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Can hope get you further than smarts, grades and personality?

Sonia Acosta, CareerBuilder Writer

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Hope. It's a four-letter word with so much power for so many people.

A little more than a year ago, I was stuck in a city I loathed, a job and financial situation that put me in a constant state of red-hot heartburn and in desperate need of personal and professional growth. I know -- or I like to think -- my intelligence, education and hard work helped me turn my situation around. However, one factor that helped me move and find a better job was hope.

It took three years of failed attempts to finally change my situation, but the belief that I wasn't stuck in my situation helped me stay motivated rather than grow disappointed. I'm not the only one who values the power of hope.

University of Manchester psychologist Alex Wood completed a three-year study in 2010 that investigated hope, intelligence, personality and grades in relation to achievement. The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, revealed that hope "uniquely" wins over the other factors when predicting success.

Another study by Angela L. Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan found that grit, defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals, is also an important predictor of success in addition to intellectual ability.

Bringing the research to life

Carolyn Brundage, CEO of, and her husband, Brian Brundage, CEO of Intercon Solutions, both based in Chicago, are successful entrepreneurs.

"I have recounted to my staff many times that my husband gets everything he wants in life," Carolyn Brundage says. "I tell them his secret is he never quits. That's what hope is all about. As long as you have it, you persevere, and as long as you persevere, you succeed. The key is that while you must have hope, you can't rely on it alone. Hard work and follow-through solidify the power of hope."

Ian Aronovich, CEO of, based in Great Neck, N.Y., says, "Achieving your goals can only come through confidence in yourself and your abilities. Anyone can obtain great grades in school or be outgoing, but believing you will succeed is the way you will get ahead and achieve great things."

Too often, perfectly capable, bright people fail to succeed due to a lack of confidence and hope.

"During college, I knew someone who was an immigrant with a background in electrical engineering," Aronovich says. "After coming over to this country, he had to hit the restart button and begin from scratch. Eventually, he received an overall GPA of 4.0 and was honored at graduation by being named the transfer valedictorian. Despite those great accolades in school, he was consumed with the idea that it would be tough for any immigrant to secure a job in this country. His lack of hope consumed him. To this day, he doesn't have a secure job in the field in which he excelled."

Qiana Martin, an international athlete, global soccer ambassador and owner of, says, "From on-campus work study to confirming deals on a trading floor to assisting with recruitment at a national law firm, I exercised hope to land a number of college employment opportunities. This motivational tool not only helped me build a stellar résumé, but [it] gave me the confidence to pursue my dream career and later land in several Fila ads."

Sofia Solano, graduate student and academic adviser at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, says hope changed her professional path. "I had a terrible GPA in undergrad, and I was scared I'd never make it into graduate school. I did pretty well on my GRE, but it was definitely a positive attitude and hope that kept me even filling out the applications and going through the entire process. If I had used my grades alone, I would have never applied."

A lesson to be learned

Yes, it helps to be smart and personable and to do well in school, but at the end of the day no one is going to hand you a career if you're not looking for something. It's not always the brightest or richest people who achieve great things professionally and personally. Instead, it is often those who jump through hoops and laugh at a hundred obstacles who succeed the most, land the great jobs, build the impressive careers, move up the ladder and generate change.

Sonia Acosta is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Last Updated: 01/05/2012 - 11:44 AM

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