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Last Updated on November 30, 2021

14 Steps to Achieve Career Success on Your Own Terms

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14 Steps to Achieve Career Success on Your Own Terms

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful, but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved success in my career, yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “What does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating what it really means to achieve career success in life.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction, and when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve career success.

A word of caution: It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. This guide can help you get started.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your idea of success. This should not be based on what you think you “should” do, what others want you to do, or the norms you observe around you.

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” -Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define the type of success that best suits your life situation. This TED Talk, featuring Alain de Botton, discusses how we can redefine success and go easier on ourselves in the process:

There’s no fixed answer. Successful people are all different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few career success examples:

  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling that contributions have an impact

Now, even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family and less stress at work.
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company.
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders, and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses include:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s the most important thing for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what it means to achieve career success, and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

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2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors, and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle, and you may stop learning and growing.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values[1]. Find any list of values, and write down the top 5 that jump out at you as being personally important.

    Once you have your top 5 values, keep them visible. Here are some ways to make them stick:

    • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office.
    • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone.
    • Put the words on your fridge.
    • Add the words on your vision board.

    Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

    For more information on how to identify your values, check out this article.

    3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

    When writing your short-term and long-term life goals, use the SMART framework: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise that will point you in the direction of career success. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

    How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or even 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

    Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals[2]:

    • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
    • If no hurdles were in the way, what would you like to achieve?
    • If you had the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
    • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
    • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
    • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you love?

    Get very clear and specific about your goals to achieve career success. Think about an archer. This person is laser-focused on the target, the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

    By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will help you solve problems and move you closer to your career goals.

    4. Know your “Why”

    There is a reason why you want to achieve the goals that you’ve set. This reason should always be on your mind if you want to achieve your goal quickly and easily. After writing down your goals on paper, visualize having achieved them. And put your vision on paper. Read the paper every day and review your progress.

    “When you know your why, you’ll know your way” – Michael Hyatt

    Doing this simple exercise will help you stay focused on your organization and career values. The problems that you face every day won’t affect your progress so long as you keep your “why” in mind every time. Remember, every action you take in your career and life has a reason behind it.

    5. Break Tasks into Simple Manageable Steps

    Big tasks and projects are usually overwhelming. That’s why most people avoid getting started until the eleventh hour. And this is a recipe for disaster.

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    Every big project or task is a combination of small simple steps. The best way to manage a big project is to break it down into manageable tasks that you can complete easily. Break yearly projects into monthly tasks. Then do it again until you have simpler daily tasks.

    “Break the unreasonable down into little reasonable chunks, A big goal is only achieved when every little thing that you do every day gets you closer to that goal” – Maren Kate

    Breaking down tasks will improve your focus and help you manage your time effectively because you’ll know precisely what you should do every time.

    6. Find a Mentor

    Another great way to achieve career success on your terms is to find a mentor and ask for advice whenever possible. Finding a good mentor is not an easy task because most people have busy schedules.

    However, you can start by taking the time to familiarize yourself with the working process that they’ve adopted over the years. There will be times when you’ll feel hopeless, and discouraged. It’s better to have someone you trust who’ll remind you why you should keep on keeping on.

    “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself”- Oprah Winfrey

    A good mentor will motivate you when you are weak and help you deal with obstacles, moments of weakness, and distractions effectively. We all strive to be the best versions of ourselves. But with the distractions present in our environments, it’s hard to stay motivated with our goals consistently. Therefore, you must find a mentor.

    7. Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People

    Since you are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with, you must ensure that their thinking aligns with your career goals. At home or in the workplace, you have to choose your friends wisely.

    “When you have a million-dollar vision, don’t surround yourself with one cent minds” – Ashwani Vishwakarma

    The only way to lift yourself higher is by surrounding yourself with great people. Be on the lookout for toxic people in your career and personal life. And do everything you can to avoid them.

