Last week, MBA students were invited to attend the inaugural MBA Career GPS. The event was different than most of the panels hosted on campus. Instead of being formal and very structured, event organzanizer (and current MBA2) John Foley decided to think outside the box. With feedback from current students and alumni came an event that put successful alumni in front of students who are anxious to jump-start their career search. This student-led intiative is the first in a long line of opportunistic events for current students.
The professionals who were invited to share their experiences talked about everything from MBA stereotypes in the workplace to some of the most valuable things the Illinois MBA provided them. The goal was to hear unique perspectives from those who have been in our shoes and found success beyond graduation...truly putting their MBA to work....
In his invitation to the MBA class, John said this event would be " a tremendous opportunity to learn directly from people who have personally been through our program and the career search process that follows." With the help of MBA Career Services, John and team were able to bring in speakers from Accenture, Christie Clinic, AT&T, Archstone Consulting, Ernst & Young, AllState, State Farm and Archer Daniels Midland to talk about marketing, management, finance and consulting.
MBA “Career GPS” was definitely designed with students in mind. It provided an informal, engaging way for MBA students to ask questions and start thinking about how to navigate their job search process – hence the name “Career GPS.” In the marketing and management session, Corrine O'Connor (AT&T), Andy Powers (ADM), Mark Lewis (State Farm), Tony Ragusa (State Farm), Luis Delfin (Christie Clinic), and Alarick Wright (Allstate) joined MBA students to talk about their experience during their time at Illinois, as well as provide valuable insight in the challenges and successes of their career search. When asked about how they went about their career search, Corinne responded, "utilize your contacts at your internship! I had such a great experience at AT&T during the summer and knew going into my career search [in the second year] that this was the job I wanted to pursue." Mark advised students to "intentionally look at positions that are interesting to you. For me, it was Leadership Development Programs and roles where I could manage others."
A popular question (or concen, depending on how you look at it) for many international students is around the opportunities available for them during this difficult search. "ADM has 28.000 employees worldwide, so there is definitely a vent to hire internationally experienced students," Andy explained. ADM is one of the companies that does sponsor Visa's, and should be high on the consideration list for students interested in this industry. Alarick added, "AllState does not normally sponsor the Visa, but, there is always an exception. Don't underestimate the power of motivation and passion."
Perhaps the most interesting conversation of the afternoon was the discussion we had about how to appropriately communicate new ideas to upper management. To be more specific, how can a new MBA-grad safely present an idea that may be controversial or outside company norms? Mark said there are three things that should be top of mind for anyone trying to get their idea heard, "first, look for the small wins. Even though a piece of your recommendation may get implemented, a piece is better than nothing. Second, data, data, data...always have back-up and support. Finally, get influential people within your organization bought in on your idea. Two heads are better than one, right? It will be much easier to carry an idea forward if you have some people to evangelize and support on your behalf." And, in the spirit of good advice, the other alumni added their two cents as well: understand that ideas may only go so far, think about how you want to tell your story before you present, remember what you learned about leadership and negotiation (it will benefit you!) and finally, don't lose sight of the brass ring...what is your ultimate goal?
Overall, the sessions were informational and fun, and many of the students have a new motivation for their career search, and certainly some encouragement. When asked about what we thought of Career GPS, John said, "This was a great outlet for students to ask the questions they want to ask to a panel of people with real-world experience and an interesting perspective. “We received really positive feedback from both alumni and students; they were excited about hopefully working together in the future on other events similar to this." Stay tuned, and look for the invitation for Career GPS Round II!