Comedian, Damon Wayans, once stated, “You’re on earth for a purpose. Everyone’s goal should be to find that purpose and to walk on the path to your destiny.”  While our job is to help the next generation find their why, uncover their purpose, and tap into their unique gifts, talents, and abilities to courageously and daringly pursue through post-secondary educational pursuits, we often fail to expose students to the needed competencies, skills, and aptitudes that will relate to success in the world of work. In an age where various forms of enrichment programming is being extracted from many schools across America, there is a heightened need to arm young people with the skills that will enable them to strive, survive, and thrive in the real world and real work contexts.

In my own journey to becoming a doctor in the field of higher education leadership, I had the opportunity to conduct a robust research study with top U.S. physicians who went on to become high-ranking leaders. These individuals attended some of the most highly selective colleges and universities for undergraduate study and medical school in the country. I was interested in learning what personal, academic, and sociocultural factors led to their career advancement and ultimate success. Given that they were high-performing physicians (many of whom attended ivy league institutions), I figured that intelligence and book smarts would certainly be one of the most salient factors that led to their success in a grueling and intense field like medicine. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth. All the physicians in my study attributed very little of their success to academic or scholastic factors, though they attended some of the most competitive institutions in the world. From their perspective, it was the “non-book stuff” and the sheer ability to show forth grit and resilience and not let any of the obstacles and challenges they encountered in their life (and in the medical school and residency experience) stop them from climbing and achieving. Resilience, initiative, grit, and having mentors and sponsors were shown to be the most critical facilitators in reaching career success. There were other key factors that helped them to succeed in the world of work. These are attributes that we all can learn from and help our students develop if they are to soar forth in the area of their destinies.

18 Critical Practices that Facilitate Career Success:

  • Taking the perspective of being an asset and leveraging one’s strengths to the organization
  • Focusing on employability skills, training, and developing critical skillsets while engaging in lifelong learning to stay on the cutting edge of knowledge and information
  • Prioritizing self-care activities and fostering work-life balance
  • Ignoring unpleasant remarks and managing work-related interactions with patience and open-mindedness
  • Superior professionalism and etiquette, and business acumen
  • Proving yourself by going above and beyond and limiting errors
  • Cross-cultural understanding & environmental adaptation
  • Strive, survive, and thrive: Self-efficacy, resilience, initiative, and sheer grit
  • The power of involvement: Speaking up, asserting yourself, volunteering, and saying yes
  • Not what happens to you, but how you respond: Moving beyond negativity with a positive mindset
  • Having thick skin
  • Taking risks & getting out of your comfort zone
  • The power of the network: Finding mentors, sponsors, and support networks
  • Strategic career planning & sharing career goals
  • Visibility, being known, and garnering respect
  • Feeling a passionate call to pursue your career ambition
  • An upbringing involving high academic expectations & valuable family support
  • Confidence & competence

May each of us help young people to develop personal and professional development skills that enrich their lives, while assisting them to transform dreams into their lived reality.

Excerpt taken from “The Alston Model of Career & Educational Development”

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