The big corner office, a lucrative career that allows for lavish vacations and luxury cars, power and prestige...how do you define success? As a career counselor helping college students identify a career path, I would often ask this very question. Each student would answer a little differently based on their personal values. Many of them would be influenced by the more is better, money equals success myth. And I suppose I believed this as well, at one point. But then I pursued a career in higher education and realized that something other than money would have to define my successes. Because unfortunately my field was not one known for high salaries and extravagant perks.
This coupled with the work that I do now with helping parents become more competent and knowledgeable in career development has led me to ask myself this very question again. How do I define success? And what do I want my children to consider? Part of becoming more competent and knowledgeable in career development to better serve your children, is unpacking the preconceived notions that we all hold. If your goal is to be an unbiased guide for your children through the career exploration process, then you have to address your own beliefs. And in the last few years I have spent time wrestling with these exact constructs.
Be my own definition, I am unsuccessful. I don’t work in an office, I work out of my home. I don’t have unlimited disposable income. If I need a new car, or want to take a vacation, I must save for it (sometimes for years). Do I feel unaccomplished? Not at all! In fact, I feel like I am truly using all my strengths. Because I am my own boss, I have tremendous work life balance. My days are spent engaged in the very meaningful and very real work of parenting and raising children. And that allows me to also have time to write, illustrate, and create content that is important to me. I also am able to feel challenged and to implement new ideas without seeking permission. I never thought I would enjoy the entrepreneurial life due to the risk, but I have found that this freedom is very appealing.
So here are three lessons a career counselor learned when she sat down and addressed her own definition of success. Perhaps it can encourage you to redefine your view of career success as well.
Celebrate what is important to you
In my current role, I have to look for opportunities to be successful. I work from home, in a one person organization. If I don’t celebrate my success, no one will. I don’t have a supervisor touting my achievements, or co-workers giving me kudos on a job well done. I have to be intrinsically motivated to continue to do the work, even though it sometimes seems like no one even notices what I am doing.
You define success
I have to be willing to re- evaluate and change my definition of success frequently as my life stage changes. Right now, time freedom and work life balance is much more valuable to me as a parent to small children than money or prestige.
Success is doing something you love
The core of your work should be something that you are passionate about. It shouldn’t be a luxury to have a career that you enjoy. And if something isn’t working for you, you can change your mind and your circumstances.
This is what I want to impart to my children. A successful career is doing something that they enjoy, no matter how much work it takes to get there.
When you think about a successful career what comes to mind? What do you want to teach your child about career success?