We all want to be successful and reach our career success. But what exactly is career success? What is the true definition of it? And how can we achieve it?

Oxford Dictionary defines success as ‘the fact that you have achieved something that you want and as the fact of becoming rich or of getting a high social position.’ My friend defines it as ‘the fact of not giving up when you fail.’ Who is right?

The only definition of career success that matters is the one that is yours. What you might consider successful could not matter less and mean nothing to someone else.

The key to your career success is to define it first.

It is time to get clear on your own terms of career success.

Success is very personal, and dare I say subjective. Your career success is all about you, achieving the goals you set for yourself. But you have to be careful how you set those goals and that it is you that is really choosing them.

Defining your success might sound an easy task to do, but actually is one of the hardest things. And, at the same time, the most rewarding process that will make you feel fulfilled.

Can you imagine spending 20 years of your life, working so hard and trying to be someone, trying to be a success? You become that someone and you realize that the person you have become is not what you wanted to be at all. You feel tired, completely unhappy, trying to find fixations to survive, many times also being and living unhealthy.

And everything you were doing is what you were supposed to do. You have graduated from the right college and landed the right job at the right company. You have followed the path that everyone else told you would be the one to lead to success and to your dream job. Only when time passes by, you find that your dream job doesn’t feel so dreamy after all.

If you resonate a bit with this, you are not alone. A study by Gallup showed that only one-third of the workforce feels actively engaged in their work. Many individuals realize that success did not come with the expected happiness and joy. Hence, more and more conversations about work and their careers move to the moments about meaning, fulfillment, and satisfaction. 

We all have pressure on us from the social environment to succeed. Are you chasing your success or somebody else’s? You might have been doing all the right things along everyone else’s path and their definition of success.

It is time to reconnect with your career and set up your career path, where defining your own terms of success matters.

The fact is that there are a lot of individuals who are perceived as successful, who hold high positions and earn impressive salaries, yet who feel unfulfilled and with no joy in their careers. 

Achieving meaningful career success

To achieve meaningful career success, we need to acknowledge two things: all of us need to define what career success actually looks like and finally, we need to find the courage to shoot throughout our career to achieve it.

This will be scary. This will be uncomfortable. This will make us feel vulnerable. But it is definitely necessary to achieve the career success that feels great.

Many feel lost without external criteria to measure our success. Designing a truly successful career demands a high level of self-awareness and ability to self-direct.

When I speak to people and ask them about their definition of career success, they often go blank. Or many of them start talking about their accomplishments. This is great, but it is essential to understand that accomplishment is not synonymous with career success. Success is what you internally experience when you dare to go after what your goal is.  Even if it makes you and your significant others uncomfortable. And as my friend likes to say, based to her definition of success, even if you don’t ultimately attain it.

Career success looks different for everyone, and it is also evolving as we move through the chapters and stages of our lives. Ask yourself, ‘What does success look like to me’?

Visible, objectively measurable achievements such as work results, money, getting the promotion or reaching status are forms of career success that we were taught to focus on—sometimes to the point that we overlook other aspects that are really valuable to us even more. Think about the attributes of success that you should not neglect and should be a big part of your goals:

• What is the impact you want to make​ with your work and for what you want to be known?

• What are the rewards you are searching for to get from your work and career?

• What are the real drivers that are making you move forward​?

• What is the work where your interests lie​ and is aligned with who you are? To use your full potential and bring your signature strengths to life.

• What is the life-style you are searching for​ and want that your career enables you to have?

• How do you want to measure your career when you look back on it?

But most of all

• What matters most to you?

• What is the person you want to become, as a professional, aligning your work and relationships with your values?

Knowing your WHY behind your terms and definition of success is where your needs and values are hiding out.

External markers and affirmations are nice to get, but would you really rather have them than any of the above? Yes, you deserve both. Just don’t forget about the ones that are yours. Is your career success about what you feel and experience internally or what others see or perceive externally?

Now is your time to make your career success and fulfillment a priority for your future.

Career success comes when what you do matches who you are and what your intention is on who you want to be. Your work has to have meaning for you as the damage caused by the lack of it and by chasing external view of success is a waste of your time and potential.

I had to define career success for myself as well. I had to leap into my career change and own it. It was one of the hardest things I did, and I still am scared sometimes, but I have experienced fantastic career success and fulfillment. 

Just remember this: Give yourself the permission and courage to start chasing success on your own terms. Because success comes in many forms!

Look for your work-life alignment, where you can be the same person, with the same values, at home, and in the office. Because meaning matters. You matter.

There is no ‘right’ way. There is only your way. Having the confidence and commitment to go your way is when career and life go great and are full of fulfillment and joy.