How are You Measured at Work?

By Stephanie Jordan

Aligning Corporate and Personal Success

As professionals, we spend a large portion of our lives working, pursuing our goals, and achieving success.

The goals you pursue in your career are just one part of your life – but at times it can feel as if they are the only part of your life. As a result, professionals become stressed and disconnected because while they focus on their goals, they lose sight of what success means for them. 

Too often, success is defined by external forces – concepts created by others – which can lead to stress and feelings of unworthiness for professionals. During your annual performance assessment, you’re told if you met your organization’s definition of success. How are you rewarded for achieving success?  Bonuses? Feedback from your boss? Promotions? In too many companies, the definition of career success is only what the employee can do for the company. As employees, we can internalize our organization’s perception of ourselves, causing us to change our perception of ourselves – and not always for the better.

Measuring Success

Mary was a 32-year-old aerospace engineer we worked with to help address challenges of not advancing in her career. Mary was feeling defeated and lost. Repeatedly she was passed over for a promotion and someone was hired from the outside.  Her boss praised her, but she simply couldn’t advance and was starting to doubt herself and professional capabilities. She has been with her firm for five years and wanted to become a program manager. They had defined her path to success, and she let them. Her employer directed her to do things like take this training, pick a charitable cause, and get this certification as how they saw her career advancing. Interestingly enough, though goals were always accomplished by Mary, but never viewed as adequate for the program management job she desired even though the company defined them. 


Working with Mary, we started at the beginning, asking probing questions: What do you enjoy the most during your day? What parts of your job make you feel accomplished, proud, fulfilled? Once we set the groundwork, we worked on defining what skills and capabilities she wanted to develop, not what was defined on her annual performance assessment. 

Creating Your Own Path is Success

Your raise, your boss’s praise, and your promotions should be part of the equation, but not all of the equation. As Mary did in defining her success, she was able to take charge and develop in a way that first fulfilled her professional ambitions. This fulfillment ultimately led to the promotion she wanted as well as other job offers for amazing career opportunities. How can you make sure you are taking responsibility? Below are some questions we use as we work with clients.


  1. Define what you want to accomplish professionally in five years independent of your current employer.
    Take time to define your goals, values, and motivations. This enables you to better balance the current demands of your career with your long-term goals and objectives.

    Are your objectives for your career defined outside your current employer?
    Sure your manager wants you to increase sales and get product training this year, but is that what you want? How does that training align with your five-year plan and how you define success?


  1. If your job went away this week, what would be your biggest accomplishment that would enable you to pursue your dreams?

    It is easy for us to get caught in a rut of performing a certain set of tasks. Are you putting yourself in a position to get the experience that you need and want to move forward in your career? You must make sure you know what you want to accomplish so you can seize the right experiences and gain the right expertise. It is crucial to be completely honest with yourself. Good managers will help guide you, but in order for you to get what you want, you should know what you want before your start. 


These two seeming simply questions will require thought, reflection, and honesty. They may not be easy to answer, but the work and time you put into answering them will help you gain clarity, reduce your stress, and give you motivation to creating the future you truly desire. 


Alignment with the external definitions of success set by others can draw you away from understanding what you truly value and what creates success for you and your life. Don’t let external values, systems, and rewards drive your worth. Engage in the process and reflect monthly on where you want to go and what you want to do. In the end, you will begin to develop thoughts and actions that allow you to define and achieve success that brings you satisfaction.