The signs you have more career success than you think
Feeling like your career is dragging on but providing you nothing? You’re not alone. A lot of people don’t feel valued, respected, or motivated at work. A big part of that it not seeing how their work actually connects to their own success. If you’re feeling this way, though, realize there are many measures of career success.
While it can be soul-sucking to work for a company that doesn’t always respect you, it doesn’t mean that you’re a career failure. Instead, look at these signs that you have more career success than you think.
Your coworkers help you when you need it
Working in an office environment can feel very weird at times. You spend most of your waking hours with people, but you hardly know any of them beyond being coworkers. When you head home, you’re more likely to know more about your favourite TV characters than the person sitting ten desks over. But at the same time, you share a deep bond with coworkers because of the common wins or challenges you’ve been through, and that can’t be replaced by any TV show.
So that’s why it’s especially awesome when your coworkers help you out when you need it.
Helping out could be small or big. It could mean offering some feedback on a big presentation or it simply getting you a cup of coffee when they grab theirs because they know you’ve got a lot of work to get through. Or it could be them taking a few minutes to listen to you if you’re having a really rough day and need someone to talk to.
Despite the fact that coworkers may not know each other that well, many can be very helpful. Unfortunately, though, it’s not something that you can expect in every workplace. Sometimes you have mean coworkers. Other times the company culture for some reason doesn’t allow coworkers to help each other. So if you can rely on your coworkers (even just a handful) to help you when you need it, you’ve got a big sign of career success that not everyone has.
People listen to your ideas at work
Many studies try to figure out why people leave jobs – or what makes happy employees stay. A common adage is that “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers,” which suggests that the interpersonal relationship between an employee and their direct manager is more important than anything else.
But another key reason people leave organizations according to many HR studies is that they don’t feel listened to. You could have the best ideas on the planet, but for one reason or another your ideas are always shot down. Even the most confident, successful person would eventually grow tired of being told their ideas suck – or, perhaps worse, simply being ignored.
If you’re in a workplace where you can share your ideas and people listen to them, you’ve got more career success than many. Now, being listened to doesn’t mean that people do what you say at all times. You can be listened to and your idea still may not win. There could be a better idea or it’s not the right time for your idea to work. However, simply the act of being listened to is a huge win because, more often than not, when your company listens to its employees more, you get better work outcomes. On the personal side, if you’re listened to there’s a greater chance that your ideas will win out a few times, if not more.
Some companies require you to follow a process to be heard. Ideas have to be submitted to the right person to be considered, or something similar. If that’s the case at your workplace, make sure you’re following the right process to be heard. If you’re following the process and still not being heard or listened to, it may be time to move onto a company that will listen.
You can work from home
Everyone’s had days when you wish you didn’t need to be in the office. People are loud. Coworkers won’t stop popping by your desk for “small favors” or “just one quick question” that turns into a 25 minute conversation. You just want to get your work done and it seems like the office is the worst place to be.
Then you get the opportunity to work from home. Things are quieter, you’re much more productive, and you feel refreshed.
If you’ve got the opportunity to work from home – even just occasionally – you’ve got more career success than you think. Many companies are now even clawing back their work from home policies, saying that they didn’t like them or that they weren’t helpful for employees. But the truth couldn’t be more different: a study by Airtasker found that remote workers accomplish much more compared to colleagues who only went into the office to work.
Wanting to work from home occasionally doesn’t mean you don’t like your office or that office life is bad. It means that you need some additional flexibility in your life – something most of us need for everything family obligations to waiting for an Amazon delivery. But so many people are not allowed to work from home, for a variety of reasons, so you’re one of the lucky ones if you can.
You aren’t forced to clock in and clock out at specific times
In the old world of employment, your time was rented. You had to show up at a certain time and leave at a certain time. If you didn’t, your employer could dock your wages. You may have done a variety of tasks while at work or a single task, but employment was almost always time-based.
This method of employment meant there was little room for advancement because time was finite. It was difficult to show your value because you were not paid to work smart, only hard.
In the modern era, this type of work has fallen off as the primary way people work. Now, there are many more salaried positions where you’re guaranteed wages for a job done. Sure, the culture of work is still very 9-to-5, but it’s far less strict than it was in the past. You show up around 9 or just before, and leave around 5 or just after. However, if you’re a bit late one day or need to leave a bit early another, it’s largely not a problem.
Since many people still work in hourly positions where they are forced to clock in and clock out, if you have the freedom to work a general set of hours without punishment for being a few minutes off, you have more career success than you think.
You don’t mind waking up to go to work
For many people, waking up to go to work is a terrible feeling. All you want is to stay in bed (or lounge on your couch). You quietly curse the world for you not being born rich. Then you get ready and head to work. If you’re not like this – if getting up for work is alright – then you have more career success than you think.
