Gone are the days when entering the corporate world and working hard throughout your career meant a sure shot at success and living the American Dream. Now, career success is much less linear and there’s a lot more navigating and rerouting that happens along the way. In fact, it almost seems as though there is no “path” at all, and we’re now forced to chart our own journey to success for ourselves. How do you know, then, if you’re headed in the right direction?
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The definition of success is much different now than it was before. For instance, the American Dream is no longer what it used to be: having a single-family home with a white picket fence, a stay-at-home wife, 2.5 kids, a car, a color TV, and a breadwinning father. Nowadays, success is shaped by each person’s unique wants, needs, and circumstances. While one person may need millions of dollars in the bank to feel successful, another person may view success as keeping a roof over his family’s heads and food in their bellies.
Not having a clearly defined path is both good and bad. On one hand, you have the ability to pave your own way, which is more entrepreneurial and liberating than the cookie-cutter career path of generations prior. However, the absence of a pre-defined career roadmap can be dangerous for those professionals who need discipline and guidance. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, the good thing is that you can define your own success throughout your career – getting there is the tricky part. Here are a few ways to figure out if you’re heading for success, or a dead end.
1. Your work is challenging and fulfilling.
Your job should challenge you enough to keep you interested and continually learning, but not to the point where you feel incompetent and defeated. Finding fulfilling work is one of the best things you can do for your career, because you won’t be satisfied in your career if you don’t find meaning in it.
2. Your job and employer align with your short- and long-term career goals.
Do you see a bright future for your career with your current employer, or at least, with this employer on your resume? You’re probably on the right track. While most workers change jobs multiple times throughout their careers, job-hopping too frequently can make you look impulsive to other employers. What’s more, if you feel as though your current gig doesn’t offer you what you’re looking for now or in the future, then why are you wasting your time? That’s like staying in a relationship with a person, whom you know you’re not going to marry, because you’re afraid of being single.
3. You are happy with your occupation and its earning potential.
Compensation isn’t everything when it comes to your career, but it definitely plays a significant role in swaying your decision. Choosing a career or a job shouldn’t be a money game; it should be about finding something that suits your skills, is fulfilling, and allows you to live a comfortable life. Money may convince you that a position is right for you in the short-term, but I can guarantee that if you figure out later on that you hate what you do, no amount of money in the world will keep you there – because money can’t buy happiness.
Granted, there are other factors that play into why you may or may not like your current job, such as co-workers, company culture, or bad management. The important thing to consider is, even if you switched companies and assumed the same job title, would you be happy with the direction and potential of your career path? There will always be office politics, annoying colleagues, and more money to be had, but those shouldn’t be the deciding factors of whether or not you’re on the right career path.
If it’s a money thing, then maybe it’s time that you consider negotiating a higher salary. However, if you’re truly unhappy with your current position’s potential, then ask yourself these five questions, because it may be time to throw in the towel and move on to the next job.
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