Get Ahead in Your Business Career
As a job seeker, getting sound career advice is incredibly valuable, especially if it’s from someone who shares a similar background. That’s why we’re delighted to share a collection of business career tips from our alumni community!
Meet Our Alumni Panel
JENA-CHRISTINE LAWRENCE ‘20
M.S. Project Management
Jena-Christine Lawrence is a member of the Class of 2020 who earned a master’s in project management. She currently works for Toyota Material Handling as a Product Planning Manager where she can apply the skills learned in her graduate program to her daily duties.
LORCAN LAFLEUR ‘17
B.S. Accounting and Finance
Lorcan Lafleur completed his bachelor’s in accounting and finance in 2017. Since finishing his degree, Lorcan has prioritized giving back to the Granite State College community by establishing a scholarship fund that provides financial assistance to Granite State College students majoring in accounting and finance.
IHAB GIRGIS ‘21
M.S. Project Management
Ihab Girgis earned his project management master’s degree in early 2021. Originally from Cairo, Egypt, Ihab has a background in Civil Engineering and experience working for multi-national companies. Project management has been his passion and profession for his entire career.
AURA MARIA HUOT ‘20
Aura Maria Huot earned her associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree at Granite State College. Aura worked full-time while advancing her education and has experience in a range of fields: manufacturing, loss analysis, employee, and human resources. In her M.S. in Leadership program, Aura’s capstone research focused on diversity and why is it important in the workplace. Today, Aura is active in range of professional associations such as the Manchester Area Human Resources Association, the Diversity Workforce, Coalition, and more.
What’s one piece of advice you wish that you received while a student at Granite State College?
Jena-Christine: Take advantage of the learning environment. Before you know it, the program will be over and there is so much that you can learn from your professors and others in your program and classes.
Lorcan: Truthfully, the beauty was that the faculty and staff at Granite State allowed me the freedom to experience the process of finishing my degree my own way. If anything, I asked myself after, “why didn’t I do this sooner?” I feared going back—telling myself it has been too long, what if I fail, do I have the time? But once I took those first steps, I quickly said to myself, “wait, what did I have to be afraid of?”
Ihab: “If you want it, and it is worth it, then you will need to sacrifice for it.”
You know that you will be giving away one thing—well, probably more—to achieve success, so you might as well make those sacrifices worth it and give it your absolute best shot! You’ll probably make these sacrifices once in your life, so make it an experience of a lifetime!
Aura: Granite State College prepared me well. Each employee within the College coached me and developed me, so I am well prepared for my work today and for future opportunities.
Describe the value of setting goals, even after you’ve met your “goal” of earning your degree?
Jena-Christine: There is tremendous value in setting goals; however, I’d encourage you to spend more time on planning your goals to allow for better execution. The more time you spend on planning, the less time it will take to do the tasks in order to achieve the goal. With less time on the tasks, that of course gives you more time for planning more goals! Never be satisfied with the status quo, and keep striving for improvement through goal setting.
Lorcan: I have come to look at goals as the rungs on a ladder. Sometimes you get to the top, but realize it is not tall enough to reach your target, so you get a new, taller ladder. Sometimes, when you ascend the ladder, it might not take you as long to take those first few steps as your previous climb. The fun of it is working to get to the top of that ladder as many times in your life as you want! In addition, you might get that taller ladder and say to yourself, “you know what, I liked this other ladder better,” and that is OK! The ladder does not only go up – you can come down, too!
Ihab: If you don’t set your targets as goals, they are still just dreams. Setting goals put your dreams context. I find that answering the following five questions can set you for success in achieving any goal:
- What exactly do you want to achieve?
- Why is this goal important to you?
- Who is going to help you achieve it?
- How will you know you are progressing?
- When will you achieve the goal?
Aura: Setting goals and objectives are important to set a direction for yourself. After you finish your degree, the same applies. Setting goals and objectives prevents you from drifting and getting lost. They also help keep you accountable to yourself and to your deliverables, and ensure you manage your time appropriately and strategically.
Is there an unexpected skill that every Granite State student should be developing now?
Aura: There are many! A few that I value include social influence, authenticity, empathy, problem solving, flexibility, time management, critical thinking, decision making, technology, customer service, consistent and ongoing learning, emotional intelligence, social media, marketing, active listening, artificial intelligence, and many more. These are crucial for today’s work and for the future of work.
Lorcan: The knowledge in the classroom in invaluable, but get some hands-on experience as well! Intern, work part-time, whatever you can do to start gaining that experience. Being able to practice what you are learning in real time will add so much valuable context to your classroom knowledge.
Jena-Christine: Networking. You never know where life’s path may take you, and networking at every opportunity you can will only be an asset in the future.
