I read an article this week about a Bain & Co. study that found that women enter the workforce with higher aspirations than men and the confidence they can get there. According to the study, this changes dramatically only 2-3 years into career development. After a couple of years, women start “losing confidence in their ability to fit the stereotype of what ‘success’ looks like at an American Company. The study postulates that it is a “deeply ingrained ideal worker, one who worked long and late, took on extra projects, was adept at self-promotion and was always connected” where women and men judge women more harshly.
I have always been attracted to startup or small businesses. This probably has a lot to do with having growing up with parents who ran several, all with varying degrees of success. These organizations gave me the opportunity to learn in a variety of roles. I never mastered one finite set of skills, but was able to move around, become very well-rounded. I left my first real job in 2000 to go to grad school, as I saw the exuberant spending and little return. After I got my MBA, I joined another startup. This one was acquired by a large (for me), publicly traded company. While I spent 3 years there, I jumped ship in 2011 to much surprise and criticism. I now run a consulting company with my husband.
Am I successful? Some people would argue that I’m not. They might question my decisions to leave organizations as failing to work within the confines of corporate america. I prefer to say that I have defined my own success. I have filled many roles from technical to business, back-office to customer facing. I helped grow several startups. I have gone out on my own and proven that I can not only survive there, but more importantly I can thrive here. I get to pursue my personal vision and mission. I get to leverage all my experience and help different organizations fulfill theirs. I do this on my own time with my own set of rules.
I would highly recommend you stop worrying about how other define success. It is much less important what society says your success should look like. Forge your own path, defining your own success. I suspect once you think about it, you’ll realize that you’ve already reached it. Or at minimum, it’s in your sights.