    8. Create a Solid Plan and Take Small Daily Steps

    Creating a solid plan will help you know the steps that you need to take to achieve your career goals. Since you’ve already set your goals and know what actions you should take to achieve them, you need to do something every day that helps you move closer to your goals. Consistency is key.

    “Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan”- Margaret Thatcher

    You must form the habit of doing something that will help you achieve your goals every day. Start by creating a to-do list and prioritizing your tasks. For things to be easier, have a fixed time to work on your goals. This can be immediately when you wake up or during your most productive time.

    9. Track Your Progress Regularly

    Now that you’ve started working on your goals, you need to evaluate your progress by figuring out what’s working and what’s not.

    You can’t manage what you don’t measure – Peter Drucker

    Start by writing down the actions that you take every day to achieve your goals. Include how you felt about them, how long they took, and whether you can do it better. Then go back and analyze your findings and make necessary adjustments. Some of the best KPIs examples related to your career include:

    • Work success: KPI assessment according to your peers or boss
    • Academic: Academic qualifications that you want to have in future
    • Financial: Bonuses, rewards, and salary
    • Career growth: Promotion speed and time it will take to perform the same function
    • Work-life balance: Flexible working hours and vacation days

    If you are an entrepreneur, your career success and organization are linked. Therefore, you need to establish clear KPIs for your organization. They include the average cost of goods sold, number of monthly deals, employer satisfaction, profit, number of employees, and customer acquisition cost.

    Successful people review their progress every day and plan out what they need to do to achieve their goals. This process helps them stay on track in the long run. Forming this habit is important as it will help you avoid getting distracted during the workday.

    10. Visualize Success

    Change starts internally. You need to have a vision and stay true to it. When you focus on one goal and take action every day, you’ll see it become a reality. Successful people practice visualization every day. While it will take some time before you get used to it, it will pay back in spades.

    When you visualize, then you materialize – Denis Waitley

    To transform your life, you need to change your daily habits. Most people usually underestimate the power of one positive habit. But what we do every day has a huge impact on our lives. If you don’t visualize success, you’ll end up keeping negative behaviors.

    11. Determine Your Top Talents

    What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

    What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing[3].

    What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

    Succeeding in your career requires identifying your talents, especially the talents you want to use on a daily basis to do work that feels meaning. Start paying attention to what you do best.

    12. Identify “Feeling” Words You Want to Experience

    Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

    I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. This was very unfamiliar to me; however, it expanded my self-awareness.

    Review any list of feeling words[4]. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel when it comes to career success.

    Keep these words visible, too!

    Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

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    13. Be Willing to Sit With Discomfort

    In order to achieve career success, you’ll need to make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents, and feelings. This is not for the faint-hearted. It takes real work, courage, and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

    Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

    “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.” -Rumi

    14. Cultivate Positive Emotions

    While many assume career success leads to happiness, the alternative may actually be more accurate. One study found that “evidence continues to persuasively suggest that happiness is correlated with and often precedes career success and that experimentally enhancing positive emotions leads to improved outcomes in the workplace”[5].

    What does this mean for your career?

    Instead of seeking happiness purely from whether or not you achieve career success, find other ways to cultivate positive emotions in your life, as this will ultimately aid you in finding that success. Engage in your favorite hobby, try meditation, or spend time with good friends and family.

    Do what makes you feel good, and you’ll find career success comes more easily.

    If you want to learn more about how to develop positivity, you can check out this article: How to Practice Positive Thinking And Change Your Life.

    The Bottom Line

    For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

    Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals.

    Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe, and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional.

    “When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you.” -Lolly Daskal

    More on How to Achieve Career Success

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Ami Au-Yeung

    Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

    Is People Management the Right Career Path for You? Signs You Need a Career Change at 30 (And How to Make It Successful) How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible 9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace

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    Last Updated on January 10, 2022

    What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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    What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

    Do you remember being invited to your job interview? Do you feel the same way about your job today? There’s nothing more soul-destroying than waking up Monday morning dreading the fact that you’re about to step back into slavery for a job you hate.

