Monday, May 28, 2012

Is it a Job or a Career?

Considering a job offer can be a scary proposition.  We counsel our students to consider five factors when considering a job proposal.  Sure, it's hard to turn down a job in this tough market but if you have confidence in yourself, you should make sure you start out in a career and company that is a good fit.   Here are 5 things I think are important in evaluating your job offer.

Culture:  There are books written on the subject so I'll be brief.  What does the company stand for.  Read what they say they stand for on their website and annual report.  And match that with evidence they back up their words with actions.  We are teaching our MSBA students to behave in an ethical and upright manner.  It is important to choose a company that respects that, no, demands that.  If making money at the expense of honest and ethical behavior is the norm, do you want to work there?

Growth Opportunity:  I think this is critical.  I've had students accept lower paying jobs because the company had a well defined growth plan to award top achievers.  The students knew they would be out-earned for the first 6 months or a year but had the confidence that in two years, they would catch up and surpass their peers in both salary and position.   I think some companies want to attract recruits that have that confidence and aren't simply chasing a big starting salary.  When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense

The Buzz:  What are others saying about the company?  Employees, customers, creditors, especially former employees.  Check the social media.  It's not too likely that current employees will be registering public complaints but former employees and customers sure will.  Especially look for reaction to difficult incidents; an employee layoff, a product quality issue.  Sometimes bad things happen to good companies.  Did they react with compassion and care for customers and employees?.  Try to meet with current employees in private and ask pointed questions about what's it like to work for the company.

Benefits:  I counsel students to look beyond just the starting salary.  That's important of course but don't let your ego get in the way.  There are many other factors that affect your well being and your net worth.  First of all, remember that your parents insurance no longer carries you when you are fully employed.  Health insurance is an important benefit.  Most young employees are relatively healthy so a plan that is flexible and allows you to choose from a range of coverage and cost is important.  A 401-K that has matching contributions from the employer is just plain free money.  I tell students to sacrifice whatever they must to participate fully.  That's how I was able to retire and start my second career in academia at an early age.  Don't be too concerned about vacations and days off.  You just started working, it will be minimal.  You can't afford a vacation anyway!  Put a value on these benefits.  It's usually 25% to 30% of your salary.  Feed that to your ego.

Feel:  I had a student recently turn down a highly coveted job with a big time company.  She acknowledged it was a great opportunity and she could grow and be successful there.  The people were fantastic.  Why the refusal?  It just didn't feel right.  All the nominal factors were there, salary, growth, culture, benefits, people; but there was some intangible that this employee knew was just not quite right for her.  Call it gut instinct, you'll know it when you see it.

There are jobs and there are careers.  Choose wisely.  What other things are important to you in evaluating a job offer?  

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA
Read More »

Friday, May 25, 2012

Popular Career Paths by Degree

Professor Kristen Rompf
I thought it would be useful to reprise this list of possible job categories based on your degree.  This is from the syllabus for the Career Development course taught by Professor Kristen Rompf in the Master of Science in Business Analysis program here at Catholic University. 

This is not all inclusive by any means but serves as a thought starter.  Feel free to add to the list with your comments.

Accounting major:  CPA, staff accountant, accounts payable clerk, auditor, finance analyst, and office manager.

Economics major:  business analyst, project manager, finance advisor, and economic consulting.

Finance major:  financial analyst, business analyst, sales representative, investment banker, accountant, and financial advisor.

International Business major: financial advisor, consultant, financial analyst, import compliance specialist, and trade specialist.

International Economics and Finance major: international economist, trade specialist, financial advisor, international banker, and the Foreign Service.

Management major:  human resources manager, business manager, consulting, purchasing manager, sales manager, organizational development manager, and recruiter.

Marketing major: marketing manager, advertising account executive, media strategist, sales associate, public relations specialist, customer service representative, and project manager.

Read More »

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is Tuition a Cost or an Investment?

There is much debate in the country about the cost and value of higher education as well as student loan debt.  I want to focus on the thought process that students should use in making these important decisions.  The one year Master of Science in Business Analysis degree at Catholic University is a case in point.  The tuition for graduate school at CUA is healthy, about $36k for a full year.  Add another $15k or so for living expenses and you have a total of $50k that you have to fund.  

