Would you like to know the secrets of career success? Many people would jump at the chance to get some advice from a successful executive, and that is exactly what this article offers. Lee Cockerell is a retired senior executive from Walt Disney World who shares career advice based on first-hand experience from humble beginnings in a small Oklahoma town to the C-Suite.

Blog Post - Career Advice from a Retired WDW Exec

The three things you should focus on to help your career thrive are education, experience, and exposure. 

Education will give you the skills necessary for a successful life but it’s not enough itself. Wonderful careers await those with an open mind and motivation to take advantage of the right opportunity thrown their way.

This article summarizes the insights I gained from interviewing Lee Cockerell as we discussed the 2nd edition of his book titled Career Magic: How to Stay on Track to Achieve a Stellar Career.

Career Advice: Exposure

Lee shared that it wasn’t easy to be different in a place where everyone looked like him while growing up in Ardmore, Oklahoma. He joined the Army at 20 years old and found out that there was a diverse world outside of Ardmore. Two decades of working in the hospitality business with various hotels like Marriott and Astor taught him the importance of diversity.

Everyone brings a unique perspective whether that is shaped by their generation, family dynamic, or ethnic heritage. Having an appreciation for these differences opens up our minds to “what can be” because our exposure to “what is” has already been widened.

In order to be successful in today’s global economy, it is important to have exposure to different cultures and perspectives. This can be accomplished by living and working in different parts of the world, through travel, and interactions with people from other cultures. By understanding how other people think and operate, we can learn new ways of doing things.

We can also grow with exposure to different industries. Many healthcare organizations improved patient experience by learning from the hospitality and entertainment industries like The Walt Disney Company. Patient safety improved by observing other high-reliability organizations like the U.S. military and airline industry.

Attending conferences and trades shows are a great way to increase exposure. These types of events give us the opportunity to learn about new trends and technologies, and meet people who work in different industries. By attending these events, you can gain a better understanding of how other industries operate and learn new ideas that can be applied to your own industry.

Career Advice: Experience

Lee started his career as a dishwasher and worked his way up to Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Resort. He attributes his success to always taking advantage of opportunities and learning from his experiences.

The first step in taking advantage of opportunities is to be aware of them. We can do this by being curious and always learning. When we are open to new experiences, we are more likely to notice opportunities when they arise.

The second step is to take action. Once you have identified an opportunity, it is important to act on it quickly. If you hesitate, someone else may take advantage of it first.

Finally, it is important to learn from your experiences. Whether an experience is positive or negative, there is always something we can learn from it. By reflecting on our experiences, we can identify what went well and what could be improved. We can then use this knowledge to help us in future situations.

When faced with a new opportunity, ask yourself these questions:

– What is the worst that could happen?

– What is the best that could happen?

– What are the risks and benefits?

– How can I minimize the risks?

– What do I have to gain?

By taking the time to assess opportunities, we can make sure that we are making the best decision for ourselves.

Career Advice: Education

Lee believes that education is a key to success in tandem with Exposure and Experience. He is a strong advocate for lifelong learning and has continued to learn throughout his career.

Lifelong learning is important because the world is always changing. To keep up with these changes, we need to continuously update our skills and knowledge. This can be done through formal education, such as taking courses or attending seminars. It can also be done through informal education, such as reading books or articles, listening to podcasts (<cough!> Beyond the Rut <cough! cough!>), or watching webinars.

Lifelong learning is not just about keeping up with the latest trends. It is also about expanding our horizons and discovering new things through practice. When we step outside of our comfort zone, we can find new interests and passions. We can also gain a better understanding of the world around us.

Conclusion

Opportunities for growth and success come in many forms, but they all require one key ingredient: action. If you want to take advantage of an opportunity, you need to be willing to act on it quickly. This may involve taking a chance or stepping outside your comfort zone.

In order to make the most of opportunities, it is important to be aware of them. We can do this by being curious and always learning. When we are open to new experiences, we are more likely to notice opportunities when they arise.

It is also important to take action quickly once an opportunity has been identified. If you hesitate, someone else may take advantage of it first.

Finally, it is important to learn from our experiences so that we can identify what went well and what could be improved. We can then use this knowledge to help us in future situations.

How have you seen your career advance because of education, experience, or exposure to something new? What is next for you?

Career Advice from a Retired Walt Disney World Executive