Paths of Success

Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 5 min.

The Living Educations students received a forum presentation from Dr. John Cole discussing the paths of success. 

To begin, Dr. Cole admonished the students to consider the path they take, researching jobs and opportunities qualitatively and quantitatively. We must avoid applying for a position in just any company or embarking on the first endeavor that crosses our path. Instead, we should take the time to investigate. If we are considering applying to a company, Dr. Cole admonished the students to spend some time on its website, learn its mission statement, observe the competition, and find the causes it supports, like its diversity and sustainability policies. He introduced an effective qualitative method for evaluating jobs, opportunities, or even yourself!

SWOT Analysis

Dr. Cole elaborated on a method of analysis that involves listing strengths and weaknesses, followed by opportunities and threats. The strengths and weaknesses are internal attributes. Dr. Cole gave the example of analyzing a company. First, we consider what the company does well: Does it have a strong brand name or proprietary technology that gives it an advantage over its competitors? Then, we investigate weaknesses, finding out what causes problems and bottlenecks or ways the competitors are stronger than the company in question. After this, Dr. Cole explained the external considerations; we look for opportunities that may benefit the company. Are trade tariffs going to be lowered, improving profits? We also pinpoint threats. What are major events that could occur that would damage the company’s sales or assets? Dr. Cole explained that this method is widely used, even at the highest level of management. This research is invaluable for a job interview. Having a detailed understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a company will absolutely impress its hiring manager. 

Tips for Success 

Dr. Cole encouraged the students to market their skills well. We can change our mindset from “I get to meet this person” to “This person gets to meet me.” It is important to remember our value! We can present our life and experience as a narrative, engaging the listener and compelling them. 

Another path for success, as Dr. Cole explained, is to build your network. It is immensely valuable to create a list of professional contacts that we accumulate over the years. This will make it easy to stay in steady communication over time. For expanding your network, he recommended getting introductions from existing contacts. It is also helpful to use sites like LinkedIn, join forums, and even make a website showcasing samples of our work. 

Be prepared for ethical challenges. Dr. Cole reminded the students that most people do not prioritize morality; out in the workforce we will see unethical decisions, and we may even be pressured to perform some ourselves. We must be prepared to counter such influences.

He also said to consider the details of a company or agency if we are considering working for them. Fortune 500 companies will open doors for the future. A publicly traded company is going to be different from a private company. Working for a state agency will differ from having a federal position. Also, a prospective company may be owned by a parent corporation, which means it could be sold. These are areas he gave to consider when looking at a job, but this analysis can be useful when considering starting a business or when planning a different endeavor. 

Dr. Cole told us that there are three topics to avoid in a professional environment: sex, religion, and politics. People may try to pull us into a conversation on one of these, but it is a bad idea. He also said that people will even try to start arguments with us; it is prudentto keep our guard up on these topics. 

He addressed choosing the trade or academic path. Either is fine, but Dr. Cole said to always treat everyone with respect. We cannot assume people from either path are stupid. How they make the world a better place is the only thing that matters.

Dress for success. Dr. Cole told the students that this principle is as true now as it has ever been. If we interview for a more casual type of job, we can still dress up—just make it clear that we are doing it out of respect for the interviewer and company, and not only to make ourselves look good. 

Dr. Cole gave another key piece of advice: always send thank-you notes after interviews or other meetings. This is a crucial step many people miss.

For his last tip, Dr. Cole mentioned the value of apprenticeships and internships. These are great opportunities to test a field and learn from experienced professionals. Even outside of formal positions, the attitude of looking to test out a field and get experience from professionals can help many types of endeavors to succeed. 

Envision Your Success

Dr. Cole told the students to envision their success. This involves developing a clear goal, identifying all the prerequisites needed, and making a plan to develop them. It is critical to train in the skills we need. Our ultimate goal is the Kingdom of God, and we must apply even more energy and strategy into pursuing this goal. Concluding, Dr. Cole admonished the students to learn these strategies and apply these tips on their path to success. 

Mr. Tyler Wayne gave a forum recently on analyzing risks and planning small business projects. This forum is available here: Take a Risk and Do Something.

Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content & videos and helping with a variety of other projects.