    You savor every minute at home before sadly turning the key in the lock to close your front door. From that moment on, you’re counting down the hours and minutes until it’s ‘TGIF’. Your anxiety might even start simmering well before your weekend is over.

    Your boss might be a bully or a manager who cannot actually lead and guide their team. Receiving mixed messages, being twisted and turned in multiple directions with none of the directives being for any real benefit can plummet your motivation and satisfaction so deep you’ll almost hit the Earth’s core.

    You love what you do and what you trained for, but any potential ounce of enjoyment has now completely evaporated. You feel dead in the water.

    You might be shocked at the suggestion that if you’re feeling these things, it’s actually a very good sign! You’re likely to be on the cusp of a significant cross-road that is going to change your life.

    Is Hating Your Job Normal?

    Do you feel horrible when you think about your job? Like everything in life, your job will always keep changing. Every day won’t be perfect. Some days will be challenging.

    However, you’ll always know when things are not right. You’ll know whether you are having a bad week or you are in a toxic situation. If you hate your job, you are not alone.

    A study conducted by Gallup found that 85 percent of the workforce in the world is unhappy.[1] If you hate your job, you need to examine where you are, whether you can improve your situation or if you should think of submitting a weeks notice of resignation to start a new job search.

    How to Cope When You Hate Your Job

    What to do when you hate a job that you once loved? The following key steps are going to set you back on the golden path to enjoying career success despite the muddy waters you currently find yourself in.

    1. Recognize the Signs of Discomfort

    Long gone are the days where we might expect to join a business or corporation and spend our lifetime working our way up into a cushy senior management role that will take care of us and our families for the rest of our lives. In fact, it’s actually risky business to even think this way.

    Pay rises are less frequent. Your skills and opportunities to expand your skills are now limited by staying within one job or organization. By definition, having a career means being on a continuous journey of development.

    Nowadays, the average person changes jobs in their lifetimes between 10 and 15 times. [2] Not changing job environments caps your capacity to grow your knowledge and strengthen your capabilities. You actually make yourself less employable.

    With the globalization of many businesses, you’re not only competing against people in your local neighborhood for your ideal role, you’re competing with folks from other cities, interstate, cross-country, and overseas.

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    Some organizations are evolving with a constant focus on being innovative, taking calculated risks, and embracing new technologies — those that aren’t are falling to the wayside. If you don’t flow with the changing tides yourself, you could quickly find yourself stuck stagnant on a sinking ship with no lifeline.

    Monday morning blues are a key sign that you hate your job and it’s time to start thinking and doing things differently. What you are feeling is actually a blessing in disguise.

    2. Work with A Career Coach And/or Therapist

    When we really detest our daily grind, it’s high time to keep a lookout for the development of symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.

    Don’t just look for physical signs such as feeling greater and frequent fatigue, increased emotional eating, poor sleep. Loss of motivation, concentration and lower general interest not just in your work but in your personal life activities and relationships…these signs should raise alarm bells.

    Your friends and family might start reflecting they’re fed up of hearing about how your boss is constantly laying blame on you for their mistakes.

    Tolerance has worn thin listening to constant complaints about your doing the work of two people yet never confronting your boss about it. Continuing to play the broken record of your pain is not only sucking the lifeblood out of you but your friends and family as well.

    Don’t hold off working with a therapist and/or career coach when you notice these things. Both professionals will help you recognize the full picture of your experience and how it’s impacting you. Of greatest value is their helping you to start identifying changes you need to make and how to turn those into reality.

    When your emotional, physical and mental resources are drained from coping with your soul-destroying nine-to-five, your mindset is unlikely to have the optimal sensibility to hatch your escape plan.

    You’re likely to be operating from a fixed mindset of desperation than innovation and run the stakes of moving from one crappy job situation to another.

