How Do You Define A Successful Career?

Most of us spend a significant time at work, whether employed or running our businesses.  If you asked the majority of people if having a successful career is important, most would say it really mattered.

On the other hand if I ask people to define what a successful career is they often struggle.  In some ways this is not that surprising.  Most have never given it a second thought.  If they have they might have come up with the stock answer of a great salary and benefits package.

Now I think we can all agree that earning what we feel we are worth is important.  Yet it is rarely a long term motivator.  In the early stages of our career when we are just starting out and perhaps doing a fairly low paid job, increasing our salary will be a significant measure of success, at least in our own minds.

As we progress, the importance of salary diminishes and other factors start to have more prominence and shape our definition of a successful career.  This might include some of the following.


Having A Role Where You Can Have Real Influence


I’ve worked with clients who have spent all of their careers in large organisations and others who have worked in smaller organisations.  Those in the smaller organisations tell me that the opportunity to influence across the business, not just in their professional field is what they see as having a successful career.


Having Freedom and Autonomy


Bigger organisations by necessity have to have more policies and procedures.  There is much less scope for individual creativity and autonomy.  If this matters to you being part of a large rules based organisation is going to be frustrating.


Having A Career Path

Bigger organisations can offer more scope for advancement due to there being more levels of management.  It might be that the opportunity to move up the ladder every 2 or 3 years really matters.


Working With An Organisation Whose Core Purpose You Care Deeply About


Public sector and not for profit organisations are great examples of this.  Many choose to work in this sector even though pay may be significantly less than elsewhere.  At the end of the day the affinity and contribution that they make to something they deeply care about overrides the material gains of working in another sector.


Working With People Who Motivate You


The people around you make a big difference.  When I worked in professional services with two of the Big 4 accountancy firms I was surrounded by highly talented people.  This had a huge impact on my own motivation.  It encouraged everyone to raise their game.


The Bottom Line: Your measures of career success may well change.  What’s important is to keep your definition of success at the forefront of your mind.


Duncan Brodie is author of the Kindle Book How To Have A Successful Career In Accountancy and helps accountants and other professionals to achieve more career success.

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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