Ihab: The skill of Discernment. We are faced with challenging decisions every day, and most of these decisions aren’t black and white. Discernment is the ability to see beneath the surface, comprehend what is obscure, judge the situation, and make the wisest decision/action even during critical or stressful times. Discernment is like a muscle. It needs to be fed with good knowledge and high values (and trained on smaller, less critical decisions first), so it is ready for the bigger and more important ones when the time comes.
What tips do you have for students seeking advancement in their current field?
Aura: Start the conversation today with your employer. Let them now that you are looking to advance your career. Ask what you should be focusing on to support the organization’s growth, and strategic plan. Ensure that the tasks you are working on are tied to the strategic plan and can create an impact. If it isn’t integrated with a strategic priority, ask questions and to better understand what areas you can focus on that tie into the long-term plans of the organization.
Seek ongoing feedback from your employer and update your mentor on each of your milestone you reach as you pursue your goals. Connect with your network and build business relationships based in proximity.
If you are looking for a different role or industry, assess what skills are transferable and assess what other skills you may need to obtain to be in the new field or role. Reach to other industries. If you are looking to do this within your organization, get involve with those departments and learn from them. Ask for help and allow others to mentor you and guide you. You’ll be amazed by the help you get from others!
Lorcan: Do not ever be afraid to talk to your managers and/or senior leaders. If you love the company you work for now, but want more (either there or somewhere else) – just having a conversation can be an amazing step to elevating your role within your current company (or another). Honesty and open communication have been a tremendous tool I have used over the years—but they took time to develop—on both sides of the table. As a manager, I always want to put people in the roles and positions they will be most successful in. And I do not mean just for the company, I mean for their own personal growth as well, but it takes honesty, communication, and trust on both sides.
For those students that are looking to pivot, congratulations on taking those steps! The amazing part (and you might not know this yet) is that skills you learned/acquired in one industry/role can be applied to others. Don’t doubt yourself. This is a process. Enjoy it.
Jena-Christine: For students looking to make a career pivot with their degree, I’d encourage you to truly understand what a career pivot is, and do a thorough reflection to understand if a career pivot is truly necessary. If you find gaps in your career strengths, make a plan to fill those gaps and tie them with measurable metrics. Finally, don’t lose sight of your goals and the reason why your goals exist.
Ihab: Your degree is proof that you have what it takes to challenge yourself in acquiring knowledge and education so you can keep advancing towards your passion. The next step is to start applying your acquired knowledge and education to any endeavor you are doing, wherever you are right now, and not waiting for your career advancement or a shift to happen. It won’t be late before people around you start to notice the value you bring to the table.
What advice do you have for those who are currently job hunting?
Lorcan: Do not let “no” be a scary answer. I was terrified to fail – but then you learn it is part of the process – and sometimes you can learn more from “failing” than succeeding. Also, just because you might not see a job/internship posted on a website or job board, it does not mean do not contact them. I cannot tell you how many resumes and/or emails I have received with someone wanting us to keep them in mind – and then how many times we followed through.
Aura: If you are looking for new job, draft your persona (values, mission, vision, etc.). Then, repeat the process and draft the persona of your ideal employer. Once you have done that, you can better understand the kind of employer you want to work for and provide a service to. Do your research. Study the company, study the job description, and assess if you see yourself in the role. In that process, assess what skills are transferable to the new role. Ensure you have time to prepare yourself. If you are looking for a new role and you match 60% of the job description, and you see yourself doing the role and expanding it, go for it!
Do you have any other words of wisdom you’d like to offer?
Aura: Network with others openly. Create a community of support around you. If there is something you are doing in your area, and you know that it can help another member of your network, share it. Others will do the same for you.
Be authentic. Remember; there is only one of you in this world. Bring your full self, and show yourself in front of others. This will help differentiate you from the pack. Bring your full self at work, and wherever you go.
Lorcan: Communication, communication, communication. Being open and honest goes so, so far—and it builds trust among team members—which is a core piece to a successful company and career. Without trust, there cannot be that true open line of communication and in my experience, I have found it’s needed to build a successful team. You will be surprised at the things you can accomplish as a team when there is trust and communication. It requires being vulnerable and taking those steps to be open—but why not, what do you have to lose?
Jena-Christine: Don’t get stressed by the workload. While life can get busy and it can feel like continuing is too tough, remember why you are walking this path and the goals you have set. Growth happens when we push ourselves, so continue studying and working hard. I promise, it will be so gratifying when you overcome your personal obstacles to achieve your goals!
Ihab: Know where the border of your comfort zone is and never set a foot inside it again!
Pursue Your Career Goals!