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Taking Charge Of Your Career Success: Start By Defining What Being Successful Means To You Of all the goals we set in life, being successful is probably the one that stands out the most. But what is it that makes some people more successful than others?

By Lama Ataya

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


Of all the goals we set in life, being successful is probably the one that stands out the most. But what is it that makes some people more successful than others? Are they smarter or do they work harder? Are they risk-takers, or do they have powerful connections? And what is success, really?

What is success?

Oxford Dictionaries defines success as "the accomplishment of an aim or purpose." To be successful, you must achieve your predefined goal and be satisfied with the outcome.

According to the Secrets of Career Success in the Middle East and North Africa, June 2016, success consists of a number of different factors, and insights from polled respondents illustrate how closely connected these factors may be. When it comes to defining success, the majority of professional respondents in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region say that their ultimate vision of success is being a true innovator, creator, or pioneer. A quarter stated they believe that their success comes from working in a career they absolutely love, while only a minority (5.6%) sees the accumulation of wealth or net worth as the ultimate definition of success.

Finding your own definition of success

Wondering about what it takes to be successful? That's a bit of a tricky question, because success means a lot of different things to different people. The only way to be sure you are truly successful is to define your very own success. Here are three essential pointers to help you.

1. A powerful network

The Secrets of Career Success in the Middle East and North Africa poll shows that nine in 10 respondents believe that networking and maintaining relationships has been important in their career success. Highly successful professionals understand that they cannot achieve success alone or in a vacuum. They invest time and energy in building and nurturing relationships that last over time. They also develop an empowering, engaged network that paves the way for their success. These relationships should be built on trust, honesty, integrity, and common values.

Those who exert their power to hurt or diminish others, or invest in office politics only because they think they'll "win" that way, will be very disappointed. In fact, when asked about the biggest career mistake that a professional can make, nearly one-fifth (17.9%) of respondents to the Secrets of Career Success in the Middle East and North Africa poll indicated that poor ethics and integrity are most detrimental to one's career.

Secrets of Career Success in the Middle East and North Africa, June 2016

Related: Five Ways To Develop Your Mental Toughness For Startup Success

2. Hard work

Being successful requires commitment that doesn't wane. It takes believing that you can create movement in your life and business, even when the waters are still and the world is giving evidence that you're not going to make it to your destination.

According to the Secrets of Career Success in the Middle East and North Africa poll, nearly one-third (29.1%) of respondents owe their career success mostly to hard work, while far fewer chalk it up to intelligence (5.6%) or luck (3.6%). Working hard doesn't mean that you should continue on your course blindly, crashing into the rocks without modifying your course. It means that you know when you need help, and you ask for it before it's too late. You commit yourself to your goals without doubt, without reservation, and do what's required, while at the same time learn to be flexible. Professionals that work hard and realize they have vulnerabilities and gaps in their knowledge and ability, and are determined to close these gaps, succeed at a much higher level than those who hide their heads in the sand.

3. Lifelong learning

Alvin Toffler said, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn". Education and learning, both prior to beginning a career, as well as on the path to success, seem to be important components in the recipe for success. When asked about the best source of learning for career growth, responses were generally comparable. Results from the Secrets of Career Success in the Middle East and North Africa poll cited the following sources in order of importance: university courses or professional programs (16.3%), online courses (10%), books (9.6%), career-specific internet sites (7.5%), internet forums and discussion groups (7.1%), industry conferences and forums (4.3%), and business magazines and journals (2.7%). Approach the process of ongoing learning with zest and ardor. Here's how:

I. Read literature related to your career

While 77.9% of respondents to a poll indicated they read constantly, 69.6% said they believe reading is vital to their career progress. Many books are absolute business classics in a general sense, while others may be very specific to your chosen domain; consult book reviews and industry journals when uncertain, and always aim to stay ahead of the curve in your career reading.

Secrets of Career Success in the Middle East and North Africa, June 2016
Related: INSEAD Chairman Dr. Andreas Jacobs On Executive Education, Entrepreneurship And The Middle East

II. Develop interests in non-job related areas

You would be surprised at the value you can derive both in your career and in your life in general from becoming better rounded in your knowledge and skills in a matter you are passionate about, even if it seems unrelated to your career. Most skills are transferable and you are sure to find some way to incorporate your learning in your job at some point.

III. Take online courses

It's great to sit back and listen to experts' perspectives and join in healthy classroom discourse in a very structured dedicated environment every now and then. If you cannot physically attend courses, you may want to try online courses, such as the ones offered by A poll on online education has shown that 39.3% of professionals in the region say they would consider pursuing an online course, if given a chance.

IV. Join discussions in your fields of interest

By joining a group, you will fuel your interests, challenge and reinforce your lessons, and keep the flame alive. It can be a general book club you join or a group specific to your area of interest, e.g. an engineering or entrepreneurship society, accounting forum, etc. Whatever format your group takes, it is bound to result in synergies that improve and augment your knowledge. Companies and professionals across the various industry and career spectrums partake in specialist discussions online, like on Specialties, greatly expanding their knowledge and the knowledge of others by sharing what they know.

A final word

Taking charge of your own professional destiny with a unique definition of success will put you on the true path to satisfaction. For some, success may mean winning at office politics or earning a specific amount of money or even achieving a certain level of social status and prestige, but for most people, those achievements won't result in true satisfaction. Understanding what really satisfies you is the key to building, pursuing, and hopefully reaching, goals that truly matter.

Related: Finding Your Path To Success: Start By Defining Your Goals

Lama Ataya

Chief Marketing Officer,

Lama Ataya heads the Marketing department at and within that role is also responsible for communications, content, community experience, and corporate social responsibility.


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