When I first started working all I wanted was to be successful.
The only problem was, I didn’t know what that looked or felt like.
Well, I knew what successful people looked like, but they tended to be movie stars.
They made success look bloody good.
I daydreamed glitzy images: smart suits for the guys, glamour and sophistication for the gals, trendy city offices, nice cars, fancy houses, always a good-looking other half, cocktails in chic bars.
That’s happiness, right?
Actually, I hadn’t thought much about how happiness figured in all of this.
In my mind, if I worked hard, there was no question that I’d be successful. I just needed to get a job, put my head down and get on with it. If I did well, I’d keep getting promoted and climb up the ladder till I’d made it.
And that’s where the glamour and sophistication would kick in and the handsome guy would appear at my side. Boom, I’d have nailed it!
Maybe I’d watched too many movies, but I thought working in PR would give me the lifestyle I dreamed about. The first job I nabbed was with a well-known London PR firm, and when I got it, I was ecstatic. I was on my way!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t so great at keeping the job (a story for another time…), and so I moved on to working in recruitment.
I was surprised by it, but the role made me really happy. I worked with a great team. I placed talented creatives in agencies across London. Hell, I could even wear jeans and trainers to work!
BUT HANG ON, was that success…?
Not what I thought back then.
The life I was living didn’t match the picture of success I was carrying around in my head. So after a few years, I moved on. Another job, more dissatisfaction. And again. And once more.
FINALLY, I got it.
I got a job with ‘success’ written all over it. That matched the pictures in my head of how ‘successful’ people lived.
Big swanky office (well, swanky compared to the warehouse-style offices I was used to…) Marble atrium entrance. Company car. Expense account for wining and dining clients. Corporate golf days. A fancy title: Business Development Manager in Credit Insurance.
It all seemed very glamorous at the time. I’d seen friends with jobs in big corporate offices and envied them. Now it was my turn.
I rushed out, bought some suits and heels, and even purchased a briefcase-type bag to really look the part. My journey to success had finally kicked off at age twenty-nine and I had big dreams for what lay ahead.
Three months in, though, and it was painfully obvious this wasn’t for me!
I didn’t enjoy my high-flying career. In fact, I loathed it. The stuff I thought would make me happy didn’t.
There’s nothing wrong with insurance or with dealing with brokers and negotiation quotes and the like. But it was all wrong for me.
For years, I thought that a shiny car, a big salary, industry parties and travelling around the country staying in fancy hotels would make me happy. Instead, I was bloody miserable.
In fact, I was more than miserable. I was unhappy and depressed.
I was spending 8, 10, 12 hours plus a day doing something that didn’t interest me, meant nothing to me and wasn’t in tune with who I was.
I was trying to be something I wasn’t. I wasn’t comfortable in a pencil skirt and heels. I’d been comfortable – and HAPPY – in my jeans and trainers, dealing with the creative industry.
How had I got it all wrong?
Looking back, maybe I had to go wrong to know what was right for me.
The business development job made me question what I wanted, what I enjoyed and most importantly, assess what SUCCESS looked like to me. I realised success was about doing something I enjoyed, in an industry that appealed to me and where I could truly help others.
That business development role was my gamechanger.
Now, I help other people define their own success. I help them work out what they are chasing and why, before they spend years pursuing an idea of success that might not make them happy.
If you feel like you’re chasing a dream of success that’s actually taking you further away from happiness and fulfilment, learn from my wrong moves.
Stop and ask yourself a few simple questions:
> What does success really look like and feel like to you?
> Did you define YOUR success story or has it been pushed on you by someone else?
> Are you inspired by your work and industry?
> Or are you waiting for a pay increase, job change or new company car to be happy?
The path to meaningful career success is a personal journey – there isn’t one road that suits all. But you’ll know when you’re on the right track as happiness, fulfilment, energy and joy come along for the ride.
If you want some help defining what ‘success’ means to you, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free 30-minute success strategy consultation call.
I’m here to help you work out what success looks and feels like according to your unique talents, passions and ambitions.
When you have a ‘successful’ lifestyle but it doesn’t make you smile, it’s time for a change.
There’s no time like the present for making that change.