In most cases, this means loans.  So this is a big decision and one that has to be weighed carefully.  As I said above, this is an investment, it's a business decision you are making for your Brand, which is you.  All companies invest in their businesses with the expectation they will earn a return on their investment.  That investment may come in the form of capital improvements, more advertising, increasing production capacity, R&D etc.  In other words, they invest to grow their business with the idea they will earn a return on that investment.  Investing in yourself also grows your Brand and rewards you in the long run. 

Companies also have to borrow money to make investments, from bank loans or through the sale of stock and bonds.  So you are not alone in making this important decision.  Here is how I counsel our MSBA applicants to analyze their personal investment decision.
  1. What is your value in the market place today?  What is your current salary if you're working or what salary have you been offered for a job since graduation? What are your peers earning?
  2. What do you think you could earn if you added the MSBA degree to your current undergraduate degree?  This is obviously difficult to determine and there are no guarantees but there are benchmarks.  Our first class of MSBA graduates averaged about $60k in salary and benefits.
  3. Looking at the positions these graduates obtained, do you think you can compete for those kinds of jobs.
  4. Our graduates have performed well and several have already received promotions or moved to new companies at an increase in pay.  So factor in both the growth potential and the pace at which the degree helps you achieve the next level.  
  5. Consider whether the kind of jobs you can compete for with an undergraduate degree are static positions or growth positions.  You may find a job with a decent salary but if there is not growth potential, you will soon be passed by.  Get a sense for the growth potential by asking others in the company where they started out, how long did it take to progress.
  6. Lastly, estimate where you think you will be in 5 years with your current degree or job and where you might be in 5 years with your Masters degree.  (starting salary plus promotions plus growth plus bonuses)  Calculate the return on investment (your $50k).  
And if you don't know how to do that calculation, consider a seat in the Master of Science in Business Analysis program.  Not only will we teach you how to make this basic calculation, we'll help you maximize your return on investment.

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA                                                                                                           

Read More »

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Recent Press Coverage for MSBA Program

The Master of Science in Business Analysis program at Catholic University recently received national press coverage for it's innovative approach to preparing college graduates to enter the work force.  The one year program, located in Washington DC, is a financially attractive alternative to two year graduate programs and provides a practical approach to gaining the necessary business knowledge needed to compete in today's tough marketplace. 

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA
Read More »

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What I Wish I Knew When I Graduated

A student recently asked me, what five things do you wish you had known when you graduated.  I think they really meant, "what mistakes did you make that I should avoid'!  In the Master of Science in Business Analysis program at Catholic University, we want every one of students to have the best chance of success.  So in addition to the theory, skills and critical thinking, we also give them sound practical training and advice.  Here's my list, I hope you'll add to it.

1) Listen Better:  That requires patience, open mindedness and avoiding jumping to conclusions.  Listen to the whole discussion.  If you understand the matter from the other person's point of view, you will be better able to defend your point of view.  Listening is a skill.  Practice it.

Lauren Keates Practices Listening
2) Hone your Social Skills: Remember names and details of people you meet.  Find one of the several memory tricks that works for you.  I practiced two; repeat the person's name in conversation a few times when introduced to commit it to memory.   Write a few facts on the back of their business card while fresh in your memory.  Add to your knowledge of the person through Linked In and Google searches.  I find people are impressed when you remember details about their family.  Maybe they mentioned their child is visiting colleges so when you meet again, ask if they made a choice.   

Kathryn Sullivan explains the next course
Learn proper etiquette in social situations, particularly business meals and receptions.  Learn your way around a formal dining table, what silverware to use when, how to eat soup, how to handle that pesky olive pit.  Become adept at the stand-up cocktail hour.  Learn to hold your drink, appetizer plate and napkin in your left hand so your right hand is clean and free to shake hands.  If alcohol is served, stick to wine or beer.   Avoid hard liquor in settings where you meet new people (the idea is to network, not drink).  If the event goes on for several hours, alternate your drink with club soda with a twist. (it will look like gin and tonic and folks will be amazed at your stamina!)  Don't be a victim of bad impressions and career limiting incidents caused by alcohol.   We think this is so important we devote an entire evening session in our program to learning and practicing the art of  social skills.

