What Does Success Look Like? Perspectives From Career Entrepreneurs


By Skye Berry Burke.

When defining success as an independent career professional in private practice, we might lean towards measuring the number of clients we have, the amount of revenue we generate, and the size and location of our office space. With this kind of measuring stick, we can end up feeling frustrated by the constant chase for more. Instead of enjoying the ride, we burn ourselves out.

Rarely do we examine success as a deeply individual experience. Yet, as independent/ private practitioners, our entire journey is individual. We each chose the life of careerpreneurship for different reasons, whether it be for family obligations, or the idea of being our own boss and setting our own hours – or for some other reason.

What if we craft our own definition of success?

When I first founded my resume writing and career coaching business, I did not have a true measure for success. At the time, the goal was simply to work from home, raise my two young children without requiring the assistance of daycare, and continue to do what I loved: to help people find and secure their career passion.

Over the years, what I learned is this: we become much happier and fulfilled in our journey as entrepreneurs when we begin to define success on our own terms, achieve success by our own rules, and build a life we are proud to live. It stands to reason that this happiness brings greater joy, and in turn, more success.

With the idea that success is an individual experience, I asked fellow CareerPros to weigh in on how they define a successful business. Here is what they had to say:

Maureen McCann, Senior Career Strategist at ProMotion Career Solutions, states that a successful business is defined by a “successful life.” What does a successful life look like to Maureen? She says that “as a career professional working virtually with clients, I am accountable for each hour of my day. The perfect day for me is to go for a run, spend the day developing an idea with a client, do some writing, design a new tool for a future project, then after a full day of work spend the evening with my family and/or friends.”

For Janet Barclay, Web Designer at JanetBarclay.com, “success isn’t about earning six figures, but about making enough to meet all my needs and a few luxuries without having to worry about next month or next year.”

Sharon Graham, Executive Director of Career Professionals of Canada, defines success in terms of her members’ successes! When Sharon was presented with the question of how she defines success, she replied “I define success by the success of our members. When I hear that someone I have mentored, trained, or supported has achieved a goal, it truly warms my heart. Sometimes we get lost in our day-to-day work or our business goals. However, as career practitioners, we have a much more altruistic purpose – helping our clients attain their goals. By honing in on this, we can truly realize a sense of satisfaction and achievement. After all, isn’t that why most of us are in the business?”

Success is an individual experience…

Success for Maureen McCann, Janet Barclay, Sharon Graham, and me is not about chasing more clients, more money, more of this or that…but about loving the work we do while being able to virtually connect with amazing people.

I encourage you to consider what your definition of success is.

Ask yourself: what does success look like to me? Is it having more clients, more money, more of this or that? Or is it more about loving myself, being passionate about what I do, and enjoying how I do it?

As CareerPros and entrepreneurs, we need to stop using other people’s measuring sticks to rate our success.

Take time out to design your own measure. Do what feels right for you. Reach for your own stars to establish the happy and fulfilling life you are destined to create.

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For me, success is combining the education I attained in social work and career counselling to develop an innovative assessment tool on which basis I could develop my own business. It is working through, around and over disability related barriers in the work world and refusing to be measured according to employers’ standards. It is retaining the power of knowledge and skill gained through post secondary education and applying it in my own way despite obstacles to mainstream employment. It is about having a vision, tenacity and the faith to persevere when empirical evidence remains to be seen. Success for me is a process, not the end result.