Success in the corporate world can appear to have a very concrete path. But the days of success equating to a job title or material status symbols are coming to an end, says entrepreneur Ellie Swift.
One of many millennials to leave the corporate sector in favour of a career that allows a 'whole of life' approach to working, Ellie now works as a mentor and coach for other women who are re-evaluating what success means to them.
"For so many of us, 'success' isn't what we've been told it is. There is no 'one-size-fits-all' definition, and for so many of the women I work with the traditional linear 'path' to success just doesn't provide the fulfilment, flexibility and lifestyle we want in our career," said Swift.
"We need to embrace the fact that in 2018 and beyond, success is looking really different, especially for the millennial generation, and especially – in my experience – for women. But the secret is in knowing your own personal definition of success, and in letting go of what we've been told success is, which can be easier said than done."
Ellie Swift is a Marketing Coach who works with ambitious women ready to authentically connect with their customers online and grow their heart-centred businesses. Connect with Ellie at www.ellieswift.com or on Instagram at @elliehswift
Question: Why is it time for Australians to redefine success?
Ellie Swift: As much as we have been led to believe that success is whatever we want it to be, we've also been conditioned to picture a certain lifestyle when we hear that word. Suits, the corporate boardroom, heels and a healthy salary. I know because I used to live that life!
And it makes sense. Many of us have baby boomer parents and grandparents who grew up in an era that valued safety and job security. But over time I began to realise that with the rise of the digital era I now had options. I didn't need to be confined to my corporate office, working corporate hours and restricted in the ways I could grow and create change in the world, and to enjoy the work that I was doing in the process.
The word success, by definition, is 'the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.' Many millennials aren't accomplishing their purpose from a cubicle, which we know because they are the generation most likely to have a side hustle or passion project. We're painting a new picture when we think about how we can accomplish our dreams, and workplaces need to keep up with our desires to retain their best talent.
Question: How do most Australians define success in the workplace?
Ellie Swift: I can't speak for all Australians, but I know that in my work as a Mindset & Marketing Coach I've worked with hundreds of women who define success by their ability to be of service - to their teams, to their communities and to their businesses - and we're looking for a sense of fulfillment in how we do that.
The problem is, most workplaces aren't set up for that. The majority of workplaces still favour hierarchy over hyper-connectedness. Rigidity over flexibility. Corporate structure over individual wellbeing.
Entrepreneurship is on the rise, with the number of Australian small businesses increasing every year, and yet corporate Australia still – for the most part – remains unchanged. Women make up one-third of all small businesses in this country, and I've personally observed so many women making decisions to branch out on their own because of their dissatisfaction with their workplaces. If we want our most effective and capable women in the workplace, then workplace culture and success metrics within corporations need to change.
Question: How do millennials define workplace success?
Ellie Swift: Gen Y and Z have broken away from what the Australian dream used to look like. Gen Z are statistically more likely to have a 'side hustle', which demonstrates that there is more that millennials want from their lives and work than what they're receiving in their 9-5 – whether it be financially, creatively or because they want to create other opportunities entirely.
In my work I see so many millennial women who are bored, unfulfilled and uninspired by their roles in the workplace. Workplaces aren't aligning with their values, which include having more flexibility, work-life balance and ability to do meaningful work. Because there's more choice than ever before they're exercising their right to explore options beyond those workplaces, which I believe will be an ever-increasing trend, and therefore a challenge big businesses need to address.
Question: How do you define workplace success?
Ellie Swift: Success is no longer about reaching the top. It's no longer about 'climbing over' others to be the best or make the most money. It's about using our skills and talents to make the world a better place, finding a sense of fulfilment in the work we do and being of value to our communities – whether those communities exist in-person or online.
Albert Einstein's quote sums it up – "try not to be a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value." Instead of asking how we can get that next promotion, we should instead be asking: how do we do work that really matters?
In addition to that, I believe workplace success shouldn't come at a cost to the other facets of our lives. This means not downgrading our relationships, our wellbeing or our kindness. Old metrics of success favour an obsession with work, whereas these new metrics favour a 'whole-of-life' approach.
Question: Is it possible to redefine our definition of success to not involve money or status?
Ellie Swift: 100%. Success looks different to everyone, and not everyone will be driven by money or status. It's about getting crystal clear on what is meaningful and important in your life, and then actively seeking to bring more of that into your workplace.
For many millennials, being of service is the new status symbol. There's a new wave of entrepreneurs that are leading soul-first, and are focused on solving problems for their clients, prioritising collaboration and creating change that matters.
By leading with an abundant mindset as entrepreneurs, we know that we don't have to choose one or the other when it comes to a love we love and financial freedom – we can have BOTH. Time AND money. Independence AND fulfilling work.
Question: How can we find fulfillment through our own personal definition?
Ellie Swift: Stay in your own lane. Get really clear on what success looks like to you and then create goals that steer you towards achieving them. Commit to your own growth and development so that you can cultivate a mindset that empowers you to go against societal norms and limiting beliefs so that you can craft a path that YOU chose. Not a path that society chose for you. Steering your own ship is far more interesting!
Question: What is a 'whole of life' approach to work?
Ellie Swift: It's a belief that work is part of our lives and not another component entirely that we try and keep separate from everything else. It's about integrating all parts of our lives – including family, friends, health and wellness – and making choices about our work that support our life as a whole. Gone are the days where we build our lives around our work! Millennials are seeking workplaces that align with our values first and foremost.
Deloitte Human Capital Trends Survey 2018
Westpac-Melbourne Institute SME Index (December 2017)
Independent review by Robert Half 2017
The Vice Money Survey 2018