Everyone gets tired, but it’s amazing if you’re able to wake up and head to work without anger or resentment. When you consider 85% of employees are not engaged at work, a factor that rolls into how excited someone is to wake up in the morning, it’s a big deal to be able to wake up and head into work regularly.
If you’re not that excited about work when you wake up, it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have career success. Read through the rest of these tips to see if you’re doing better than you think you are.
You know what you’re supposed to do each day
It sounds terrible, but just knowing what your company expects of you is a sign that you have more career success than many people. Nearly half of employees don’t know what is expected of them each day. This causes anxiety, concern, and resentment towards the company, to say nothing of the mental energy wasted trying to figure out what to do at work.
If you’re in a spot where you don’t know what’s expected of you at work, definitely seek out that clarity. Sometimes it’s due to personality traits you didn’t know you had, like being inadvertently lazy or helpless. If that’s the case, you have full control and can fix it easily. Sometimes, though, it’s about the company or your manager. In that case, you may want to consider looking for a new role within your organization… or start networking outside the organization to see what your next step is.
Your qualifications match your job
It may not seem glamorous, but simply doing a job you’re qualified for is a sign of career success. In the US, for example, nearly 14% of workers are underemployed, meaning they have a job that is far below their actual skill level. Since earnings are often correlated to the skills required to do the job, millions of employees are not earning what they could and are not using all of their skills at work.
When it comes to underemployment, the economy – both national and local – plays a part. If you’re a highly skilled worker but those jobs are not available where you live, chances are you will be underemployed. But with the rise of remote work and intrapreneurship, finding work that matches your qualifications is getting easier no matter where you are.
You can take – and afford – vacation
Think about it for a minute. If you’re able to afford a vacation (even a “staycation” where you don’t go anywhere but treat yourself at home), a couple things have to be true. You have to work in a role that gives you vacation time and you have to make enough money to pay for all of your necessities with extra left over. With so many people working in countries that don’t support paid vacation or in companies that are strict about taking time off, if you can take a vacation you have more career success than you realize.
If you’re in a role where you can’t take a vacation, it may be time to move on. Whether by demands of the job or a boss that won’t let you take time off, being “on” all the time is detrimental to your health and your productivity. It may seem like taking time off is “lost” productivity, but the reality is the opposite – time off helps creativity and increases resilience.
You like (at least some of) your coworkers
Coworker hate is a real problem in workplaces. About half of employees is large companies don’t like their coworkers. It can make for a miserable time in the office, to say nothing of lost productivity because everyone is navigating who hates whom. So if you like your coworkers – even just some of them – you’ve got more career success than you realize. You’re doing better than nearly half the workforce, which probably includes some of your colleagues.
If you’re in a workplace where you hate your coworkers, try to identify why – on both sides of the table. Yes, you want to figure out what really bugs you about your coworker. But you should also look inward to ensure you’re not being unlikable for the exact same reasons you dislike others.
You can have career goal conversations with your manager
Let’s be real: almost every job is temporary. We’re not in an economy where most jobs you start with are the ones you end with. In fact, you may even switch careers entirely more than once during your career. However, many employees get no career support from their managers. It’s one of the key reasons employees leave companies. If you’re able to have career growth conversations with your manager, you’ve got more going for you than you may realize.
This can be especially true in the startup world, where often managers take fast-paced changes as an excuse to leave employees in limbo. Regardless of the environment you work in – slow or fast-paced – a good manager should take time to talk about your career goals with you. In a fast-paced environment this can be even more impactful for the company, since the changing nature of the company gives you a great opportunity to learn new skills (and the company gets a great opportunity to fill gaps quickly).
You have health benefits that fit your needs
One third of employees don’t understand their health benefits. 41% of employees say that premiums are unreasonable. Stats like these are not fun to read – especially if you’re in the group feeling the pinch. If you’ve got benefits that you understand and that fit your needs, that’s a sign that your career success is on track. Whether an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, having health benefits will keep you healthier and more engaged, leading to a better overall quality of life.
Since health benefits are set by employers, there’s little that a single employee can do to increase their coverage. However, this could become a negotiation point for you in your next promotion or performance meeting. As well, make sure you fully understand your benefits to see how they could work for your lifestyle.
You understand and believe in your company’s values
Less than 30% of employees actually believe in their company’s values, rendering them all but useless. The most common reasons someone doesn’t believe in their company’s core values is that they are poorly defined. This leads to a gap between the ideal culture and the actual culture – but if the talent team is recruiting based on the ideal culture you get a situation of misaligned expectations.
