Career Coaching Inspires de Roo

February 21, 2003
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HOLLAND — Downsized out of a job as the economy began to falter, Mark de Roo turned to what he does best: playing the role of career coach.

Only this time, he was his own client. His recommendation to himself: Start your own business.

Already entertaining an inclination to run his own business, de Roo used the downsizing from his position as vice president of professional services at Manpower of West Michigan as a chance to pursue a new opportunity. It led him to form Keystone Coaching & Consulting LLC two years ago, offering career counseling and coaching to business executives and managers.

"It's been a great integration of my skills, my training and my personal sense of calling," said de Roo, a 20-year veteran of the human resources and career coaching fields.

De Roo, 51, operates the firm solo while holding part-time work as development director at Resthaven Care Community, a senior citizen housing center in downtown Holland, and serving on the Holland City Council.

He added the title of author to his resume this year. His recently published book, "Having a Job Just Like Recess: A Parent's Manual for Guiding and Gracing Your Child's Career Path," offers advice to parents on how to offer substantive career guidance to their children beyond the usual "be good at what you do."

"Where are parents in terms of being a career coach?" said de Roo, who often wonders whether he'd have very many clients if they had received good career counseling in their formative years.

Growing up during his teen years in Columbus, Ohio, and the son of a Reformed Church minister, de Roo came to Holland after high school to attend Hope College, where he earned a degree in political science in 1973. He also earned a master's degree in 1982 in counseling and personnel from Western Michigan University.

He recently graduated from Career Coaching University, the world's largest training organization for career coaching and counseling.

After earning his degree from Hope, de Roo went to work in the college's admissions department. During his seven years there, he interviewed "literally hundreds of prospective students."

He enjoyed the work but wanted to push himself further and felt "that if any sector requires greater accountability, it's business."

De Roo's wife Roxanne, while working at Herman Miller Inc. at the time, noticed an opening in the job postings for a human resources position in the company's corporate staffing department that required interviewing prospective employees. He sought and landed the job, joining Herman Miller in 1980.

"It seemed a natural fit," de Roo said of the Herman Miller position that launched his career in human resources and career counseling. He began moonlighting in career counseling as a side job in 1982.

After six years at Herman Miller, where he became a senior staff representative, de Roo joined Trans-Matic Manufacturing Co. in Holland as director of human resources. De Roo spent 14 years at Trans-Matic and considers its chairman, Patrick Thompson, "one of the finest business persons" for whom he's ever worked.

He left Trans-Matic in 1999 for a new opportunity — vice president of professional and technical services at Manpower of West Michigan. In the new position, he oversaw the development and marketing of the technical, professional and skilled trades divisions for all Manpower of West Michigan's offices, from Allegan to Marquette.

But that new opportunity began to dry up in 2000 as the economy began to slide. After his downsizing at Manpower, de Roo decided to pursue his idea of building a business around his professional skills and background, and Keystone Coaching & Consulting LLC was born.

"There's a yen in many people: 'Someday I'd like to have my own business, my own practice.' So my career basically evolved into doing this," he said.

De Roo's company focuses on four main client areas: senior level managers and executives; newly hired managers and executives; project managers; and the "next generation" of leadership in family-owned companies. He largely deals with people "who are really deemed the future of their organizations," helping them to further develop their skills and career path toward the top.

Formation of the company also stems from his Christian faith and what he sees as a calling to help people pursue their goals and become professionally and personally successful in their careers. In articulating that desire, de Roo cites Ephesians 2:10: "You are God's workmanship, created in Jesus Christ, to do good works which He prepared in advance for you to do."

"I'm really juiced by doing coaching," de Roo quips, emphasizing his enthusiasm for the work. "I believe this was something that was kind of created in advance for me to do, and I'm doing it."          

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