3) Invest in your Appearance:  I know it's a cliche but clothes and appearance do say a lot about you.  It's hard to justify a large clothes budget when you're starting out with bills to pay and school loans.  But you have to look at this as an investment in your future.  You spent tens of thousands of dollars on an education to get here, capitalize on that investment.  For Christmas or graduation, forgo the latest electronic gadget and ask friends and family to contribute to your "professional wardrobe fund".  Thank them with a picture of you "dressed to the nines".  

Mary Ann counsels the women on attire
As with etiquette, our program invests in a seminar with students to learn how to look  professional, even on a budget.  No one is going to say he/she is a sharp dresser.  But they will say he or she is impressive without realizing the clothes helped form that impression. 
I have heard so many comments after presentations about the things that stick out, the slacks that are too short, the shoes are scuffed, that inappropriate blouse.  And when in doubt, best to be over dressed than under dressed..

4) Network, Network and Network some more:  I previously wrote a piece on this in my blog.  I just can't emphasize enough the importance of creating and nurturing a lifelong network of contacts.  It is so much easier today with the social media tools like Linked In and Google + and Facebook.  Separate the social from the professional and manage the latter with great care.  I find Christmas cards are a good way to just touch base and let people know you value your association with them.  Or divide your list into 12 monthly piles and drop a note to this months list to let them know what you're doing.  A lost art is the hand written note, rediscover it and set yourself miles apart from the e mail crowd.  Invest in note cards with your name on them.  Simple, elegant, professional.  I've never forgotten a region manager at Exxon that sent a birthday greeting to me as a 23 year old employee.  It was a simple act that meant a lot.  I tried to follow that example with my own employees throughout the years, always with a hand written personal note about a recent accomplishment, project or, better yet,  family event. 

Andrew MacDougall with Tobi Kuhle Kehinde
5) Develop Life Long Mentors:  John Chisholm, former DC Government Human Resources Deputy Director and founder and Managing Partner of Smart Insights Group, LLC is an individual I've come to admire.  John has served as a willing mentor to so many young graduates and yet he talks frequently about his mentors.  I am reminded that we all need a guiding hand, an objective mirror and a moral compass.  I think when you outgrow mentors, you stop growing.  Choose wisely and let them know how much you value their advice and guidance.  Buy them dinner once in a while to show your appreciation.  Unlike networks, your mentor list should be small enough to be manageable on a frequent basis.

Now it's your turn.  What do you wish you had known when you graduated...

Professor Stewart McHie 
Program Director, MSBA
Read More »

Friday, May 18, 2012

Whiting-Turner Hires MSBA Grad

David Siemiesz
David Siemiesz, a 2012 graduate accepted a position as Project Engineer with The Whiting Turner Contracting Company in Washington, DC.  In addition to his Master of Science in Business Analysis degree, David earned a Master of Architecture and Real Estate Development degree at CUA.  David's responsibilities will include project scheduling, supervising sub-contractors, and compliance with design and material selection.  David was the first to pioneer the joint Architecture/MSBA degree program.

David grew up in the small rural town of New Boston, New Hampshire which had to present a challenge to the Post Office!.  David is an avid sportsmanfavoring ice hockey, skiing and golf.  During the mortgage crisis of 2008, David became concerned about the practical and financial aspects of architectural design.  As a result of spending time with his grandfather growing up, he also developed a profund respect and admiration for the elderly.  This led to his design thesis investigating the benefits of a mixed-use active adult housing complex located in the dense urban area of Washington, DC.

