The word career is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person’s “course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life)”. In this definition career is understood to relate to a range of aspects of an individual’s life, learning and work. Career is also frequently understood to relate to the working aspects of an individual’s life e.g. as in career woman. A third way in which the term career is used to describe an occupation or a profession that usually involves special training or formal education, and is considered to be a person’s lifework. In this case “a career” is seen as a sequence of related jobs usually pursued within a single industry or sector e.g. “a career in education” or “a career in the building trade”.

Career success is a term used frequently in academic and popular writing about career. It refers to the extent and ways in which an individual can be described as successful in his or her working life so far.

Traditionally, career success has often been thought of in terms of earnings and/or status within an occupation or organisation. This can be expressed either in absolute terms (e.g. the amount a person earns) or in relative terms (e.g. the amount a person earns compared with their starting salary). Earnings and status are examples of objective criteria of success, where “objective” means that they can be factually verified, and are not purely a matter of opinion.

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