A Millennial Perspective on What Career Success Means

Career success is a personal definition, but we grade ourselves far too often on superficial things. While a salary, fabulous title, or the corner office are all ways we view achievement, they don’t necessarily get to the heart of our career journey.


As a millennial, I fall in line with studies that report how millennials define success in the workplace: Career progression, meaningful work, and lots of feedback. We tend to place emphasis on metrics when comparing ourselves to colleagues, however these metrics don’t tell the entire story. They never have. Never will.


Here’s what does:

Influence is Power.

One of the greatest measures of success in your career is how much influence you have. If you are the person that seems to be approached repeatedly by team members with questions, you are likely a strong influencer. You may also find yourself being called on by other departments or management to weigh in on things that you aren’t directly responsible for—which shows how much your input is valued. Being this type of resource in the workplace is a great indication of not only your emotional intelligence, but also of work-related success and your ability to effectively collaborate.


Creating Impact.

When you think about your career, consider what you create in your job. It could be a product, project, or a great client experience, but recognizing what you created wouldn’t have existed without your effort and expertise is a good way to measure success. Sometimes it’s the expectation that we need to do something huge and exceptional to make a difference.  It’s important to remind yourself that success and service can happen in many ways—you don’t need to join the Peace Corps to do something that can change another’s world. In fact, it may be the simple things we do on a daily basis that have the most impact.


Personal Development.

Once we’re out of school, the workplace becomes where we make friends and grow social and professional networks. If you have been lucky enough to have met a few best friends through the office, appreciating these relationships and acknowledging the value they’ve added to your personal development is another way to view success.


Professional Development.

Some of our biggest career lessons are tiny moments where you gain a better understanding of company culture, how to handle office politics, or how to get-by when dealing with challenging organizational leadership. Sometimes these lessons manifest as mistakes. If you learn from them (and learn how to own them), you’ll become more well-rounded as a professional.


How Well do You Fail?

failure success quote

 Success comes with taking risks, pass or fail, and learning something powerful along the way. Early in our careers, we are not great at failing—maybe we judge ourselves, feel like we should have known better, or didn’t handle a situation with grace and/or professionalism. Look at your response to both big and small failures and how it has changed over time. Do you respond differently now than when  you were just starting out? Sometimes failing also helps us rule out the things we don’t want to spend our careers doing. That insight can set us up for even greater success down the road!


A Case of the Mondays.

Every week you have an opportunity to evaluate your career success—it’s as simple as asking yourself how you feel on Monday morning. While we all may struggle with the Monday morning grind, ask yourself if, on average, are you excited about or dreading the week ahead? This is another way to evaluate how successful you’ve been in finding a career that fits your goals and is a cultural fit.


Overall, remember where you began. It provides you a personal yardstick in measuring YOUR success. We tend to focus on how far we have to go in our career goals and think only about next steps and how to get there. Success in this moment can be about how well you’ve met those personal goals or how you’ve handled and learned from the changes in your path. These helpful reminders will help you define yourself and eventually lead you to a celebration for your own accomplishments.


Last Updated: August 31, 2017
About the author

    Alexandra Hoeflicker

    Alex is a Tucson-raised, Austin-based brunch aficionado. She enjoys a solid cup of coffee and browsing used record stores.