Redefine Career Success: Part 1

 career verb_head

Redefine Career Success: career is a verb

To redefine career success, remember when your quest for success began. What was your original definition of success?

When we first set out on our own, we learn from the world that’s important to have a cool career. Whether we choose it or fall into it, we sense that deep down our career path ought to be special. Some of us seek to have an exceptional career but can’t quite put our finger on how to find it. In exploring this matter, I talked with a lot of people considering a career change.

Job satisfaction researchers consistently find that 70 percent of Americans are happy to have a job, but not all that thrilled about it. They’d rather be somewhere else. To wrap my brain around this statistic, I conducted one-hour interviews over a one year period with 250 career changers from all over the country who are looking for a more exciting career path.

I asked them questions about their desires and aspirations to get a sense of what people are searching for in a career. In response to the question “What’s missing in your work?” their answers were strikingly similar—I want more meaning in my work; I want to do work that matters to people and the world; I want to be passionate and love what I do.

Digging deeper I asked, “Why did you choose your current profession?” The majority said, I never really chose it—I kind of fell into it; it fit my parent’s definition of success; it guaranteed security and success; it was most practical way to achieve success; it would make me look successful to others.

Can you guess the most common response to the question, “How much of your need to change is financial?” Nearly everyone said their change had little to do with making more money, their main reason for changing was to be more fulfilled in their work.

These folks are highly paid professionals who got exactly what they set out to get—success in terms of money, security, prestige, and social acceptance. Clearly, this was not enough. Yet, few could pinpoint exactly what they did want.

Most have tried more than once to fix their career situation. Striving for successfulness, they set out to get more of something—skills and graduate degrees, promotions, and all the shiny gadgets you can buy. Meaningful work still seemed fleeting to them. In their voices I heard dismay and a yearning hope. What else can I do? Something is missing but I don’t know what it is. Is this all there is?

What I found in this survey isn’t a new revelation, but revealing nonetheless. These seekers are living by a narrow, one-dimensional philosophy of a “career.” Success was defined largely in terms of the end result it brings. They got what they thought they wanted. Yet, most were so discontent with the daily reality of their job that they felt guilty about it. What went wrong with their definition of career success?

Go on to part 2, What is Career Success?