Defining and influencing personal success 

When we first start work, we’re finding our feet and may/may not have a clear idea of where we want to go in our working life.  Whether or not we have an end-goal in mind, we should give ourselves every chance to be the person we want to be. 

What is success? 

Planning for Success

Success means different things to different people and is not always measured in a quantifiable way. It’s important to understand who we are, be honest about what matters to us so that we focus our efforts in those areas that will affect, or determine, our career/life.   

Simon Sinek suggests we Start with the Why: Answering the question, “what do you do?”. Rather than focussing on what we do, we should ask ourselves “What is my why?”  

It is our ‘why’ that makes us unique, that differentiates us from others.  What is our purpose?  What makes us excited and inspires us to act?  In turn, the energy generated through our ‘why’ can inspire others to take action. And that is in part of how we can influence our own success. We can start by writing our ‘Why Statement’. 

Why Statement: 

  • Articulate your ‘why’ by creating your own Why Statement 
  • The process of creating your statement should feel right, because your ‘why’ is an articulation of what really matters to you 
  • It should be positive, and phrased in a way that resonates with you, e.g., Sinek’s ‘why’ is, “to inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change the world.”  
  • Keep the statement brief and clear 
  • Make it actionable  

Finding the work/environment to fulfil our ‘why’ 

The Why QUuestion Planning for SuccessWe know that priorities and needs change through our working life.  For example, early in our career, we value opportunities for development and growth, whereas later in life, job security may move up the ladder of importance, as personal and financial responsibilities increase. 

Underpinning those functional needs, however, is our ‘why’. If we remain true to ourselves, those other tangible priorities support the ‘why’, rather than the other way round.  Is what I am doing supporting my desire to make a difference? Are my values and purpose reflected in where I work and the work I’m doing? 


Some ideas: 

  • Seek opportunities and companies which align with our own personal values 
  • Articulate our own message so that it resonates with those opportunities and companies 
  • Ask questions of potential employers to be sure they are right for us 
  • Inspire potential employers by showing our passion and our ‘why’ 
  • Create opportunities by inspiring others, ensuring it is mutually beneficial 
  • The better we know ourselves, the better we can convey our strengths and what we bring 

What about employers? 

employers and employees Planning for Success

Employers need to think hard about their offer to attract the best talent. They must create their employee value proposition to draw people who share the same values as them. They have to stand out and put themselves in the candidate’s shoes.  

While good pay remains a draw for employees, “demonstrating care for an employee’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing will play an important part in guaranteeing [their] loyalty for the long term”, according to Adrian Matthews, Employee Benefits Director at MetLife​.

So, authenticity on the part of the employer and the employee really matters.  Without that, there is a risk of mismatched expectations, which is costly and disappointing for everyone. 

It’s not always possible to do the work we want, in an organisation we love, but if we keep coming back to our ‘why’, our opportunities and our choices should improve our chances of personal success. 

Clare HarrisClare Harris 

SYLO | Beyond HR.