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When it comes to professional success, sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.

We all have our dream job or height on the career ladder that we wish to achieve, but there are many steps to turn that vision into a reality.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with David Van Rooy to chat about his forthcoming book Trajectory and the hurdles that hold most people back when it comes to professional success. Here’s what he had to say:

Woody: With so many career books out there what sets Trajectory apart from the others?

Van Rooy: In my career, I have been very fortunate to work for great companies, and more importantly, great leaders. This has given me first-hand insight into what differentiates those that are immensely successful from those that are merely average. Combining this real-world experience with my background in industrial-organizational psychology, I am able to not only explain what happens, but also provide an understanding of why using research is so important.

Woody: What is the single greatest hurdle to professional success in America?

Van Rooy: I think many people are looking for the “silver bullet” when it comes to professional success. The reality is that there are many factors that go into it. You need to be persistent and willing to ask for help. Beyond that, I think it is critical that people take ownership of their career. Many people work very hard, but wait on the sidelines hoping that opportunities will come to them. While this can happen, it’s also important to recognize the opportunities that your hard work will open up and proactively go after them.

Woody: What do you mean by “preparing for what comes after what’s next”?

Van Rooy: When people think about and plan their careers, they often focus primarily on getting their next job. What you will find is that they don’t always consider how that job will advance their skills and prepare them for the job that they want after that. Or worse, they take a similar job in a new company simply to get more pay, but they gain very little in terms of experience. By thinking two steps ahead, it is easier to ensure that your next job will get you closer to your longer-term goal – the job that’s after what’s next.

Woody: What is the stagnation trap and why do so many people fall prey to it?

Van Rooy: There is so much change going on – especially with disruptive technology that is constantly changing how work gets done – and it is absolutely essential to keep up with it. People that continue to rely on their old way of doing something will find that they get passed by. The irony is that you can become unsuccessful by doing the exact same thing that made you successful in the first place. Some of the most successful companies fell into the stagnation trap by continuing to rely on the product that got them there, even though they knew that their competitors were pushing into new areas.

Woody: Tell me about the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and how you are supporting their mission with this book.

Van Rooy: One of the great things about Trajectory is that its message is relevant across multiple career stages, including times of transition. To me, one of the most important transitions occurs when our military veterans move into the civilian workforce. Recognizing an opportunity to help these heroes, I found a great organization – the Institute for Veteran’s and Military Families (IVMF) – that is dedicated to this cause, and to which I am donating all of my author royalties.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economand the new on-line course The YOU Plan for Career Change on Udemy. To book Dr. Woody for your next event contact Sue Falcone at or call 1-888-766-3155.

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