How to Have a Successful Career


A successfull career – this is what everybody wants and there’s no need to explain why. What I still need to emphasize is that by “successful career” I mean having that dream job/occupation that makes you happy – not necessarily being a top manager in a multinational because not everybody wants that, but having that job that makes you wake up in the morning happy that a new day has started, that makes you hurry to work, that makes you feel good about yourself, about achieving something, that makes you feel useful and that makes you go home in the evening satisfied with your life.

I am sure that all of you that are reading this article are in different stages of your career – some are still studying, some have just started their first job, some have a few years of experience behind, some of you are happy with your job and want to know how to keep the feeling and some desperately need a change.

And one more thing before we start: one of the good things that my last job has taught me – don’t fear change. Change can be beneficial. Stop opposing it and try to be open minded about it. Try to analyse the impact and try to see if there are any opportunities involved. You may say: OK, but I am 50 years old already. What can I do now but accept my fate? Accept change instead! Think about your passions, some things that you have always wanted to do in life and couldn’t because your parents wanted you to become a manager or a doctor or whatever you weren’t passionate about. Being a happy and successful cook or farmer is better than being an unhappy top manager. Think about it!

Now, let’s start…

For those of you that are facing the difficult decision of what I want to become,here’s my advice:

–          Start with your passions. Think about what you like and what you do best. Talk seriously to your parents if they want you to keep the family tradition by choosing a job you don’t like or you have no skills for. They want you to be a lawyer, but you feel better on the stage in the spotlight and are good at playing the drums, then be mature and discuss about your choice; or you are keen on researching marine life – again, be firm and discuss in a mature manner; you will make them happy for a while if you accept their choice, but you will get unhappy in the end and blame them for your lack of success;

–          Research well before starting – you think that you would like to be a teacher, a surgeon, a lawyer…try to find out as much as you can about these. What studies you need, what certifications, what exams you need to pass later on, what skills you need to have, how can you develop those you don’t have yet, what difficulties face the people in those professions, what sacrifices do they need to make to be successful. Try to talk to people doing these, visit their work environment. And if all this seems difficult to do and you would rather go to a party…well, you should wake up. Imagine yourself 20 years from now in a job you hate but you have to keep because you have children and mortgage to pay! And if you have no clue what that feels like, look around you! There are thousands of people like that…just because they didn’t think about their future well enough before making choices and they preferred to leave that to others or they just moved on hoping for the best. So…be mature and remember that you make your own future most of the times. Inform yourself, research, think, talk to older people, make lists and act responsibly;

–          Remember that money doesn’t make you happy. Sure, having some helps you have a better life, no debts is better than a life of debt, having money to buy your children gifts for Christmas is great, but money alone doesn’t make you happy. Don’t aim for a well-paid job if you don’t like it or you don’t have the skills for it. Happiness is a complex thing and it involves more than money – it involves family, friends, health and much much more. Tons of money and things don’t compensate for friends, family and health; it may not seem like I’m right, but trust me, I know. I have aimed for money and a better job, always going for more and going up, but now after 10+ years I have come to believe those that told me what I am telling you now;

–          Prepare for hard work. Nothing in life comes for free. Unless you are really rich and your parents plan to offer you everything at no cost – big mistake, but it happens; or maybe I should say…prepare for hard work if you want to enjoy what you have achieved and feel happy about yourself. Most of the times the things that come for free are taken for granted, so work hard to achieve something by yourself if you want to feel accomplished.

