Building a successful career is an important life goal for many. Yet when it comes time to plan our careers, so many people don’t consider their true measures of career success. Here are four factors to consider if you want your career to work for you, rather than always working for your career.
A successful career is something so many people strive for. The average Australian spends upwards of 75,000 hours at work over their life, so it’s understandable that we want to see our efforts rewarded and make an impact on our profession.
Of course, a successful career is completely subjective! Successful careers look completely different from one person to the next.
What one person considers a successful career may not be another’s cup of tea. Traditionally there have been common threads though, such as wealth creation or financial stability, promotions, rise in status and pride in our achievements.
This post is about the 4 features needed to build a successful career
What makes a successful career?
So, how can we measure career success?
A successful career includes the following four features:
- is aligned with your values
- fosters your life goals
- leverages your strengths and interests
- gives you energy
Let’s look at these features more closely.
A successful career is aligned with your values
Values are essentially a unique set of standards that influence our behaviors. They’re what we view as important in life.
Values are applied to all aspects of our lives, including our careers.
Many people build illustrious careers based on leveraging their strengths, however if their vocation is misaligned with one of their values, it will never feel quite right to them.
Having a career aligned to your values is extremely important to achieve job satisfaction and longevity, however it’s often overlooked in career planning.
While interests are usually the first thing people consider when making a career decision, unfortunately values are often the last. Yet many leave jobs or careers due to a misalignment with their values.
Consider what matters most to you, what an amazing day looks like to you, what you can’t comprise on, and what you look forward to the most. If your career doesn’t support this, is it aligned to your values?
A successful career supports your life goals
Do you like to get up early every morning to surf? Maybe you have a list of countries to visit on your next overseas trip? Or perhaps you just want to pay off your mortgage?
Whatever your goals are in life, your career will have a direct impact on your ability to achieve them.
How you balance your resources (being time, energy and money) between your work and other areas of your life is key to achieving your other life goals.
If your career is taking up most or all your time and energy, then it’s likely you aren’t engaged in the other activities that are important to you. Consider the effect this has on your experience of life.
A career can facilitate or inhibit our ability to achieve other life goals. A successful career will do the former, ensuring you have enough resources left to do what’s important to you 🙂
If you feel like you haven’t gotten the balance quite right, rather than focusing on what resources your career draws from you, consider what action you can take to reclaim and redistribute these resources to an important activity or goal.
A successful career leverages your strengths and interests
We all have a unique set of skills and interests. When we engage in meaningful work which interests us and utilises what we’re good at, we’re more likely to experience job satisfaction.
Pursuing a career based on interests is a natural starting point for most. When we’re interested in something, our curiosity continues to intensify. This interest usually drives career exploration in the beginning.
Career interests also keep us engaged with our work when things get tough. There will always be another colleague to disagree with or unrealistic deadline, but when we have a genuine interest in what we do, we’re more motivated to problem solve and to continue with the task.
Our strengths shouldn’t be the only consideration when choosing a career, however there are a lot of benefits too.
When we complete a task that plays to our strengths, we naturally enter a state of flow and are more productive.
When others recognise our strengths, we can build a reputation for being a subject matter expert or thought-leader in a niche. This is a great way to advance your career!
A word of warning here – careers shouldn’t be built entirely on doing what you are good at! When we establish ourselves as an expert in something, we may experience satisfaction and pride in our accomplishments, however that doesn’t necessarily mean we enjoy the work!
A successful career gives you energy
Hands up if you’ve ever come home from work feeling completely depleted?
You’ve got nothing left in the tank to play sport, cook dinner or engage with the family (let alone work on that side hustle which was intended to help you break free from the 9-5 grind!).
It’s not just the odd day or week (or month) that’s particularly busy; it’s the constant drain caused by unrewarding monotony.
While you might be good at your work and have achieved all the traditional career success milestones, has it left you feeling like there must be more to life?
Conversely, consider what work you’ve done in the past that doesn’t feel like work? Can you think of a task that you’ve been excited to work on? What work have you done that you’ve been completely absorbed in and found your ‘flow’?
This is the kind of work that gives you energy!
A traditional view of a successful career might include financial stability, status and pride in our achievements, yet it leaves many of us feeling depleted, unsatisfied and wondering if there’s more out there for us.
The key is to have your career work for you, rather than always working for your career.
When undergoing career planning, consider your life goals, values, what energises you, as well as your strengths and interests.
Do you agree a successful career meets these four features? What does a successful career look like to you?
P.S. Happy National Careers Week! 🎉 At the time of writing, this week in Australia we are celebrating the economic, social and personal benefits of career development!
Hi there, I'm Danielle Ward
Your go-to career development and human resource practitioner, guiding your career towards true north.