By Patrick Sway
Division VP/General Manager, Central Service Center, ADP

I don’t come from the school of thought that people can do or be anything they want. Sometimes doing a great job and working hard isn’t always enough. But I’m firmly convinced that by focusing on one’s goals and networking effectively, we can each accomplish our version of the American Dream, regardless of our culture or what country we’re from.

Growing up as the second of eight boys in Nassau, The Bahamas, I recognized at an early age that I was the natural leader among my brothers. Even when I was young, I truly enjoyed working. Having a strong aptitude for finance, I wanted to obtain a degree in accounting, so I moved to Miami with the intention of obtaining a degree and relocating back to work in the family business.

At that time I was not yet a citizen, therefore, I was ineligible to receive grants or loans. I was on my own when it came to paying for tuition, so obviously, I needed to work. I was extremely focused on my studies. When I was a sophomore, I saw a job posting for a division staff accountant at ADP. I decided to walk in without an appointment and fortunately was given the opportunity to interview for the job. I received an offer on the spot. My first salaried position earned me $11,200 a year, so I immediately cancelled my bus pass and purchased my first car.

I found that it’s crucial, especially coming from another culture, to have sponsors and mentors to help you along in your career—people who are genuinely committed to helping you succeed. I’ve been fortunate to have people who were willing to spend time and advise me on aspects of the business and offer feedback on how to continually improve.

I’m also a firm advocate of taking responsibility for your career. If there are skills that need development, strengthen them. Look for opportunities to leverage your skills in new ways; take on new and challenging assignments. Follow up with your mentors and sponsors to keep them updated on what you’re doing. You have to focus on what you can control if you want to make your American Dream a reality.