    Invest focus to rediscovering your worth, career interests and learning how to dream big again. Go deep in exploration of what your values are around what you want your work to give to you and mean to you.

    If working with a coach or therapist feels like an uncomfortable step for you, consider looking into undertaking a course that helps you work through these questions. Give yourself a gentle kick to ignite momentum in a different direction.

    3. Change Your Workspace

    Hostile or toxic work environments lead to competition, negativity, bullying, unrest, sickness, and high turnover. A toxic workplace is just one of the signs that you hate your job and can poison your personal and professional life.

    Working in a toxic workplace feels horrible. And it takes little effort for the workspace to become toxic. Why do workplaces become hostile and toxic? When leaders cultivate the culture of me-first or kill or be killed, the workplace becomes toxic.

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    Other organizations start well and fall into the trap of chasing power or money. At times, a single employee can cause the entire workplace to become toxic. And it takes a lot of time to restore such an organization.

    The best thing that you can do for yourself and others working in a toxic environment is to get out.

    4. Don’t Be Stagnant for A Long Time

    Do your colleagues and loved ones congratulate you on your work anniversary? What comes to mind when they wish you the best in your career? You might start wondering what you’ve been doing over the past couple of years because you’ve been at a standstill. And you don’t like it at all.

    It’s quite difficult to identify stagnancy in a job. And when you do, you’ll start feeling like you are doing the same things over and over. Before you realize it, five years have passed and you haven’t developed yourself in any way. This eventually leads to a lack of passion for your job.

    You might feel stagnant at your job for several reasons. First, you could be the problem. If your job is easy and there’s no one to challenge you, you’ll find yourself going with the flow. Prolonged stagnancy can lead to burnout.

    To avoid this, you need to ensure that your career challenges and excites you. While your career shouldn’t be your life’s purpose, it should be something that inspires and motivates you.

    Regardless of your post, you’ll always need to be creative to move forward. You need to find simple ways to infuse creativity in your job. You can start organizing files or developing your design skills.

    5. Read Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why

    Reading Find Your Why by globally renowned organizational consultant and speaker Simon Sinek could be a transformational step in finding your way back to experiencing a successful and enjoyable career.

    Sinek and his co-authors explain there isn’t really a difference between having a professional why and a personal why.

    It’s just as much the reason why your friends and family love you as an expression of the work you put yourself into every day. It’s less about tasks and activities and really about what emotional and mental satisfaction doing those things brings you.

    What results is a beautiful tapestry of people not just experiencing an incredible product or service from you. You love what you do, create and get to give and they love you back for channeling that passion into that service and product they experience to benefit from.

    This article also guides you through to discover your why:

    How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

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    6. Try to Avoid Workplace Burnout

    When you have a lot of duties and responsibilities at work, you’ll have limited or no time for yourself and your loved ones. Working all the time can lead to stress and burnout.

    One of the popular types of burnout that you’ll experience is worn-out burnout. Worn-out burnout is usually experienced by employees who are always overworked with little or no positive outcomes.

    Burnout usually happens because the cycle is continuous and it starts taking from your professional life, relationships, personal life, and your health. You can avoid workplace burnout by balancing your working life and personal life.

    7. Consider Expanding Your Thinking and Entrepreneurial Flair

    You might think “I’ll always be an employee” and the thought of starting a business might scare the living daylights out of you. Even then, there is a strong chance you have monetizable talents that could, at the very least, swiftly direct your mindset away from the chilling notion of being stuck in your dead-end job for eternity.

    The thought of creating a product or service all by yourself could be dauntingly foreign. Doing something like this could feel like ridiculously fathoming a climb of Mt Everest when you don’t know the first thing about climbing or hiking!

    But once you start looking and having explorative conversations with different mindsets about ideas, instead of debriefing the horrible day you had yet again in your job, things will start to change. Like Sleeping Beauty being awoken from slumber by Prince Charming’s first kiss, you’ll start discovering a whole new way of thinking you won’t ever want to harness.

