What does it mean to have a successful career? A promotion every year, or a spacious office? Working for yourself, or having a huge 401(k) account? Is it a salary at a certain number, or making at least “your age” or “double your age?” How does the place or company you work for figure in, and what about the actual job you do? I think about this often, especially because many of my friends and acquaintances enjoy career success in one form or another. Several have doctorate degrees or work in senior-level positions and most make more than I do.
I’m thinking about this now because I just received an e-mail from one of my favorite people announcing a great promotion where she’ll be taking on a newly created global role within her organization. This is a woman who used to work for me as an intern, and while my career has had starts and stops throughout its various incarnations, she has worked incredibly hard to earn the responsibilities (and salary) her company has given her. I’m very proud of her, because I was there with her in the beginning and I know how capable she is and how much she deserves this.
The fact, however, that my former intern now makes more than twice what I make isn’t lost on me. I’m also aware that she has worked her way up in an industry where she can easily work 60+ hours a week. When we went to lunch a few months back, she remarked at how different things are now that she’s making good money. Whereas before she had nothing and worked her butt off, now she has great furniture and a lot of extra money, but no time to enjoy it.
Clearly, in my mind, she has a successful career, but is she really happy? I dunno. I should ask her. Still, it all makes me wonder what role happiness plays in success.
For myself, I feel that if I had the job where I was totally happy and more than willing to put in the 60 hours a week, then I’d do it without reservation. I had that once when I worked for MCI, back before Bernie Ebbers and WorldCom tore the company apart and destroyed what so many people worked to build. I wonder if I’ll find it again.
And if I do, then how will I define success? And how will I define happiness?