David is on track to earn his Architecture license in 5 years and hopes to one day own and operate a property management and development company.  "I can speak with great confidence and truth when I say that my experience in the MSBA program has thoroughly prepared me for a variety of careers in the business environment.  The skills I developed relating to excel, project scheduling, and communications to name a few are already proving to be valuable assets. Having entered the program with a degree in architecture most of my education was aimed at being creative and not always financially practical. The MSBA program provided that necessary link between architecture and the real world of practical business. The lessons learned and the skills developed from my one year comprehensive and intensive educational experience with the MSBA program will be long lasting and beneficial throughout my entire career. One of the greatest takeaways from the program is the comfort and confidence I now have in a variety of professional settings.  I would highly recommend this program to anyone searching for a way to find that competitive edge which sets you apart from the seemingly endless pool of job applicants today." - David Siemiesz, Class o0f 2012

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA
Read More »

MSBA Grad lands Operations Coordinator Job at CUA

Jessica Richard
Jessica Richard, a recent graduate of the Master of Science in Business Analysis program at Catholic University, accepted a position as Operations Coordinator in the CUA Conferences and Management Department.  Her duties include hiring, training and managing a staff of 50 people, managing all aspects of client events, and working with the assistant director of the Conferences and Management.  Jessica was also recruited by The Advisory Board but decided the experience gained in the Conferences and Management group was more in line with her long term goals.
 Jess, a California native, grew up in Pinehurst, North Carolina where her father designs and builds golf courses.  She received her BA in Psychology from Catholic University in 2011.  Jess is an active sportswoman as well as an accomplished ballerina and musician. 

Jessica has always been interested in the health industry and may someday return to scchool for a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.  She says, "I have a great desire to help people and work as a problem solver for individuals and groups.  I thrive on finding solutions to challenges and feel I can use my interpersonal skills to work with future patients, clients and peers. The MSBA program was the perfect fit for me and my educational desires".

Whatever path Jessica takes, she will put all her energy and drive into it and achieve her dreams.  Congratulations Jessica Richard!

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA
Read More »

MSBA Grad Signs with Liquidity Services, Inc.

Christian Hensel
Master of Science in Business Analysis graduate Christian Hensel accepted a position as Reporting Analyst with the Retail Supply Chain group at Liquidity Services, Inc. in Washington DC. 

Christian did his undergraduate work at Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University in Ravensburg, Germany where he received a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Technical Sales.  Christian was a co-op student at Voith Paper Fiber Systems Company in Germany where he had the opportunity to work in purchasing, sales, design and logistics.  He also participated in an engineering project at Oregon State University before coming to Catholic University.

As a student in the MSBA program, Christian did internships at the MDV-Solar Energy Industries Association where he put his strong quantitative and analytical skills to good use in live business scenarios.  He also worked part time for the Stein McEwen Law firm as controller/office manager.

Christian's dream is to become a CFO in a midsize company in the US or Germany.  He says "The MSBA program gave me a great foundation for my future professional life.  The business tools I learned in the classroom, and the invaluable tips from the MSBA faculty on how to behave in professional business settings made this one year program an incredible experience for me.  The fact that I had the luxury to choose between multiple job offers upon graduation proves the success of the program.  Joining the MSBA program has been the best decision i could have made". Christian Hensel - MSBA Class of 2012

Gluckwunsche zur bestandenen Magisterprufung, Christian!

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA
Read More »

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Congratulations MSBA Class of 2012

The MSBA class of 2012
On behalf of the Faculty, we extend a heart felt congratulations to our second class of MSBA graduates!  17 students received their diplomas on Saturday, May 12 under beautiful sunny skies at The Catholic University of America.
It has been a joy to work with these students over the past year and watch them learn and grow in their professional wisdom and confidence.  You are ready to face the world and make a difference.  I would be honored to work for any of you in the future.

The class of 2012 received 11 job offers prior to graduation and by the end of summer all will be starting their careers in various fields of business, government, education and not for profits.  These students hail from 10 different universities in the US and Germany and brought 13 different undergraduate degrees to the program.  This diversity enriched the whole class and added global perspectives to class discussion with students of German, Mexican, Nigerian and Iranian backgrounds. 
Grad Pat Six, Ann Moran, grad Maureen Moran

Our faculty was honored to have almost all of the parents of this years graduates join us at a reception in downtown DC the night before graduation and the comments we received from the parents were universally positive.  They too have seen their offspring mature and gain confidence in their abilities and prospects.  Yes, it's still a tough job market and that makes it all the more important for students to prepare themselves with the right skills and knowledge to be competitive.

