What makes us successful in our career?

I have worked with many people over the years, and established contact with many more through professional and social engagements. Thinking back about my numerous interactions and conversations, the one thing that struck me was that a small subset of these persons always seemed to be happy and contented, describing their career and life in superlative terms. Given that there are both positive and negative types of people, this seems quite likely; however, the satisfied persons did not seem to belong to any one of these types. What could be the cause of career satisfaction for these individuals?

There are some common attributes to these persons, such as being strategic and proactive, engaging in constant learning, building relationships, and taking on extra responsibilities. However, can merely performing these activities cause satisfaction, or is there another reason? The answer to this question is of great interest to me since I wish to be happy and contented (Who wouldn’t?) in my career, and feel that I am successful. Analyzing the career tracks of these persons, I narrowed it to three critical factors.

  1. Skills, or what a person is good at – not the hard skills, but expertise such as data analysis, building relationships, etc. that make a person stand out in comparison with peers.
  2. Aspirations, or what the person intends to learn or to be next – refers to a growth path that enhances the individual’s value and provides career satisfaction.
  3. Money, or what the market demands and pays for – in-demand careers in fast-growing sectors that pay premium wages and benefits.

I noticed that the satisfied people were successful in achieving all three of these factors, i.e., they had the skills and capabilities in a career that met their aspirations for their future, and compensated them well. Again, who would refuse such an offer if it was handed to them?  We know that there are no free lunches or handouts, which means each of us has to put in hard work to achieve this level of success in our careers. Most people are unable to achieve all three factors; what could be the downside for them?

  • Skills only – We are at the risk of shifting market demand, and never achieve our aspirations
  • Aspirations only – We lack skills that make us employable
  • Money only – At the fickle mercy of the market, with the risk of becoming unemployed
  • Skills and Aspirations – Perennially underemployed, unhappy, and under financial stress
  • Skills and Money – Achieving our aspirations is extremely difficult
  • Aspirations and Money – Manageable if already employed, a nightmare otherwise

I always think about my career many steps in advance, keenly observe technology and market shifts, and believe in lifelong learning. I am an advocate for my customers, a mentor for my team, and a friend to my colleagues. Above all, I like to work with people and teams to learn from them and give them the benefit of my thoughts, experience, and leadership. I have looked at every step in my career based on these criteria, and have been rewarded with many valuable insights.

I have a question for you, my dear reader. Do you feel that you have been successful in realizing your ideal career, and how did you achieve this? Kindly let me know your thoughts by leaving a message below. I would highly appreciate your opinion and comments about this post as well.

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