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News & Events

Kellogg executive leaders share their experience with current students

Networking session provides another way for Kellogg graduates to help younger peers succeed

By Aubrey Henretty

12/10/2007 -

Members of the Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board recently pooled their networking expertise to help current Kellogg students get ahead.

Students and alumni converged at the James L. Allen Center on Nov. 6 to discuss pressing topics for new MBAs. Several small groups met throughout the executive education facility for informal Q&A on various subjects, including the finer points of career networking and how to make an impression during the first three months at a new job.

“The relationship starts before the first 90 days,” Saq Nadeem ’05, general manager of Chicago-based pet resort Paradise 4 Paws, told students gathered in the Park Dining Room. “By the time I started [my first post-Kellogg job], I already knew about 40 percent of the partners.”

While getting to know senior leadership is important, noted Matt Feldman ’86, sometimes executive hires don’t have time to meet anyone below “C-level” before their first day on the job. “I was brought in by the CEO without being introduced to anyone who wasn’t on the board,” said Feldman, the executive vice president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. He advised students to spend the first 90 days meeting as many other employees as possible and developing a sense of the organization’s culture.

“It’s really hard to learn about a culture from one perspective,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the second-floor Tribune Auditorium lobby, students and alums discussed strategies for building long-term professional networks.

John Gambs ’74, retired executive vice president and chief financial officer of The Charles Schwab Corp., told students that early in his career, he found no substitute for diligent research. “I was reminded of the saying, ‘The more prepared you are, the luckier you get,’” he said. Gambs also encouraged students to enjoy the people in their networks. “Be natural. You’ll make great friends through your career.”

Of course, making new friends is not necessarily the top priority of every person seeking to land that first job after graduation. Some have their hands full simply trying to avoid making enemies while navigating an unfamiliar office and its culture.

When asked for tips on dealing with difficult co-workers, Cathy Jaros ’73 advised students to rise to the challenge. “Try and get to know the person and where they’re coming from,” said Jaros, the managing director and Chicago office head for Amherst Partners LLC. “Find out if they play tennis and ask them to go play tennis.”

Gambs agreed and added, “Victory may not always be a friendship.” It is far more important, he said, to be good co-workers than good friends. “That should be your goal — to say, ‘I’m good enough to figure out how to work with this person.”’

The Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board is a group of some 200 of the Kellogg School’s most successful and influential alumni, including CEOs, presidents and entrepreneurs. It meets two or three times a year to partner with the school and share ideas for initiatives and strategy. The student-alumni sessions were another way for successful Kellogg graduates to network with current students, providing insights that help them make the transition from their MBA experience to post-graduate professional life.