The combination of a liberal arts degree and business degree is valued in the marketplace and the success of the first MSBA graduates and this class demonstrates that value.

We wish all of our graduates the best for their success and happiness.  You can follow their progress over the coming days and weeks in the Jobs section of our blog.

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA
Read More »

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

MSBA Grad Promoted at NetApp

Jenna Antos
Jenna Antos
Ms. Jenna Antos, a graduate of the first Master of Science in Business Analysis class at Catholic University, recently received a promotion to Account Manager for the Department of Defense Health Programs at NetApp

Jenna, who hails from Rhode Island, received her undergraduate degree in Politics in 2010 from Catholic University where she was active in many student activities.  Jenna was one of the first students to apply to the MSBA program and brought high energy and drive to the program.  

After receiving her graduate degree, Jenna was hired by NetApp as one of six college graduates for a special hire program designed and engineered by the Public Sector of the company in May of 2011.  The pilot program was intended to be an intense year of IT and Sales training and mentoring.  One of Jenna's managers said, Jenna "graduated" 6 months sooner than we expected, and created with her mentors a new vertical- the labs, for the Department of Defense (DOD) region's Navy and Marines District.

Jenna's first year of success landed her as the newest Account Manager on a growing vertical in NetApp¹s Public Sector.  She is now one of 3, supporting DOD Health Programs and will be developing her own territory: Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) - which represent over half of DOD's health care expenditures.

"The MSBA Program prepared me for this new challenge. Aside from giving me a strong foundation in business practices, the MSBA Program gave me a strategy to succeed.  The courses paralleled my internship and the discussions carried into my networking endeavors.  But it wasn't all about the classroom and case studies.  The professors challenged me daily as a person.  I learned how to differentiate myself as an aspiring young business woman from the rest.  The MSBA Program prepared me to be a professional."  Jenna Antos - Class of 2011 

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA
Read More »

Developing a Winning Job Search Network

This time of year, many graduates are seeking advice on how to go about conducting an effective job search.  In the Master of Science in Business Analysis program at Catholic University, we teach a course in Career Development where our students learn the tools and strategy of finding that first job to launch their career. One of the areas that Professor Kristen Rompf emphasizes is the importance of networking.  We all know about social networks so let’s extend that same thinking to our professional network.

Here is some basic advice from that course that I emphasize with graduates. First of all, don't be shy about asking for help.  The world runs on networks today.  You wouldn't think of disconnecting from your cyber networks so consider your human capital networks just as important.  And know that people want to help you.  Many students are reluctant to ask for advice, contacts, and interviews.  Don't be.  And be aware that how you ask is just as important and a well phrased question will lead to better results.
Give your network helper a specific context, e.g. I'd like to be an analyst in the financial services sector, I'd like to consult in the Health Care industry, I want to be a buyer for a major retail department store.  Now, that person’s mental Rolodex opens up and names and faces start to appear to them. “Yes, I have a friend in that industry, my wife's friend is in that industry, let me put you in touch with my financial adviser, I just read an article about that, I saw a linked in profile”...and the list and images go on and on.

I find many students think of a network in terms of only direct connections.  If you have a degree in business and your neighbor back home is a nuclear physicist, you might think there is no reason to ask them for advice.  This is a big miss in my view.  Think of your network as a spider web, not a straight line.  Your nuclear physicist neighbor has a cousin in another city (other side of the web) that is in the exact position and industry you are interested in (three rings removed from her); or a college roommate, sibling, best friend of their spouse...the possibilities, and the network are endless.

Another common misconception I find is that students sometimes assume their network acquaintances are mind readers.  My neighbor knows I just graduated with a business degree so if they had a good contact they would have told me. Is your job search top of mind for your neighbor?  Probably not but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to help if asked.  So don't assume anything, ask very direct questions, do you know anyone in this field I can talk to about the industry, how they broke into it and will be willing to offer me advice (and maybe a job!).

What other ideas do folks have to develop a winning network strategy?  Finding a job is a job.  Get up, get dressed, go to work.  And good luck!  With a strategy, perseverance and patience, you will be successful.

Professor Stewart McHie
Program Director, MSBA
Read More »