So it’s a sure sign of career success if you understand your company’s values and agree with them. It not only means they were well communicated but also that they align with your personal values on some level. It also likely means the values are simple and action-oriented, so you can easily tell what they mean and know how to live them. If you’re in a spot where you don’t agree with your company’s values, check to make sure they are communicated properly. If they are and you still don’t agree with them, it may be time to move on.
You can afford to save for retirement
Almost half of Canadians are living month to month, not saving anything for retirement. In the US, that number is 78%, more than three quarters of workers. Simply being able to save for retirement and maintain a decent standard of living on your income is a huge indicator of career success. The amount you save is a different story – different claims will say you need to save anywhere from 6% to 25% of your take home pay in order to retire comfortably. The number, of course, depends on your personal financial situation and goals, but you should check how much you’re able to save.
If you want to get better at saving for retirement, the key is to just start. Even putting away $1 dollar per month is a start. Of course that will not be enough to retire on, but by starting the habit you give yourself the opportunity to save more in the future. This is especially true if you create mini-competitions with yourself where you try to save more every month. So you may save $1 dollar this month but aim for $2 dollars next month, and so on.
You could leave your job (if you had to) and be ok
Even if you love your job, sometimes it can get to be too much. Perhaps you’ve stopped learning. Or maybe the challenge just isn’t what you want anymore. It could even be that the company has shifted focus and you don’t want to work there anymore. Wanting to leave a company can happen for a variety of reasons, so it’s not a problem if you’ve fallen out of love with your company.
However, even in a world with low unemployment, leaving a job is not a luxury that everyone can afford. If you have a way out from your job (if you needed to), you’ve got more career success than you think.
If you had to leave your job and you could without it seriously impacting your life, it means you have a few very good things going for you. You may have an emergency fund you could live on while you search for another job. It could mean you have highly in-demand skills so you know you could find another job quickly. Or perhaps you have a spouse or significant other than can help make ends meet while you go on the job hunt. All of these are amazing things.
Unfortunately, not everyone can do that. Some people cannot afford to leave a job because of medical bills where they need the insurance. Or perhaps they live in a smaller town where employment options are scarce. Maybe they have to care for a family member and can’t afford a break in their pay, even just for a few weeks. So while not every job is great, knowing you can leave if you really had to a big sign that you’ve got success in your career.
You have a dedicated workspace
In the past, corporate jobs always came with a desk. HR or your boss greeted you and took you to your desk, whether that was in a cubicle or with other coworkers in an open office style. Either way, you had a space to call your own.
That’s becoming less and less the case. Since studies found that up to 40% of office space can go unused between people working from home, working remotely or being in other rooms for meetings, some companies have moved away from giving employees dedicated workspaces. Instead, they use a process called “hoteling” or “hot desking,” where desks are open all the time until someone “books” it for working time.
Companies love that they can save money on office space, but it takes a toll on employees. Studies are showing that hot desking can cause issues with employees not knowing where they are supposed to work – and wondering where they can leave things overnight. So if you’ve got a dedicated workspace that’s safe and personal, that’s a sign of career success. It means you can leave things overnight or hold snacks in a drawer… little things that help make work better for you.
Your colleagues cover for you when you’re out or on vacation
Being able to take a vacation is a sign of career success all by itself. One study found that only 28% of Americans plan to use all of their vacation days in a year. Reasons why people don’t take vacation range from not feeling like they can to not feeling like their company actually supports them taking time off. Either way, they feel trapped. So being able to go is a big deal.
But when you take a vacation, you often end up with a mountain of work before you leave and after you come back – it’s one of the reasons people don’t take the vacation they are entitled to. So when your coworkers are willing to cover for you and help take on some of your work while you’re gone, that’s the real marker of career success.
If your coworkers help you reduce that mountain of work and pick up the slack for you while you’re on vacation, it says a lot about your work environment. First, you have a company that encourages vacation. Second, your company culture is about helping people. Third, you have great coworkers. There’s definitely an expectation that you’ll also help them when they go on vacation, but that’s an easy thing to do when they’ve helped you out.
When you know your coworkers will help, you get better rest on vacation. That means you’re more relaxed, re-energized, and ready to do awesome work when you get back to the office.
Your boss doesn’t blame you for their mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes – that’s nothing new. Even bosses make mistakes. Sometimes, they make more than their employees since they have a lot on their plates. While no one is perfect, it’s crucial that you learn from mistakes so they don’t happen again. But when someone asks what happened, it’s also important to take responsibility for your own mistakes.
Unfortunately, some bosses don’t take responsibility for their mistakes. They blame their team and complain that junior employees didn’t work hard enough. They may even single out one person to take all the blame so they don’t get in trouble. A Harvard Business Review study found that some bosses, called “bully bosses,” do this often, assigning blame to employees for failures but hogging the credit themselves.
