Ron’s Winding Path
I was introduced to Ron Rapatalo by a mutual acquaintance almost ten years ago. I was pretty quickly wowed by two things. First, the sheer breadth of the kinds of coaching he was offering which ran the gamut from fitness, men’s styling, and career coaching to running searches for organizations. Second, he was a rare peer in the pursuit of earnestly building networks and supporting others. Ron, 47, lives in Jersey City, New Jersey and holds a BS in Neural Science from NYU. He currently is the Associate Partner at Edgility Consulting.
In two-three sentences how would you describe what you do most days/weeks?
Building and cultivating relationships to bring in search clients and to support job candidates. Coaching my team and providing resources to lead searches. Providing organization-wide leadership and ambassadorship of Edgility and our work.
What did you want to be when you were eight?
What did you learn about work that you learned from your family?
Work hard and get somewhere. Being good to people pays dividends in the long run. Don’t complain and be grateful that you have work. Trust your intuition.
What professional experiences/employers had the greatest impact on you?
- New Leaders! Promoted four times in seven years. Learned about how to hire and what leadership looks like.
- Teach For America! How values are aligned to work and creating a culture around that
- Getting fired from a job in 5 weeks - learning what not to do when picking a job and learning how to advocate for myself after I got fired.
What is something about your career journey that people might not expect?
- I was an operations person the first 9 plus years of my work. Considering I am so externally focused and centered on relationships, I don’t think most people today would know I had my early roots in work that was so internal.
Why did you pivot?
I have always had several passions:
-Men’s styling I fell into because I loved the clothing my friend styled me in and I wanted to learn more about how to do that. I took pride in dressing well and wanted to learn how to do that for other men.
-Fitness training came out of a passion to help others when I was a skinny kid out of college who gained 35 lbs of muscle in 2 years working out 6 days a week. I learned that I wanted to help people exercise properly, so that has ended up being weight training to ab exercises to kickboxing to martial arts to kettlebell exercises.
-I also found career coaching because I had always been good at providing counsel to others based on my own lived experience and lessons and being able to ask good questions to get others to unlock their greatest potential.
-Working in search allows me to combine my passions for equity, matchmaking, and coaching. Helping clients build a transparent and clear process to ID and assess candidates. It also enables me to coach clients on their biases and candidate assessments and org culture and to coach candidates how to be their best selves and sharing honest information about an org, the role, and the org's culture.
I have learned that doing one thing doesn’t satisfy my personal and professional interests and strengths. When I started teaching fitness classes at NYU over 20 years ago, I always had a side hustle next to my full-time job. The “portfolio” of my career has been centered on coaching and supporting others to be their best selves. That has manifested from fitness to men’s personal styling to career and life advancement.
What skills were portable from what you had been doing previously and what was brand new to you?
Having a neural science/pre-med background meant that operations work came naturally to me. It was like learning math and science - learn the process, do it well, and make it better. Operations work translated into understanding how much good process lends into leadership and hiring.
I had to learn how to recruit and to interview, which then allowed me to design those processes and teach others how to do it. When I joined Edgilty, I knew how to sell jobs to candidates, but didn’t know how to sell services to clients. I learned the principles are much the same, but the stakes and leverage are very different. Selling jobs means I have something others want. Selling services means I have something that others may not know they want (or do want) but have to demonstrate its value is worth the cost.
What was the hardest part about making a career pivot?
Having the confidence to make the pivot AND letting go of the fact that I was making a bet without knowing the outcome. I relied on people more than anything to mitigate the bet and that has usually worked out for me. I follow good people wherever I decide to go.
What were the most important lessons you’ve picked up along the way?
Relational trust is everything. I can’t do business with others without establishing trust. Having trust means that when things get tough, people are more likely to give you grace and understand your intent. Trust translates into people sharing their advice and their connections more generously. I have shared this advice consistently in 1:1 and small group forums for the last 15 years. Leverage the People Who Love and Care About You Personally and Professionally comes out next month, and the guiding principle is that you need 7 archetypes of people to support you in your career journey, from empathetic teachers to personal sages
Context is everything in coaching. Having values aligned to your actions is key. Reflection and emotional intelligence are the foundation to sustainable leadership. Learning how to lead for the context rather than having a script is the best way to lead.
What would you say to others who are doubting their ability to make a change in their career/vocation?
What are your 3-5 non-negotiables, and how does making that change align with meeting those things in changing your career/vocation? What are you gaining, and what are you giving up? At the end of it all, making this kind of decision is something you have to sleep on and take some time to reflect and gather data from others. This isn’t a decision you make like buying from 6 types of cereal that you can make in 5 minutes.
Where did you get the confidence and support to make such a change?
My wife. My friends. My former managers. They saw in me and confirmed the brilliance I saw in myself that I was too afraid to actualize.
What was the hardest thing you had to overcome in your professional life?
Getting fired not just once but almost twice. The trauma and mental health hurdles I had to overcome were significant.
I was depressed and full of doubt when I got fired. I was so highly competent at every other job and that became a large part of my identity. I started to think I couldn't do good work and couldn't get another job. Hearing from others who reaffirmed my competence gave me the boost I needed in my self-worth.
What, if anything, are you hoping happens next in your professional life?
Generating more generational wealth and being able to help others do that. Generational wealth not only being financial, but more so leveraging my spiritual, physical, and relational wealth to align with my continued financial wealth building.
What social media links, if any, might you like to share in the piece?
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/rapatalo/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ron.rapatalo/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/phenomeron/
RONderings podcast: https://ronderings.podcastsmatter.com/