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Seven Proven Life Lessons to Cultivate a Successful Career

By Orlando Williams, CEO and Chief Equity Officer of Motus Recruiting and Staffing, Inc. - February 1, 2021

Orlando Williams is a former University of Oregon basketball player who went on to become a player and Community Outreach Ambassador of Goodwill for the Harlem Globetrotters. He founded Motus Recruiting in 2006, focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Orlando is also a TV game analyst for the Portland Trail Blazers. Orlando appears in several of VirtualJobShadow.com’s Life Skills videos, including “A Diverse Workforce is Proven to Pay Off,” “Identify and Overcome Unconscious Bias,” and “When to Listen and When to Talk.” 

With most of the internet being a highlight reel of people’s journeys, it is easy to imagine that a successful person merely gained their fortune overnight by either sheer luck or good circumstance. Rarely do you hear about the intrinsic motivations, core ideologies, and the stamina it takes to become a strong, resilient leader. Yes, it always takes hard work, but what does that mean? 

Here are some of the most effective and useful ways I have found to land a career (and life) you love: 

Just say yes: If you ask any high-level executive if their path was as clear as Point A to Point B, they will likely say no. The path to greatness is rarely a straight line. Along your journey, sometimes it is worth it to take the detour to find your true passions. The more often you say yes to opportunities, the more you will decide on what interests you – and more importantly – what does not. Additionally, every professional opportunity you agree to will expand your network which can open even more doors in the future. If you are on the fence about taking a risk, ask yourself if the fear of trying is greater than the fear of regret for a missed opportunity.  

You’re going to fail: While we are on the topic of taking risks, be prepared to fail – a lot. Failing is never the goal, but it is also rarely fatal. While it is easy to feel isolated or ashamed in failure, the truth is, everyone has missteps. Every. Single. Person. It may sting in the moment but rest assured that mistakes and setbacks are a vital part of any successful career. The important part is the ability to learn something new every time you fall, and then, of course, to try again. Botched a project? Evaluate what went wrong and how you can improve it for the next time. The sooner you fail, the sooner you can level up. Reframing your failures as necessary building blocks in risk-taking is imperative if you wish to continue moving forward in life. 

Protect the orange: What exactly do I mean by “protect the orange”? Well, I have been a basketball player since I was a child and many of the lessons I have learned are from sports. When you’re in the game, there is only one focus: that orange ball. Certainly, there are tactics and plays, but to win the game you must focus on the direction of the ball. The same method applies when achieving your goals. Once you have set your play in motion, the priority is to keep laser-focused on your goal. 

Find a mentor: Finding someone who can guide you and provide feedback along the way is an invaluable asset. A mentor can offer exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking while providing guidance on professional development. Much like saying “yes” often, reaching out to individuals who have been where you would like to be is incredibly important. Not only could you find a mentor, it’s also a great way to learn about different jobs and industries. Sometimes, organizations will pair junior associates with more senior team members to help them navigate their work and trajectory in the company. 

Communicate well: When it comes to invaluable soft skills, communication will always be at the top. You could be the most skilled worker in your field, but if you struggle to write an email or present at a meeting, it could hinder your advancement within the organization. This might sound obvious but mastering your communication skills is important because they are transferrable no matter where you go. Being able to communicate effectively enables you to transfer and comprehend information, bolster your confidence, and resolve conflicts. 

Share what you know: One of the most fulfilling parts of finding success is passing on your experience and knowledge to someone else who is still trying to figure things out for themselves. Maybe it’s becoming a mentor or accepting various invitations to meet for coffee, but it is our responsibility to pay-it-forward with what we have learned thus far. Offering insight to others is not only incredibly helpful and generous but also a way to show gratitude for the assistance you received along the way.  

Diversify your “feed”: Not just who you follow on social media, but also the books, shows, and publications you consume. Diversity of thought is part of what makes someone a citizen of the world. By engaging with new points of view, especially when you do not necessarily agree, you’re able to form well-rounded opinions while expanding your perspective. 

Finding success does not happen overnight. The work you put in will be exciting, and at many times, grueling. But if you stay focused on opportunities, seek and offer mentorship, and keep an open mind, the rewards you will reap will undoubtedly overshadow the numerous trials you overcame to get what you want. 

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About Motus Recruiting and Staffing, Inc: 

Founded in 2006, Motus is a leading recruiting and staffing firm in the Pacific Northwest, specializing in solutions for technology, engineering, finance, and accounting industries. As a certified Oregon MBE and the only Black-owned recruiting firm in Oregon, we aim to educate individuals and organizations on the importance of DEI when hiring, promoting, and supporting a diverse workforce. We are a group of people who not only recognize the importance of representation, but actively advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the recruitment process. 

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