Aaron talks the importance of networking with professors, how his school helped him expand his career and why he chose his school
Aaron Glade, MBA 2010, Portland State University, School of Business Administration
Financial analyst at The Clymb, Portland, Oregon
WHAT SHOULD MBA STUDENTS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHILE IN SCHOOL?
There are a few things that are really important to do while you are in school. One is (when it comes to finding a job after school): engage early and often with your career services group and exploit every opportunity and service/program they provide you. These resources are worth investigating when looking at schools. For example, Portland State has a mentorship program where they connected you with somebody in the local business community who acted like a career services guide. They help with your resume, interview preparation, searching for jobs, and make connections so you can do informational interviews. Mentors can be a great resource – really explore all of the opportunities that you have in career services and take advantage of them. I also say the same about faculty; you are going to be learning a lot in school and you’re going to be out in the world and expect other people to hire you based on that knowledge. Keep in mind, faculty is the one who really know how much you learned and have demonstrated to them what you learned. They are a great resource and a great reference down the road. If they are impressed with you, they will stick their necks out for you and tell future employers, “You should really give this person a look. They’re worth it. They’re new, but they’re talented and smart.” The faculty will go to bat for you, so go out of your way to impress and engage with the faculty. Finally, take advantage of any opportunity you have to get in front of your local business community. Whether it’s networking events or a project where a professor has asked you to go out and do some work with a local company, go for it. Get in front of those folks and do your best because you never know who the person is going to be who will find you your next job. They could be anyone so don’t sacrifice that opportunity to impress those people.
HOW DID YOUR CAREER CHANGE AFTER GRADUATION?
I started working for this little non-profit organization and they were doing some really interesting things, but my perspective was pretty narrow at that point. I knew about home composting and energy efficiency but as far as how the larger business world worked, I didn’t have any real experience or exposure. Coming out of business school the opportunities that I had, in terms of where I could work and apply the skills and knowledge that I had, vastly increased. Because of the skills that I developed and the knowledge and understanding that I gained from business schools there were so many more places now that were willing to look at somebody like me and give me a chance. It’s really allowed me to broaden my horizons, think bigger and look at areas that before seemed like an impossibility based on what I had done in the past. So, it has really given me a whole new array of opportunities to explore and consider. The hardest part for me is trying to figure out how to narrow those options; for someone like me who can see the value and interest and excitement in each option, the real challenge becomes, “How do I narrow it down and pick one and do the ‘deep dive’ and really develop some skills?” Your classmates and the careers they take on after business school is part of what you pay for when you go to business school. Your classmates are a great resource in terms of helping you find your next job, helping with business development, or being there if you need somebody to share some knowledge and understanding with you on a particular subject matter. I stay in touch with a number of people I went to school with and I continue to check in with them and ask for help. They are a great resource. Business school is like any kind of experience where you are taken out of your comfort zone and thrust into a place that is not comfortable with a bunch of people who are in the same boat. You develop some strong bonds and socially too, they are good people to stay in touch with and use as a resource.
WHAT ARE THE BENEIFTS OF DOING YOUR MBA IN PORTLAND?
If you like food and outdoor recreation, Portland is a fantastic city. The restaurants here are spectacular. There is lots of food on a wide variety of cost scales, so you can go from cheap food carts to really nice high-end restaurants. It’s also a really great recreation city. There are a ton of things to do around here as far as outdoor things are concerned; we’re within 90 minutes of skiing and surfing both. Yes, you can surf on the Oregon coast. It’s colder and stormier than most places that people think of when you think of surfing, but it’s possible. There’s fishing and mountain biking and all sorts of stuff to do around here and it’s all in close proximity. Also, it’s a real social city. When it’s sunny here, people leave their offices and houses and do things outside. There are lots of street fairs and festivals, so it’s a real social outdoor city. The only thing that you really need to thrive here is the ability to not let a little wet weather hold you back, to get outside anyway.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR SCHOOL?
I decided to pursue an MBA when I was living in Santa Cruz, CA and was working for this little non-profit organization that had gone through some significant growth and had gotten involved with some fairly sophisticated programs that required a high level of business acumen. So, I started to get some exposure to some folks with a lot of business experience and through that exposure my career goals and interests changed. I got to work on some projects that required a lot of analytical and technical skill and I really got engaged with that work and decided that where I was wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to spend the rest of my career. I really needed an opportunity to develop more skills and gain a wider understanding of business in general since my career had primarily been with small non-profit organizations. But I also needed to buy myself a couple of years to do some exploration and figure out where I wanted to work and learn about different industries. An MBA seemed like a great opportunity to do that and I began to explore different programs. During that time there were some circumstances that led me to wanting to live in Portland, Oregon, so although I also applied to some schools in California, I focused primarily on Portland and I really felt that Portland State was the school that set me up to have the best connection with the Portland business community and provide the most opportunities for interactions with those folks.
HOW DID YOUR SCHOOL HELP YOU FIND A JOB?
When I graduated it was 2010 and as you might know it wasn’t the best job market to be exiting business school, especially if your skills were in the financial area where there wasn’t a lot of supply in the job market at the time. But, because I had engaged early and often with career services, they knew me well and they knew my skills well and they had confidence in my abilities. So, they felt really good about putting me out there for different employers that they were engaged with and had different positions. The job I have now came to me through career services. Our firm was looking for someone with a particular skill set and they got in touch with career services who thought of me and forwarded me the job description. Career services became the point of contact – they were submitting my resume to the employer and putting us in touch. I also personally sent my resume to the firm, and in the email I noted a couple of professors who I used as references. While you’re at school, professors have the best understanding of what you can do. I had a professor who took the initiative to reach out to the firm because I had cc’d him on the email. The professor reached out to the firm and said, “Hey you should really give this guy a look and bring him in for a interview”. So, between career services opening the door and my professor jamming my foot into it, the school did a lot for me.
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