How to Choose the Right Job So That You Can Have a Successful Career


A lot of people look at a job and a career as the same thing, but they aren’t. A job is usually where you work, such as “I work at Google,” whereas a career is your profession such as “I am an engineer.” Chances are, you will not have your ideal job right away because you are probably looking for a job that will bring tons of money, happiness, and power. If you are one of those people who is looking for a successful career, here is what you should be looking for in your first few jobs:

Size – you may like working for a small company, but it’s in your best interest to work for large companies with thousands of employees. Think of it as a networking opportunity because the more people you get to know on a personal level, the better chances you have for success in the future. If you decide to work for a large company at first one of the easiest ways you can network is to get to know one new person a day.

Title – instead of taking a job based on pay, you should think about taking a job based on your title. You may get paid more as a mid level engineer at Boeing, but it is probably better to take a management position at Exxon even if it pays a bit less. In the future you are more likely to get better jobs if you are an engineer and had a management position compared to if you were just an engineer.

Opportunities – your potential isn’t unlimited, it is actually limited by your job. Some companies will not allow you to go to industry conferences or even create your own blog, which will hinder the growth of your personal brand. The last thing you want to do is take a job that will hinder your future and limit your options.

Flexibility – some companies only allow you to work on specific things while others like Google let you do whatever you want 20% of the time. If you can find a firm that is flexible enough to take in your creativity and let you do whatever you want 20% of the time it can tremendously help your career. Wouldn’t it be great to say that you created X for company Y on your resume?

People – let’s face it, you are whom you surround yourself with. If you surround yourself with successful entrepreneurs then hopefully one day you will be a successful entrepreneur. It is easier said then done to surround yourself with great people, so make sure you get a job that is filled with tons of smart and talented individuals.

Environment – the atmosphere at your work place will affect how you perform. Working in a fun and entertaining environment will probably make you more productive compared to working in a dull environment. This may not make sense, but you are more likely to work harder and longer when you are having fun.

Management – hopefully your boss will not be a pain in the ass. It is important to work for someone who is fun, encouraging, and most importantly still gets the job done. There will be times when you need something from upper management and the only way you will be able to get it is by going through the chain of command.

These are just some of the things that should affect which job you take in the short term because it will have a big impact on your career and your future goals. Whatever your career goals may be, don’t think about how you can obtain them now, instead think about what you can do so you can reach them 5 to 10 years from now.

P.S. If you want help making more money in your career check this out.


  1. Finally!!! I’ve been waiting on a new post.

    Good point about jobs and careers being two completely different things. Their were some things you left out about that, but it was straight to the point. Good post, Neil.

    • Sorry about the lack of posts. I will post more often from now on. Very little traveling for the next 6 months due to school… which means more time to blog. πŸ™‚

  2. Very good insight Neil. I like your emphasis on networking and surrounding yourself with like-minded successful individuals. Personal Branding is all about perception, so your title is more important than your salary.

    • A title won’t put food in your mouth nor pay the mortgage. Also, the title may not actually really reflect the real nature of the job.

      • A title doesn’t solve all your problems, but it can help with future jobs. It may not help much, but it will to a certain extent.

        To give you an extreme case, being a VP of Marketing at Microsoft would carry a lot of weight. Granted it would take a lot to get there, but that title says a lot.

  3. Will Radcliffe :

    Neil, nice writeup on the job realm, it’s not easy to find what you’re looking, even if you’ve been working for a while; sometime what one needs is a self-assessment of where they are and where they would like to be (as you mentioned above).

    We should have you as a guest author on the blog sometime for your input on careers, especially from someone who’s seeing it all at once (Student, Business Owner, Developer, etc).

    • Thanks for the offer!

      I totally agree with it being hard to find a job. Even if I was trying to get a 9 to 5 job, I don’t think I would find what I am looking for. It is always hard and in most cases we have to settle.

  4. Bas van de Haterd :

    Sorry to be the critic in this, but the first two points are nonsense.

    It’s not better to work at a big company. Yes, you meet more collegues, however you usually don’t get the chance to meet high execs outside the company, because your boss will take those meetings. Working at a small company usually gives you a lot more access to the outside world.