For those that are struggling with their first or second job:

–          Think about what would really make you happy. Do you want money, a top position, do you want to travel? For a while go on that path and pursue what you think would make you happy. Any difficulties you encounter now will prepare you for later and will make you know what to choose. A little struggle is fine as long as you know when to stop. A lot of successful entrepreneurs find their way in business after their first or second job because they learn what to search for and what to avoid. They learn about business and people the hard way. School is useful but it doesn’t really teach you what to expect in a real job;

–          Then if you think you don’t like what you have but are not sure what path to go on – think really hard…sit down with yourself and decide if you REALLY don’t like what you have. Maybe you find your life more difficult after school. It’s normal to be that way. School is about learning and passing exams. Having a job is about doing your daily tasks – on time even if you don’t like all of them, dealing with angry customers and demanding managers, being on time everytime at work even if you feel like not going out of bed, dealing with ambitious colleagues or with colleagues who want to work less and make you work for them and so on. It’s a jungle 🙂 You are now facing real problems. Problems that adult and mature people have. You are no longer a student caught cheating by the teacher. And a class you missed is no longer your biggest issue.

–          Make a list of pluses and minuses concerning your current job, leave it for a day or two then read it carefully. Think about the minuses and how many of them are fixable – maybe you need more training (you can talk to your manager and that can be fixed), maybe you need a more flexible schedule, a different shift, a new PC monitor or whatever. Think just about those that can’t be fixed and how many they are. If they far exceed the rest, then it’s really time to move on;

–          Read above as well. Some apply to you too, especially the part about passions and hard work.

For those that have already started a career, have a few years behind, let’s say around 10, but are having second thoughts…since I am there, I will speak from my experience. I’m sure I’m not the only one around. You are at that point in your life where you have worked really hard to graduate, to specialize, to impress, to shine, to get to a better position, then a better paid one, then more money, then even more, then to become a manager, to see how that works out…and after a while you are no longer happy with what you have, you no longer want something more, but something DIFFERENT. Your passions are now clear to you, but you have some constraints already – kids, a house to pay, a car that needs to be changed since it no longer accomodates your entire family. You are no longer at that point where it’s only you and you decide for yourself only. Other factors need to be taken into consideration, other people have a say. Well, for you I have another short article I wrote a while ago: Career Change at 30+. I hope it helps.

And finally…for those that alredy have a notable career behind, aren’t happy anymore and more than that don’t consider their current career ‘successful’:

–          Again, think about your passions, what you would have liked to do in life and what you have done in the end. Maybe at some point you dreamed about becoming a painter, a famous cook, having your own cattle farm, growing herbs, opening your own restaurant. If you have the skills, go for it. If you don’t have the money, borrow some from your friends or try to convince an investor to invest in your idea. Think about all the questions they may have for you and how you would convince them. It’s never too late to achieve your dream;

–          Be open-minded and explore change. Sorry for what I’m about to say, but it’s proven fact that the older you get, the harder it is for you to accept change. And that’s simply because you no longer have the energy you used to and you prefer to accept things as they are, good or bad, than invest some time and energy. Trust me that I know what it feels like to have no more energy after you have invested it all in kids, the stress at work, paying for years for your house, the sleepless nights when you thought about your next mortgage payment…but even if it’s late, think about yourself too and do something you are passionate about and something you have always wanted;

–          Enroll in some classes or look around for opportunities to help you get started. It’s never too late to start over. Of course there are jobs where they won’t accept you for being over-qualified. Wanting to be a junior programmer after 20 years in the finance field, may not even bring you to an initial interview. Let’s face it. That’s the reality. But there are fields where you can start something for yourself and where age and previous experience don’t matter.  Normally I avoid TV, but I couldn’t help noticing a lady of around 45-50 who had always dreamed to be a soprano singer. She came to a TV show where she amazed everybody with her voice. She had no studies in the field and she had worked for years in the financial field because that’s what her parents wanted her to do. Now she wanted a fresh start and her dream was about to get true;

And last but not least, one final thing that you should all remember: always keep time for yourself. If a job doesn’t allow that, then you need to get out. You may not mind now, but you will when you end up alone in a cold appartment with no family or friends, old and boring. Always make time for yourself, your friends and family. No company keeps you forever. Maybe when it’s yours, but you need to remember you will get old someday and you will need to leave. Coming home to a big but empty house is no fun.

Please share your thoughts,

Take care,