Your idea of success changes drastically over your lifetime. While it might mean lots of money or power when you are younger, by the time you have a family to provide for and 20 years in the business, your priority may veer towards security. Wherever you are in life, being able to recognize the kind of success you hope to achieve is key for planning, decision making, and ultimately succeeding.
The Harvard Business Review lists the five different types of career success:
Getting ahead. People who are motivated by upward mobility focus on promotions, raises, making partner, and increasing their authority. They’re competitive and willing to put in long hours and negotiate office politics to win those rewards… It’s usually around age 30, give or take a few years, that people begin to explore other orientations.
Getting secure. Those who seek regularity and predictability in their work environment are motivated to fit in with others and uphold group norms. They avoid risk and are less concerned with advancement than with career control. If this description has you rolling your eyes, you’re not alone. It’s difficult for people to admit they want this kind of security, because it sounds like the life of a corporate drone, which no one wants to be. That’s especially true today, given the rise of the free agent in all industries. But people motivated by security are loyal and willing to put in extra effort when the situation requires it — not just when it will bring them glory…
Getting high. These are people who care deeply about deploying their expertise, solving problems, creating new things, and feeling engaged. They are ambitious and sometimes idiosyncratic. Unlike professionals intent on getting ahead (who might take on boring but important assignments in order to win favor with clients or managers), those motivated mainly by getting high will gravitate toward work that provides greater stimulation, even if it’s low-profile or high-risk. They’ll also trade a certain amount of autonomy for an exciting or meaningful job — they might join the military, for instance—which a person with a “getting free” orientation probably wouldn’t do.
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