What is Career Success?

When people discuss career success what do they usually mean? Frequently the populist view is that someone has achieved one or all of the following: done something memorable; earned a lot of money; gained significant seniority and/or status during the course of their career. This is especially so when people are describing the careers of others, as it is the visible manifestations of the career which are assessed.

Firstly let’s examine the word success. The Oxford Dictionary has its primary meaning of success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. So looking at this meaning whatever our career goal is, when we achieve it we have been successful. However, that is dependent on having a goal to work to. The reality is often that most people have clearer goals about their next holiday or mobile phone than they do about their next career steps.

So, is this important?

It could be said that having career goals are limiting and prevents people taking advantage of opportunities which may arise along the way. Not so. As Henry Ford said “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity”. When you have clear goals it leaves room for discretion in how you arrive at them. Most importantly they enable your focus and energy to move in a clearly defined direction and therefore have more of an impact. There are many examples of people taking a scattergun approach, which dilutes the energy and direction of travel. As the old saying goes “if you don’t know where you are going, you are liable to end up some place else”.

What must I do to achieve career success?

The most important thing is to be clear about what is important to you, your work values and then to identify what your natural strengths are. Career goals need to be in line with who you are and what you do well. We can all be trapped by other people’s career dogma and the imposition of the phrase ‘What you should do…” which all works towards limiting your career options. So being clear about knowing yourself is the first step to career success.

Five Steps for Career Success

1. Know yourself; your work values, your strengths and your interests
2. Define your career goals and, most importantly, write them down
3. Know how to approach the job market or self employment which you have decided on: research through reading and asking relevant people for advice
4. Know whom can support you in your job search and career development by identifying the right network opportunities
5. Review your progress against your goals regularly and identify next steps and/or amendments to your goals.
By Gill Amos