How do you define your career value?

Well, I am now a month down in my new little agency job since moving companies, and I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone! As most of you might not know, I work in digital advertising which is a career path I’ve been in for the last 6 years.

I was so driven and ambitious when I first started out. I was determined to be a high flying career woman, climbing up the ladder, competing with all my peers to be the best and striving to never make a mistake. I would set goals for my next milestone, promotion or pay rise, and worked long hours to prove myself, even going into the office on the weekends to get through the workload and give me a competitive edge on proactive tasks. The problem was that I was SO ambitious, the pressure I was putting on myself in aspiring for perfection was impacting my health, both mentally and physically.

I was never much of an anxious person before starting my career, but I do remember that my stress and anxiety meant that I couldn’t sleep, I had persistent stomach issues and I would also stress eat and binge constantly on whatever delicious treats the reps would bring into our offices. On top of that, one of my biggest sources of stress at work was my inability to delegate. I would hold onto work for dear life because I knew that only I could do the task perfectly, and it was just too complex explaining to others EXACTLY how I wanted it done. As a result my to-do list would get un-manageable and I would stay late most nights just to ensure it was done to my standard.

The problem was that my ability to deliver results for my clients was what defined my value in my career, and if I couldn’t achieve the extremely high bar I had set for myself, I was a failure. My worth was dictated by what others thought of me. Each day I was only just able to keep my head above water, with a million deadlines in the air, but living each moment utterly terrified about when I might drop the ball or when people would figure out that maybe I was a fraud.

Now that I have several years behind me of learning to manage my own stress through trial and error and growing through the ranks, I now have more of a bird’s eye view of my own teams and other teams, and I have noticed so many people, juniors and mid-level managers who suffer from the exact same work stresses that I did. It may not be for the same reasons as me, it may not be in the same way, but the end result is the same – anxiety, stress and unhappiness.

It took me years and even a few recent stumbles to know firmly what my worth and value truely is. Your attitude, kindness and energy that you put out into the world everyday is what defines you. Waking up every morning and making a choice to not be influenced by other people and staying true to yourself, is what defines you. We are all human and we make mistakes! Because of this, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ you make a mistake, how do you deal with it? If you respond and deal with it in a way that you truely believe is the right thing to do, then nothing else matters. Your mood or self-worth shouldn’t depend on if a client or boss gives you praise or tears you to pieces.

What I’m realising is that standing by these qualities in the workplace not only improves your life and happiness, but it naturally filters into every area of your life. It’s important to be driven and ambitious and to continue to grow yourself, but it is even more important to sit down and find out who you truely are and how you value yourself, because your value does NOT  hinge on the format of one presentation, report, or your client’s opinion of you.