DePaul University MBA students learned about a different kind of ROI – how to turn their business education investment into career advancement – at the Kellstadt Career Management Center’s “Return on Interview: Mock Interview Forum” Jan. 25.
During the half-day event, 28 students gained career advice from a DePaul HR executive with 30 years of experience in corporate America and participated in mock job interviews and networking with alumni.
“The Kellstadt Career Management Center is one of the few career centers nationally that is exclusively dedicated to the needs of graduate business students,” says Jessica Gagle, director of the center. “As such, we’re able to tailor our career events, such as this one, and our personalized career coaching specifically to the needs of graduate business students. We also engage members of our large, well-connected alumni community in these activities, which helps future graduates build their career networks.”
Guest speaker Stephanie Smith, vice president for human resources at DePaul, who previously managed HR for Kraft Foods - North America and other corporate organizations, provided guidance for building professional networks and making the most of mentors and sponsors. Sponsors – executives who use their social capital to influence your career advancement – are the subject of a dissertation Smith is writing as a student in DePaul’s Doctorate in Business Administration program.
Some take-aways from Smith’s session included:
- A powerful and effective network should be diverse, wide-ranging and dynamic. “You really don’t want a network in which everybody knows everybody,” Smith says. “You can’t get the value that a network brings if you have all the same people in your network and you are not connecting outside of your sphere.” Networks also need to evolve through new connections that address current professional goals, she advises. “You want a network that grows with you.”
- “Most successful mentoring relationships are organic, and the attraction is based on performance and potential,” Smith says. “If you excel at your job, you are likely to attract a mentor.” Look for mentors to offer feedback and validation, guidance on solving problems, and help with “navigating the organization.” Use your mentor’s time wisely, she adds, and maintain a reciprocal relationship, especially when it comes to sharing organizational information.
- A sponsor is a gift because he/she puts their reputation on the line to advance your career. Smith says professionals should aim to attract sponsors who provide exposure and visibility, coaching (both professional and personal), challenging and enriching assignments, and protection in the face of risks.
The second half of the program provided MBA students an opportunity to practice their job interviewing skills with 14 business alumni volunteers who conducted one-on-one mock interviews with the students and provided feedback.
Sean Maconachy (MBA ’14), growth director at the web development firm Clique Studios, appreciated the opportunity to return to his alma mater and help current students succeed. “There were lots of faculty, staff and alumni who helped me when I was at DePaul and I wanted to do the same.”
Learn more about the Kellstadt Career Management Center