The why, how and whom of career success

When you’re planning your next career move, ask yourself:

Why are you interested in this particular job?

How will you access this career sector?

Who works in this role?

Research* has shown that these three key questions underpin the likelihood of achieving career success. So, let’s look at them in a bit more detail and examine what this means in terms of the practicalities concerning your career planning strategy.

Why WHY?

  • It’s important to understand what’s influencing your career choices so that you can make informed career decisions;
  • Knowing why particular careers are attractive to you helps you to take a proactive approach to your career, so that it’s under your control;
  • You can enhance your self-leadership and self-awareness when you know why you want to follow a particular career path;
  • Employers will ask questions at interview about why you want to work in this role, what you know about their organisation and why you are interested in working with them. You will need to have credible and genuine answers to give them, backed up with examples

Why HOW?

  • How can you find out which companies/organisations operate in this sector? Where are they based and what is their core business?
  • How can you get into this industry/business? Where are their vacancies advertised: their company website, social media, other job sites?
  • How are companies communicating their ‘hot news’. Where can you look for their latest developments so that you’re more informed about the organisation and their business?
  • Employers will ask questions at interview about the role for which you are applying and their company, in relation to their operations and outputs, competitors and collaborators, etc.


  • With whom can you network to help you to gain access to your career of interest?
  • Do you already know people working in your career of interest? How did they get into this role/company? Would they be willing to act as a mentor?
  • How can you improve your network in relation to your career interests?
  • Employers tend to be risk averse and prefer to employ people that already have some kind of link with their organisation through prior experience, contacts and recommendations.

Sometimes, it’s hard to know how to make a start and on what to focus when considering your career development strategy; hopefully these key questions will help you to make a start and to organise your plan of action.

*Eby LT, Butts M, Lockwood A. 2003. Predictors of success in the era of the boundaryless career. Journal of Organanisational Behaviour, 24:689–708.

Related content: Career Success – what does it look like?

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