Use Research to Drive Your Career Success

Advice from career experts can be confusing because it’s often based on one individual’s experiences and opinion. But when quantifiable data on career success is made available, job seekers should take note.

This past August, a study on successful teachers took the education world by storm. Harvard researcher Will Dobbie studied whether the attitudes and behaviors that Teach for America (TFA) looks for when selecting applicants to their program were statistically correlated with better student test scores. Dobbie found that students who worked with TFA teachers that exhibited achievement, leadership, and perseverance before they were selected for the program performed better on standardized tests.

You might be wondering whether this study matters to you if you’re not an aspiring teacher.

Let me try to convince you that it does. Economic studies are frequently conducted in the education field because success can be quantified through large, validated samples of student assessment data. However, when studies have been conducted in other fields, researchers have found the same characteristics that make teachers effective, like “unwavering resolve” (i.e., perseverance), also make CEOs good at their jobs. Second, Teach for America is the second largest employer of recent graduates in the U.S. and the most selective – only 11% of last year’s 46,000 applicants received an offer. If you meet TFA’s standards, you’ll likely meet almost any other company’s, too, and be successful in your chosen profession.

While the press focused on the implications of this study for the colleges that train teachers and the schools that hire them, my conclusion has been that this is important information for all of us who want to be great in our careers.

The successful Teach for America corps members possessed the mindsets and behaviors that made them good at their job not because they are so much smarter than everyone else. Instead, they took advantage of situations where they learned on their own or had access to parents, mentors or schools who taught the importance of these three qualities. It’s not too late for those who didn’t have these experiences yet to create them for themselves.

So what can you do to improve at achieving, leading and persevering? Here are a few guiding questions and ideas:


Do you regularly schedule time to create and achieve results in your academic and professional lives? If you’re not succeeding the way you’d like, how can you change your focus?


What organizations do you belong to and in what leadership opportunities do you volunteer? What do you believe makes a great leader, and do you act that way when you have an opportunity?


Do you give up easily when your goals become hard? Can you work with a peer around a hard goal and encourage each other to push past the obstacles with resolve?

Smart professionals will use hard evidence like this to their advantage. Choose to use research to create your own professional opportunities.


About the Author: Tracy Brisson is a career coach, recruitment consultant, and Founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project, an organization that helps young professionals meet their career goals quickly and confidently. Tracy’s career advice has been featured in Mashable, The New York Post, Monster+Hot Jobs and other media outlets. She started her career as a Teach for America corps member in New York City in the late-90s.

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