Remember, Success Is a Moving Target

Success—whether in life or in one’s career—is a moving target. What you think may define a successful career now will change over time as you get experience, develop and refine your skill set, and figure out what aspects of your job you like best or don’t care for at all. It will also adjust as your life inevitably changes. Embrace the moving target of success in your career.

As a new lawyer, my vision for ultimate career success was to be a trial lawyer. But I knew that to get there I had to set short-term goals. I learned the law and how litigation worked. I earned the trust and respect of my senior colleagues. I wrote the winning brief. I argued a motion. I presented witnesses at trial. Clients began asking for and relying on my advice. Each of these is a small step, and a success in its own right, toward achieving ultimate career success.

Viewing success this way—in steps—has helped me avoid becoming frustrated about the time it takes to reach the definition of career success I set years ago. As the years pass, I take stock of where I started and where I am now, and set additional goals that I think will lead to successes in the future. A decade into my career, I am expanding upon what success as a trial lawyer means to me now, letting my definition of career success change.

Remember, your career success must be yours. While comparing yourself to others may help you assess whether you are on track to reach your goals, don’t be too hard on yourself if you haven’t had the same career experiences as your colleagues. Instead of fixating on those differences, embrace them and use them to set new goals to achieve your version of success, not theirs.

At the end of the day, you will be happier doing the work that makes you happy, not artificially checking boxes because someone else did. Build your niche, and allow your definition of success, and the time needed to reach that success, to evolve accordingly.