The myth of the Career Fairy Godmother

Photo of a phone, closed laptop (with a pair of glasses on top) and a mouse floating in space before a blue background with fairy lightsI have bad news: there’s no magical Career Fairy Godmother poised to grant your wishes for success.

Your career is yours.

No one cares about your career as much as you do – or at least, as much as you should.

But here’s the challenge.

You went through your school years being told what to do to succeed. And “succeed” meant on their terms – your parents, caretakers, teachers, professors, employers.

Your entry-level job was probably similar: do what you’re told = success. According to their definition.

What’s your definition of success?

What do you want?

Don’t expect to have it handed to you. Don’t expect to get the promotion, the raise, the cool new project, just because you’ve been “good” up till now.

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was at a conference session – a panel of three executive-level women discussing careers and success.

One of them said, “You just need to work hard and do your best, and you’ll get recognized and rewarded.”

I nearly fell out of my chair.

No, and no, and no.  In my book The Five Deadly Shoulds of Office Politics, I name this as one of the deadliest: that you “should” be magically recognized for your accomplishments.

People who work hard, do their best, and stay quiet about it are virtually invisible. No one notices, because you’ve done what you were supposed to do.

I hope it’s obvious that I’m not suggesting you not do what you’re supposed to do.

But I am very definitely saying that, if you want to grow your career – and grow it in the direction you’d like it to go in – you need to take ownership of it.

You need to define what you mean by “success.”

You need to educate yourself and gain the skills you need for the next steps along the way.

You need to learn to communicate and negotiate effectively.

You need to understand what it means to lead well (whether or not you want an official leadership role or title).

You need to make sure your boss and your boss’s peers know who you are, what you excel at, and what you want.

Yes, that means you need to understand how to claim and be proud of your accomplishments!

And it means – find mentors who can help. Because they’re the closest thing there is to a Career Fairy Godmother.

Too many people wander through their careers at the whim of their managers. Which means they’re probably neither as successful (on their own terms) or as happy as they’d wish to be.

It’s not too late. (It’s never too late.)

It's never too late to take ownership of your own career - what an important reminder. Define success, map the path, start today!Click To Tweet

Take ownership of your career. Define success for yourself. Figure out how to get there.

Why not start today?

If you liked this post, you might like What is your failure saying about success?

Want to ask your manager to support you in attending training? Download this guide