    Look at what skills you have to perform your current job. What skills have you acquired in the past that might simply have been dormant for a little while? Do you miss being able to exercise certain skills?

    When you have the discussion with your career coach, you’ll discover there are probably many more skills, knowledge and experiences you could even package and sell than you realize. However, remember: it’s not just about the money. It never should be.

    Even if you have been an administrator for many years, could the next step be writing introductory course administrators or young job seekers could benefit from? There is no better teacher or education platform to learn from than hands-on experience. It might be a side gig you create which you pitch to and deliver at high schools and job-seeking agencies.

    You might create a face-to-face workshop and/or an accompanying course that you create and sell on online education platforms such as Udemy or Teachable.

    Your course might inform and teach interview techniques and communication tips for working with managers and bosses. You might suggest what exercising initiative looks like and what individuals can do to help themselves feel comfortable and confident early in their jobs.

    There often is nothing more satisfying than learning and knowing that someone else’s challenges and problems were overcome because of wisdom and experience we could share with them. We all have something we can teach and offer people. What might you have to offer?

    8. Consider What You Want to Be Doing, Not Just What You’re Currently Doing

    It’s time to start letting the masses know what you’re capable of, not just in terms of what you have done but what you’re aspiring towards and charging forward to achieve.

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    Global recruitment firm Robert Half explains how personal branding is essential to progress and enjoy a successful career.[3] Providing an impressive sounding resume and a cover letter are no longer enough.

    What we engage with and how we show up online and offline is taken into account more now than ever. So we need to be strategic.

    If you are looking for opportunities to work in overseas companies in your industry, you might consider researching best practices other off-shore companies are engaging in and writing your own short LinkedIn post about it.[4] Or you may simply look to post a link to what you have found and provide short critical evaluations about it.

    Start thinking about how you market yourself and stop leaving it to chance. Whilst many think social media is only for personal social items, consider how your engagement on these platforms portrays you to your audiences. Steer potential employers and business partners to see you as you want to be seen, not just as you are.

    9. Get Back on Track by Learning New Things

    When you are waking up each day with a sick feeling in your stomach knowing work duties call, there is a hard reality you have to face:

    It’s your responsibility to make the necessary changes. It is no one else’s responsibility to make you feel happy or satisfied with your work. At the end of the day, it’s yours.

    If you want to have a successful career, you have to take charge of the direction and types of experiences you want to have on your journey. Where do you want to go? How far and why? What training or opportunities might give you this? Is it executive coaching? Perhaps undertaking an MBA? Allow yourself to think laterally too.

    Let’s say project management is a skill set you need to learn, or incompetent boss snidely commented you would never make it without these skills. Could volunteering to crew for an event speaking company platform fast track your learning as to what’s involved? Financial forecasting, marketing, resource and supplies management, working with different team member personalities and managing client relations…you could never gain hands-on experiential learning like this you via a classroom or online course.

    The e-learning industry is forecast to reach $325USbillion by 2025.[5] With the quality of online learning gateways growing exponentially with very affordable costs of access to world-class teachers, golden opportunities to increase your skill set and knowledge are at your fingertips.

    Never has there been a better time for you to design a career pathway and forge an enriching educational journey that feeds not just your professional curiosities but personal interests too.

    Final Thoughts

    No successful career has ever involved dancing to the same tune. When you find yourself despising your job more often than not, change is nigh. By using just one of these tips above, you can rechart your course to have a successful career.

    In a short amount of time, you won’t only resuscitate the self-worth and recognition of our unique value that dead-end jobs can steal from you. You’ll enjoy deeper, prolonged levels of satisfaction, energizing self-discovery and opportunities to turn your career into a far more gratifying journey you could ever have imagined.

    The best part is that you don’t even have to wait to land the dream job. The journey itself will be magical.

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    Featured photo credit: Christian Battaglia via unsplash.com

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