    In your flexibility point you argue you need the room to expand, usually at a small company, you get that a lot more then at a big company. Also there are a lot less ego’s (since you have less collegues to begin with) so you get more chances of building a personal brand. You get out more, you get more speaking oppertunities since there are less rules and less people to compete with, you get the name in the paper faster (since there is no PR department), etc. So the oppertunities are a lot bigger in small firms then in big ones (also less rules on blogging for example)

    The second point (pay and title): well, you shouldn’t look for either (pay or title). You should look for the actual job. At a big firm, everybody is a VP (even the guards at the door of a bank are VP of security). Personaly, I don’t mind having a crappy title, when I have a good job.

    You are right that a job is just part of a career. And your career should be just a part of your future for that matter.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Thanks for your input!

      The reason I feel you should work for a big company is that even if you don’t get to meet execs you still get to meet tons more people. Although these people may not be valuable to you today, they could be execs in different companies 10 years down the road.

      You do make a good point that you won’t meet as many execs on the outside of your company, but I think that you can actually make that happen through networking (conferences, industry events,…).

      As for flexibility I agree with you that there is more room with smaller firms, but there is still opportunity at larger firms. You just have to find the right fit such as Google is probably a very flexible company in the Internet space.

      And lastly as for job title, tons of people are considered VPs such as a security person. But either way I would rather be the VP of security for a large company than just a “security guard” because in the future it may cause me to make more money.

    • I completely agree with your comment, Bas, on working for a big company. I worked for Bell Atlantic (80,000 employees at the time) and ran into the CEO once in six years (in the elevator). I moved to Colorado and got absolutely hooked on start-ups for several reasons. One is access to upper management. In a start-up or small company its not only possible, but important, to have regular communication with the CEO. I also loved the agility. We could have a good idea one day and be doing something about it the next day. Another plus is the experience. Take the area of marketing. At a large company, you may be stuck with a limited role of writing press releases or copy-editing web content. At a small company, you could be managing PR, or running the web site.

      • I definitely see the value of working for a small company, but my question is do you think that other companies (large and small) are more likely to hire you because you have experience working for a large corporation?

        Working for small companies are great but the one problem I see is that when you go into some job interviews sometimes people have never heard of these small startups.

        Maybe the best move is to mix it up and make sure you have experienced the corporate life as well as working for startups.

  5. Hello Neil,

    I agree with Bas, I worked in a large company and corporate politics got in the way of any type of possible networking to the big guys. Also, any freedom of creativity was owned, meaning, it was my idea, but I didn’t get the pat on the back for thinking of it. Since then, I have become a “freelancer”(uggggh silly word) and have been doing it for about 7 years. How does your post apply to contractors or freelancers? How can a freelancer have a successful career?

    • You are correct, this post doesn’t apply to freelancers. As a freelancer one thing I would take away from this post is to blog and go to industry events (which you already may be doing).

  6. Bas van de Haterd :

    @Neil: personally, I don’t like the idea that you make a bigger career at bigger firms. Actually, I even doubt it. Yes, you meet a lot of people and yes, they might be execs in the future. However, the same (can) go for smaller firms, like I said, having more access to the outside world. And if it’s all about meeting people, you should start in the event organising business. There you meet A LOT of people.

    What I do know, in the Netherlands at least, is that the switch from big to small is hard to make, the switch from small to big almost impossible. Small firms sometimes hire people from bigger firms (although the huge cultural differences generally make for a bad fit and a short ‘career’). Big firms very seldom hire from small companies, unless it’s a small company with a big name. (Never heard of it, can’t be any good applies here I guess).

    In my experiance (and of course, I’m only one person), when I look at my career and to that of many of my classmates that started in big companies, I moved a lot faster. Of course, could be the person, and yes, it’s a matter of opinion what ‘a better career’ is. But I can’t help but disagree with you on the small and big company question. It’s more ‘where you belong’ (culture wise) then a sure thing.

    Oh, and last but not least, like I said, more flexible and you get more chances (usually) to take control. Less politics, more chances to grow in your job (in stead of to another job).

    • With me the whole work for a big firm has the main advantage of meeting new people within your company each day. But I do see where you are coming from about working for a smaller company and I guess it can go either way.

      As for flexibility I still feel it is possible to get it with large companies, but as you stated it is much easier to find it within smaller companies.

  7. A job is what you do at their command: Janitor – 9-5 Monday to Friday at XYZ compnay

    An occupation is the field you work in – engineering

    A career is the summation of ALL you have done. Its part of who you are. Skills for success are learned on the job, while in school, in the home.

