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Unlocking the keys to a lifetime of career success

Unlocking the keys to a lifetime of career success

September 22, 2014 at 12:00am

Thinking ahead and taking small steps will lead to you to the big goal, explains alum

david_van_rooy-214x300.jpgPoor grades in high school threatened to sink the hopes of attending college for David Van Rooy. During those days of uncertainty, the value of planning his future and working incrementally toward his goals began to dawn on him. Twenty years later, the successful human resources professional not only holds the bachelor’s degree that once seemed so elusive, but he went on to earn a master’s and Ph.D. in organizational psychology from FIU.

While Van Rooy has certainly seen the fruits of his own strategic calculations pay off, he has also interacted with employees and leaders to help him better understand how some get ahead and why others don’t. He encapsulates what he has learned in the recently published Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You from Where You Are, brief excerpts of which appear here.

By David Van Rooy MS ’03, Ph.D. ’05

In my career I have been extremely fortunate to work at some of the most recognizable and influential companies in the world, including Walmart, Marriott International and Burger King. Over time, as I was growing my own career and contributing to these organizations, I was able to identify essential factors that lead either to career prosperity or disappointment. I quickly realized that employees are most concerned with their current jobs, and some about the next job. In either case, they focused primarily on the short term.

People often have not considered how their current job will prepare them for the next one, and the next one, and so on. I knew that if I wanted to give valuable advice, I would have to address the long term. I want to help people chart their personal and professional courses in an exciting, invigorating way that’s intuitive. Your trajectory is the path you create for yourself.

The Power of Feedback

Quite simply, people are not good judges of their own skills, particularly ones in which they are not strong. In conversations with your boss, focus less on the ratings you receive, and push to get to the deep feedback that you need. When you let go of numbers, you open yourself up to receive substantive feedback that you can actually use.

Do not let success preclude you from seeking feedback. In particular, pay attention to feedback relating to those shortcomings that you have been able to mask because of success in other areas. Seeking the right type of feedback will enable you to solidify your strongest areas and embark on a journey to improve those areas that others deem weaknesses. Think of feedback as a compass – something that when used frequently and correctly will keep you on track. And how you react to feedback is critical. Do not rationalize the feedback or explain it away. Do not get angry.

trajectory.jpgPersistence as a Differentiator

A compelling body of research has explored the factors that underlie successful performance, which can be explained via a straightforward equation: Ability x Persistence = Performance. Persistence will continue to stand the test of time as a differentiating characteristic that the most successful people possess.

The elements underlying the significance of persistence are closely connected to motivation. Motivation, though, can be short-lived if the reasoning behind it is faulty. If you are motivated for the right reasons – driven by what you love doing – it will become much easier to remain persistent, even when confronted with adversity.

Persistence also requires preparation. More than 2,000 years ago the Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet.” This reasoning still applies. When opportunity arises, you will become your own worst enemy if you have not prepared for it. You must enter the situation knowing that you have done everything within your power to seize that moment.

Think Big, Act Small, Move Quick

The best path to reach your big goals is often through small actions and quick moves. Over time, you will be able to accomplish what you seek by tackling one mountain at a time. Each mountain will come with challenges, but when you break these into the respective pieces, it will become easier for you to meet and overcome each one – and to do so quickly.

As you chart your trajectory, you must consider the importance of ensuring that you set goals that are specific and attainable yet difficult. If you have no goals, it will be very hard to have any idea of what you need to work on. If you have a broad goal, such as wanting to open a business, you don’t know where to start. If you have an easy goal, you run the risk of selling yourself short. You therefore need to create a plan that includes a series of goals.

When you follow the BSQ approach, you will feel yourself gaining momentum. You will feel that something that seemed difficult is actually very manageable. You will have the confidence to get there. Your accomplishments will grow, as will your belief in yourself. As this transpires, you will find that you are almost unknowingly thinking bigger and bigger as you take on new challenges in your life and career.  

Adapted from Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

© 2014 David L. Van Rooy
All rights reserved.
Published by AMACOM Books
Division of American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019