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Career Strategies eNewsletter

October 2013

What’s the Formula for Career Success?
It Begins with 3 Pillars.

This article was originally written by Danielle Forget Shield and posted on the Houston Business Journal Career Blog.

My childhood was a little different than most of my classmates in several ways, but one way was especially foundational.

My father graduated from college and joined Hewlett-Packard Co. as I finished up third grade. Dad loved his work as an engineer with HP and ate up every bit of the leadership, personal development and organizational behavior materials he received at work. He valued it so much that he emphasized it at home.

By a young age I learned to effectively use the knowledge he taught me to negotiate with my siblings, parents, teachers, friends and team members because it was how we operated at home. It wasn’t until I was grown and my engineering career was progressing into the executive ranks that I realized my passion was career development and strategy.

It’s the ultimate engineering problem to solve: What is the formula for career success? I believe success stands on three pillars.

Pillar 1: Know Yourself. Who you are at your core defines you. Early career leadership development work begins with questions like “What drives you?” “What frustrates you?” and “Who motivates you?” Advanced coaches like my friend and personal coach, Cecilia Rose, ask deeper questions, such as “What are you pretending not to know?” and “What family mindsets control your decisions?”

Think about these questions, your unique answers and how they play a role in working toward your career passion. These are all questions that must be answered over and over. As life happens, we must continue to get to know ourselves.

Pillar 2: Accept Yourself. A while back I was moderating a panel discussion where Mark Evans, an Exxon Mobil Corporation leader at the time who has since retired, suggested that people should stop trying to fix or explain their weaknesses and accept them. I’ve seen this problem in many cases and always wonder why few people are willing or able to accept who they are. When you can truly accept yourself, it is easier to define your career direction because decisions become easy and communication becomes clear.

Pillar 3: Be Yourself. This sounds easy, but it can be difficult. We spend so much time developing traits, characteristics and skills that we may lose ourselves in the process. It’s OK to work to be a refined version of yourself, but now that you’ve gotten to know yourself and accept yourself, it’s time to be yourself. People who master this pillar are easy to spot. They are comfortable, confident, genuine and less stressed. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

These are pillars rather than steps because they require continuous exploration and reevaluation. Success, tragedy, relationships, family shifts and myriad other things can impact any one of these pillars.

Success is 20 percent what happens to you and 80 percent how you react.