Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Attaining Career Success

Peter Heslin

Career success can’t be measured simply by professional achievement or the amount of money that you earn, according to a career success expert from the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM), Associate Professor Peter Heslin.

Speaking at Warrane College on Wednesday, 18 April 2012, Dr Heslin outlined six other dimensions that need to be balanced against professional success: family and other relationships, the amount of pleasure and contentment in your life, health and fitness, the legacy you leave for others, your positive impact and personal spirituality.

“Money can cost too much,” Peter said. “Money matters, but so do other things. Money is not the entire picture.”

Peter, an Academic Fellow of the College, is a former Warrane resident who is now the Chair of the UNSW School of Management’s Learning and Teaching Committee. His after-dinner address outlined some highlights of recent scholarship with implications for how to achieve professional excellence and career success.

Dr. Heslin encouraged today’s residents to ask themselves as their careers progress: “How do I pursue a line of work that ultimately helps people who really need it?” He advised them to try to craft a career that connects their “deepest gladness” with the “world’s deep hunger”.

Peter said that succeeding professionally requires concerted effort over a long period of time, no matter how good someone is at what they do. He described research establishing that real expertise at virtually any endeavor requires at least 10,000 hours of “deliberative practice”.

“Deliberative practice means concerted effort mindfully working to improve particular aspects of one’s performance,” he said. “If you were to put in 20 hours of deliberative practice for 40 weeks each year it would take you around twelve and a half years to develop true expertise. If you put in 30 hours a week, it would take roughly eight point three years. That is the sort of time scale you are looking at.” There are no shortcuts to real expertise or genuine career success.

Peter advised our students to work on their virtues like diligence and managing their motivation – something that requires serious focus, effort, and persistence.

He also outlined the career benefits of developing one’s “positivity”, as outlined in a book with this title by the eminent emotions researcher, Barbara Fredrickson. Initiatives to do this include “counting your blessings daily”, anticipating and relishing goodness, connecting with nature, practising mindfulness, and “meditating with loving kindness” (that is, trying to wish everyone well, even people who don’t treat you well).

Finally, Dr Heslin advised the students to always try to be helpful and supportive of all people they encounter. His own experience had shown clearly how important it is to go out of your way to help others and treat everyone with respect.

“You can get anything in life that you want,” he said, “if you just help other people get what they want.”