Do you consider yourself to be successful? Yes — I’m aware that’s a loaded question. In this case, I’m speaking of workplace success. But I’m certain that by the end of this post, other elements of our lives will come into play. Work life success is a complicated construct. It has to be…simply because we’re people…and people are complicated. But, this query seems to come up quite a bit during the course of our career lives. As I coach clients (both individuals and teams), I’ve realized this question often looms central.
Unfortunately career growth is not always reflected in the numbers. When career growth doesn’t jibe with outside measures of success (such as money, power and title) — we have doubts and question our path. We tend to place great emphasis on metrics in business. What you’ve sold. What you’ve earned. How many employees you might supervise. On some level the numbers work — on other levels, not nearly as well. Numbers don’t tell the entire story. They never have. Never will.
Sometimes the numbers lull us into a false sense of security. In other cases, they really don’t reflect or keep up with the progress we should really claim. I see this too. (I’ve left one or two “cushy” jobs with great salaries to pursue goals.) Think of all the organizations that have misread the cues. They may have thought they were at the top of their game — and for a time, the numbers stated that they were. However, the success was fleeting in some part, because their metrics were essentially flawed.
When we are in transition career-wise, the numbers almost never reflect the depth and breadth of what’s happening. (We may have changed paths in exchange for a lower title, for example. We may have opted to re-train. Our goals or focus may have evolved.) But, we still wait for that outside confirmation that we are doing the right thing. I’ve done this. I’m sure you have.
The important point here it to find the guideposts that work for you. These may not be anything like the metrics we are accustomed to — but will offer the information you require.
Here are a few alternative measures of success to consider:
- You are developing a voice. We’ve all held roles where our expertise or opinions were lost or ignored. No amount of money can make up for this problem. A voice matters. Always. When you can operate at a level that let’s you know you’ve earned your turn to contribute in a meaningful way, that is priceless.
- Mastering something new. You don’t need to leave your current work life to master something new. It’s a commitment, I know — but worth the trouble, as the rewards are certainly there.
- You’ve found a challenge. There are “seasons” of our work lives where a new challenge is the last thing that we need. But, when there isn’t enough challenge, this too, can be suffocating. With challenge comes hard work — but also a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.
- The chance to create something. We’ve all held jobs where our role was to sustain something — a practice, a policy, a program. But, to have the opportunity to create something new (a post, a new product, a business), is an experience that cannot be measured with traditional metrics.
There are so many other elements success that I’m sure I’ve overlooked. Please share your story here.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker. The Office Blend, has been recognized by Forbes as one of their “Top 100 Websites for Your Career” in both 2012 and 2013.