    Meeting LOTS of people doesn’t do much good if they are not in the position to advance your position. 10 years down the road they might be an exec, but thats a big maybe and don’t worry about where they are, what have you done to move forward. Find a mentor on the way up and ride their coattails. Focus on those that can help you not 10,000 that can’t

    Large or small company really doesn’t make a difference. I am the VP of quality assurance for XYZ, yeah well nice title but tell me what you can do and did for the company and how you can help me.

    Also in a small company I may have to wear a few different hats, thereby expanding my knowledge, capabilities and demonstrating that I am flexible, adaptable and have several skill sets.

    And surrounding yourself with successful people and hopefully… HOPEFULLY!!!!! The way up is not based on hope it based on doing.

    Overall its a good beginning to building a successful career but a few not necessarily true assumptions.

    • Thanks for the input!

      If you meet tons of people and they aren’t in a position to advance your career, they can still be useful. The main advantage with getting to know tons of people is that they may know someone who can help you.

      As for company size there are circumstances where a large company could be better (and of course the same goes for a smaller company). My point was in general a larger company is better, but you do make valid points about a small company.

      In most cases if you surround yourself with losers you are probably going to be a loser. But if you surround yourself with successful people you’ll start “doing” so that you can be successful too.

  8. I couldn’t agree more with this blog entry. The reasons you listed above are why I really don’t regret my time spent in corporate America (3 years). In the end it just gave me that much more drive and experience to make it as an entrepreneur.

  9. I’m really striving towards owning my won business, but… have no idea which way I should be going, I’ve taken all of the personality tests, but that isn’t much help!

    • That is a good goal. Although a business makes you have hundreds of bosses (all your customers) instead of 1, I still think it is worth it.

  10. I’m a student now and later on I have to look for a job. Actually, I don’t know what I am good at. I don’t know what I should think about my future job. But after reading this passage,I’ll make a plan for my future study. I want to be a happy person and I think to know one’s self is a true progress.

    • Man whats up, you said after reading this passage its easy for you to found the right career job. how do you know the right one? pls tell me more on this issue. my email is am chris by name.
      Thanks. for your concern.

      • I knew it was the right one because it allowed for growth, paid well, allowed me to learn more, provided flexibility, and most importantly I loved it.

        There is no one answer on how I knew it was the right one, but overall it just felt right.

  11. Choosing the right career path might have to do a lot with passion. Forget about the title,cos it won’t put food in your mouth nor pay the mortgage. Also, the title may not actually really reflect the real nature of the job.I have 3 titles that suits my present role.

  12. Popularity & Flexibility goes hand in hand……hmmmmm…….the mind boggles and the body wobbles!!! Heheheheh! It works for me πŸ˜‰

  13. the perfect job is that thing you would do for free anyway , if you were not very lucky and ended up working in some ofice you didnt give a fu&%$ about ,you would still find time to do those things , on weekends and free time

    • There is always free time in everything, it just depends on where your time effort and energy is going.

  14. Microsoft Contact Management Software :

    Management – I think just as long as the people around your business knows how to manage their jobs, then all the stated facts above would go handy.

  15. How i know my current job is suitable to me and can provide me with successful career ? kindly advice what should i do? any tips?

    • Well, first question to ask yourself is, do you enjoy it? Are you willing to dedicate your whole life to? Is it a field you TRULY want to learn more and more, every single day in? Is it a field that you truly want to get excellent at?

      Just ask the above questions. I’m sure you’ll find an answer. The answer is in your own mind. All the best.


  16. I have met folks who think like you do Neil and those folks have a lot of clarity in the direction they want to go within a corporation. Usually, they have bigger dreams and can keep sights on where they want to go. This is a key part of your claim to title – emphasizing that climbing is all about the networking and having the title within that network. Personal branding … exactly.

    However, my cynical side says that this advice doesn’t fit most of the folks who work at corporations. A lot of folks don’t care about networking or moving up more than perhaps 1 level. This is especially true in IT. Some do – yes. But most seem to be satisfied with the 9 to 5 life even at the expense of having it yet getting paid decently. I’m one of those people in the middle… hate the job, but I get paid well. I’m using my corporate pay to fund a small startup.

  17. Merrill Lang :

    Nice post Neil. All said and done, it’s not that easy to find a job that also leads you to your career. People weigh a lot of things before taking up a job – pay, proximity from place of stay, travel time, perks and benefits, etc.
    You may be able to find a few of these points you mentioned above in the job, but not possible to find all these together.

    I would appreciate it if you could let me know what you think about this post –


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