Transitions Coaching Blog

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Success Unscripted: Rethink Your Definition of a Career

By Jennifer Tucker, Writer and Content Creator  |  January 1, 2024
Success Unscripted: Rethink Your Definition of a Career

When you talk about a “career,” you probably have a rigid definition in mind: the long-term pursuit of a certain job within a structured and hierarchical framework.

A career is usually seen as a linear progression, starting from an entry-level position and gradually climbing the company ladder.

It often involves specialization in a specific field or industry. It typically represents stability and security, and success is measured by external markers like job title, salary, and even the organization’s prestige.

All these characterizations of career may be true in the traditional sense. But sometimes, they come together in a dangerous way, leading us down paths out of synch with our beliefs, values, and purpose.

Now, the landscape of work is changing.

More than ever, people are seeking work that prioritizes flexibility and fulfillment—and this means they’re challenging the traditional definition of “career.”

I’ve evolved my own perspective in recent years. From day one of my first “real job,” those time-honored notions of work were in my head. I would work hard to reach the next level. I would advance my knowledge and expertise. I would travel the safe path that led to job security.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had spent the better part of a decade chasing something I didn’t really want. The promotions, the expanded scope of responsibility, and even the salary increases didn’t fulfill me. If anything, they represented an ever-increasing weight on my shoulders and a source of anxiety.

We believe work can (and should) be life-giving instead of soul-sucking.

But making that vision a reality often requires you to break free from long-held beliefs about the nature of work. Here are four tips to help you shift your mindset, reset your definition of success, and create a path that delivers fulfillment beyond a paycheck:

Challenge the traditional definition of success.

The traditional definition of success typically revolves around salary and role. You may have set your sights on a certain dollar figure or job title and allowed those goals to guide you. But did they lead you to joy and fulfillment? Don’t be afraid to define success in your own terms, considering what’s truly meaningful to you.

Embrace new life stages and transitions.

We all go through different life stages and inflection points. It’s only natural that our career paths change with these transitions, too. As we evolve, the profession we once chose to pursue may not be the one we choose to keep. Consider the lessons you’ve learned and ask yourself, “Is this the best way for me to share my gifts with the world?”

Forget work-life balance. Focus on work-life integration.

For years, legions of workers have chanted “work-life balance,” insisting on building a barrier between the two. But it’s become clear—work and life are not separate. They are very definitely interconnected. Think about blending your work and personal life in ways that complement each other. How can your passions and interests be intertwined with your career to make it a more fulfilling and authentic experience?

Pursue your passion.

I recently talked with a client who said that for the longest time, he assumed he should be hopping from division to division to expand his skillset because that was the norm in his organization. Then he said to himself, “What am I doing? This is my background, my expertise, and my passion.” He’d found fulfillment in the aerospace division and didn’t want to leave, even if a move was offered or expected.

Aligning your work with your values and your unique gifts can be truly transformational.

What would happen if you focused on your passion instead of your position?

I know that much of this is easier said than done. There are (very real) factors holding many of us back from pursuing work that gives us greater meaning, ranging from financial constraints to fear of failure, waning self-confidence, and lack of clarity. My purpose is not to admonish you for sticking it out or staying the course when that’s what your current circumstances demand. Rather, I want to inspire you to rethink what’s possible by reconsidering what success really looks like.

When you challenge the traditional definition of a career, you may discover that you can find greater joy in your work and your life—whatever that may look like for you.

At Transitions Coaching, we help people rethink their definition of success.

Our individual coaching and group programs can help you change your perspective on the title you hold, the work you do, and how that relates to your identity. Meet the Transitions Coaching team here and learn how we can help you embrace your strengths, skills, and purpose more authentically.