As I pondered what advice I might pass on to young women beginning their careers, I kept coming back to how you define success. I have concluded that your success can only be defined by you. It is very difficult to not be influenced by societal norms which suggest that success is achieved by climbing the corporate ladder, holding a particular title or being deemed successful by others. Instead, I have become very comfortable defining success in my own terms.
My view on this was influenced by two events when I was told I wasn’t capable of doing something. The first occurred when I was applying to college. My high school guidance counselor told me not to waste my time applying to a particular university as I would never get in. I guess one could interpret that as sage advice (I didn’t apply and it was a very expensive school), or a challenge that propelled me to prove that I could do whatever I set my mind to.
The second event occurred when I decided to transition from practicing law to managing a business. At that time a superior of mine told me I would fail because I was moving from a discipline that was black and white (i.e., the law) into one that operated more in the gray. Despite this lack of confidence in my ability to succeed, I was not deterred.
There are certainly colleagues and superiors who can comment on whether or not they see me as successful, but it would be their definition of success, not mine. I have taken the path of reaching out and learning to benefit my growth whenever I can. I have not been offered every role I thought I would enjoy and be successful at, but neither have I always accepted opportunities that have been offered to me. I have made career decisions that have allowed me to balance my family and work life, live where I want to live, and work with people that I can learn from and who inspire me.
My success has been defined by accomplishing the goals I set for myself, taking on challenges that interest me, and seeing those who work with me grow in their careers. I have always tried to lead by example, and I am aware of the fact that I am setting an example in everything that I do. Learning from others and valuing everyone’s contributions are leadership qualities I try to demonstrate every day.
We all have something to contribute. Be comfortable with who you are. Define success for yourself. Be true to yourself and have fun along the way.