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How to know if you’ve been successful over your career

Industry leaders believe looking back at your starting point is one of the best ways to gauge career success — it gives you a personal benchmark instead of evaluating yourself against others.

December 16, 2022 / 02:08 PM IST
Experts say you can assess your level of success at work to see if your long-term and short-term career objectives are being met.

Experts say you can assess your level of success at work to see if your long-term and short-term career objectives are being met.

Every employee wants to assess his/her career growth trajectory. But what is the best way to do that? Success in the workplace is different for different people. For some, it's salary, for others, it’s their designation and position in the pecking order, and for a few, it’s the number of roles they have worked in over their career.

Experts say you can assess your level of success at work to see if your long-term and short-term career objectives are being met.

“If you find that you are not meeting your objectives, you can change your strategy. It is crucial to find a method of measuring success that works for you, as there are numerous methods available,” said Daya Prakash, Founder of HR firm TalentOnLease.

Look at the starting point

Industry leaders believe examining your starting point is among the best methods to gauge career success. “It tends to give you a personal benchmark that prevents you from evaluating yourself against others,” Prakash said.

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People frequently only think about subsequent stages and how to get there, focusing on how far they still have to go to achieve their career goals, he added.

In a nutshell, think of the “you” from five years ago instead. What did that girl or boy want to do, discover, or take a chance on? Your professional success will depend on how well you’ve achieved these personal objectives or how you've dealt with and adapted to changes in your path.

For instance, three years ago, you may have envisioned yourself earning Rs 10 lakh annually without putting in extra hours at work. If you have achieved that, you’re on the right path.

Getting into specifics, Prakash said that workplace success can be measured by analysing certain other metrics. For instance, if you work in sales, you can determine whether you were successful in meeting your sales targets by taking a look at how much revenue you have brought in for the business.

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“Don’t measure your success solely by these metrics, as you may earn more or acquire more clients in a given month than your competitors. However, you can examine your metrics alongside other success indicators,” Prakash added.

Are you a good co-worker?

Employees must strive to build relationships with their co-workers and managers, according to Sandeep Budhiraja, Chief People Officer at HR firm BYLD Group.

He feels that a candidate can measure success over his/her career by looking at the professional network s/he has developed. “A strong network can open doors to new opportunities and help a candidate advance their career,” he said.

Further, having a professional goal is a must. For example, if a candidate’s goal was to be promoted to a managerial position within five years, success can be measured by looking at whether they had reached that goal, Budhiraja said.

From the lens of an executive, career success is measured by how comfortable a leader feels at work, according to executive presence coach Vikram. This might be an outcome of how much their stakeholders like them, see them as credible, and trust them enough to be led by them.

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“The big question is whether they can see themselves as leaders who make an impact aligned with their own beliefs, and that too, with ease,” he added.

Other aspects of success include the freedom to build your own dream team and opportunities to develop and display expertise.

Assessing if you are on the right track

Career coach Senthil Kumar Venugopal points out that if the organisation or your immediate manager is more interested in your learning and development, they will invest in your certification, accreditation and growth.

“They would recommend your name for new projects, new locations and new roles,” he added.

“You will be involved in all strategic meetings, you will be part of many cross-functional teams, and will be asked to represent your brand in other forums and associations,” Venugopal said, adding, “All such interactions should take place only after two years in the career.”

Don’t get stuck with objective markers

Some experts are not into the idea of measuring success with objective markers like promotions, salary, or the value of a company that an employee helped build.

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“The pitfall of this approach, however, is that we may end up building an objectively successful career, but one that we are not satisfied with. It’s not much of a success then, is it?” said Karan Jain, founder of HROne.

That’s why he believes the most important metric to measure career success is knowing that we love what we do. “This is the key to ensuring that the work we do every day is aligned to what we believe through the rest of our waking life.”

While work-life balance is an important metric of a typical workday, Jain said work-life alignment is a metric that measures success over an entire career.

Finding purpose in life and a job is a very core demand of today’s workforce.

When consulting major Gartner surveyed more than 3,500 employees around the world in October 2021, 65 percent said the pandemic had made them rethink the place work should have in their life, and 56 percent said it made them “want to contribute more” to society.

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Abhishek Sahu
Abhishek Sahu covers HR and Careers at Moneycontrol.
first published: Dec 16, 2022 02:08 pm