So if you’ve got a boss that owns up to their mistakes, you’ve got more career success than a lot of people. Bosses like that tend to have more integrity than bosses who blame their employees, and that means you can feel more confident they will give credit where it’s due and not blame people for their mistakes. This leads to a happier workplace. For you specifically, though, it means you don’t have to deal with a boss coming after you. That alone is a big win, since bosses have a lot of control over your career progression.
You can say “no” to your boss sometimes
When you’re good at your job, the last thing you want to do is get in a fight with your boss. Your focus is on getting the job done. The problem, though, is that you will likely get asked to do extra work. It seems like the better you are the more likely it is that you’ll get extra work piled on. Most of the time, you grin and bear it. You do the additional work because it’s necessary. However, sometimes it’s just too much and you aren’t sure if you can actually get the work done.
In moments where you’re asked to do too much, being able to say “no” sometimes is a huge sign of career success. If you’re able to say no to your boss when they ask too much of you, it says a lot about your levels of success.
First, being able to say no indicates that your boss respects you. It means they understand that you do good work and wouldn’t be saying no unless you absolutely needed to. It also means that your boss knows when they have crossed a line as well, showing a lot of mutual respect.
Second, successfully saying no to over-work shows that you are a high producer. If your boss felt that you weren’t producing, they might push back and say you have to do the task even if you don’t want to. But if you say no and it’s respected, that’s a signal that your boss knows you do a good job.
While you can’t say no all the time – sometimes you have to be a team player and take on the additional work – even being able to say no sometimes is a big win. Don’t take it for granted, though, and always have a legitimate reason if you need to say no to your boss’ request for you to do additional work.
You know how your job connects to the company’s mission or vision
During the Industrial Revolution, most people worked in some form of manual labor. Whether removing natural resources from the ground, turning machinery, or driving, labor was task-based and manual. In the 21st century, there is still some manual labor but a lot more work is “brain work” where you think and make decisions on a regular basis instead of just following orders.
While brain work in the 21st century led to better working conditions for many workers, it also posed a problem. Simply doing what you’re told doesn’t work when there are complex problems to solve at every turn. Instead, employees need to know what they are working towards in order to make the right decisions when presented with a challenge. Unfortunately, though, a Gallup study found that only 40 percent of employees know what their company stands for. If you’re in that 40 percent and know how your work connects to a company vision or mission, you’ve got more career success than most.
It may not always feel like your day to day tasks are connected directly to the company’s mission. For example, if you work in admin or customer support answering phones, it can feel hard to say you’re living the company mission. However, the way you answer the phones and how you help people is definitely informed by what the company stands for. If the company is all about efficiency, then you’re likely going to focus on having the shortest calls possible. But if the company is all about customer service, you may take your time to make sure every customer has a positive experience on the phone.
You can run a personal errand during work hours
We all have little errands that get left to the last minute. Perhaps you need to pick up a birthday card or get a prescription filled. Maybe you have to stop by the bank quickly. The problem is that most places you need to go, such as going to the bank, are only open during regular working hours. And what are you doing during regular working hours? Working.
If you can run a personal errand during work hours, that’s a huge sign of career success. That doesn’t mean you’re doing it every day – your company pays you to work. However, even the occasional short trip is a big win. Many companies frown upon employees that leave the office, even if it’s to go get lunch! They think that since they are paying you, they own your time.
Great companies don’t believe they own you. They are paying you to do your job, of course, but they know that you’re also human. If your manager doesn’t mind the occasional personal errand on work time, that’s a signal that you’re doing very well. It shows that your manager respects you, it shows that you’re good at your job, and it shows that the company culture supports you. All in all, there are many people who wish they could say that about their workplace.
Your job gives you energy (most of the time)
People work for money to support their life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy work as well. Studies show that as many as 75 percent of employees are not engaged at work, meaning they feel drained at the thought of going to work. If you’re one of the lucky few that actually feels energy from going to work, that’s a massive sign of career success.
When you feel energized by your work, it says a lot about your job, your company, and the culture you work in.
First, it shows that your job fits your skills and personality type. You’re able to work on things you like or care about. And you’re able to work in a way that lets you be most productive. Whatever that looks like for you, it’s working. That’s a huge win, since many people end up doing work that doesn’t fit for them.
Second, it shows that your company supports different working styles. Every person has a slightly different working style, so if you’re feeling energized by your work then chances are other employees are, too. Since those people have different work styles than you, it means the company is happy to support multiple working styles because it cares about helping employees get results.
Third, it shows the culture of the company is high quality. When you’re energized at work, it’s also (in part) because of coworkers and the general feeling of the office. When the environment is off, everyone feels it. So a company that cares about culture and works to make a good one is a big career success win.