beliefs that don’t serve you.

8 questions to ask yourself, to gain further insight into your personal measures of career success

Here’s a list of question to help you refine your own criteria of career success.

1. Is my work is aligned with my values?

Your values are your “North Star”–they guide and influence everything you do and choose not to do. If you’re not sure what your values are, use this worksheet to help you.

2. Do I feel a sense of belonging at work?
3. Am I growing and learning?

I tend to think of growing and learning as positives. But I need to remind myself that there are situations where the amount and/or type of learning imposed on us can create immense stress and shake our self-confidence. Even to the point of wondering whether we should be in our roles or find other work.

4. Do I use my strengths at work?

If you’re not sure what your strengths are, let’s talk! Or, you can take an online assessment. I’m a fan of the CliftonStrengths Assessment.

5. Do I have positive relationships in my workplace?

A few questions you might ask yourself include:

  • Do I feel included?
  • Is there trust among team mates and colleagues?
  • Are the communication practices, among team members, healthy?
6. Am I valued and appreciated at work?

Some of you may think “Isabeau, I don’t want to have to be valued by others to feel a sense of success”. Fair enough. For others, being valued and appreciated in the workplace, is necessary.  The compensation you receive can also fit into this category.

7. Do I have the stability I need?
8. Do I like my work?

I know, it seems like an obvious question. Sometimes, however, we get on autopilot and we forget to check in.

A cautionary note for perfectionists

If you’re someone with perfectionist characteristics (e.g., you have very high standards, you tend to be self-critical; you are overly focussed on results, etc), chances are that you’re constantly striving to achieve success. Striving, and then immediately moving to the next thing. You have a belief that “career success will come when I accomplish X”, and no sooner do you do that, your belief shifts to “career success will come when I accomplish Y”…For those working in higher education, and for many others, we work in an environment that feeds and promotes that mentality.

If the above cycle of constant striving sounds familiar, then please (please) take a moment to pause and recognize yourself for your achievements. Equally important: pause, breathe, and take some time to consider what else you need to be and feel successful.

Maybe you’ve been conflating achievement with success. While they may be related, they’re also separate. Be clear on what else constitutes career success.

Over to you

If this post resonates with you, sit with the questions and your responses. See what else comes up that can provide more insight into your own definitions and measures of career success.

If you want to experience greater “success” (in whatever ways you define that) and fulfillment at work, I can help. Book a free consultation.

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