How many students have wished at least once that they had a mentor to show them the way? Higher education can be difficult to figure out and having a guide sometimes makes the difference. Alums started the CU Denver Business School Alumni Network (BSAN) to offer that exact service to current students. Who better to know their experience than those who have lived it themselves?
On Wednesday, November 9, in partnership with CU Denver’s Women in Business Club, the Business Student Ambassador Committee (BSAC), and the Information Association Systems Association, BSAN held its annual Business School Alumni panel. Students had the opportunity to hear from former students about their experiences and receive guidance.
The Business School welcomed Andre Taylor, MS ‘22, Financial Representative at Northwestern Mutual, Danette Shaifer, EMBA ‘21, Owner/Founder of Florishion Consulting LLC, and Mason Kolbe, MBA ‘19, Sr. Clinical Operations Specialist at WelbeHealth. The panel was moderated by Kaitlin LaFlamme, MBA ‘20, Sr Financial Analyst at DISH Network, Co-Chair of Events, and Executive Committee Member at BSAN.
College: a goldmine with many opportunities
College can be a resource goldmine for students. Networking is one of those uncontested advantages. Yet, this kind of interaction does not happen right away. After all, it is called interaction because it involves at least two parties exerting mutual efforts to meet and exchange. This is why students should look beyond their classes and get out of their comfort zone to network.
Taylor acknowledged this; when reminiscing about his college experience, his biggest grief was the lack of interaction with resourceful people. “Going to college, I wish I had more resources and approached people who could help me build the right habits and make the path to success a little easier,” he said.
Kolbe shared the same regret and declared that he wished he had taken more advantage of CU Denver’s relationships with other companies. Balancing between school and personal life was already difficult enough, so it was challenging for him to dedicate enough time to networking.
With the limited networking that they did in college, Taylor and Kolbe saw the impact and urged current students to utilize the resources offered to them. As Kolbe emphasized, such resources are very useful in building a career.
Emotional and self-awareness: the compasses of success
Lacking a clear direction disperses someone and makes them vulnerable. However, when one is focused on a clear pathway, the efforts are optimized, and one can orient their energy toward accomplishing the one thing they enjoy. The time spent in higher education is the best moment to identify one’s talents and career goals. But how to accomplish that? By using emotional and self-awareness.
Kolbe affirmed that emotional awareness can help determine which destination to aim for. The simplest way to do this, as he shared, is to pay attention to classes and then notice one’s likes and dislikes. The right action, according to Shaifer, is to ask “what’s something that energizes me vs. something that drains me?”
Self-awareness can be applied in every aspect of life, including the workplace. Given that people have shifting needs and different positions in their lifetime, the ability to constantly check on oneself can help ensure that they’re aligned.
And if that’s not the case, self-awareness can help identify the adjustments needed. At that moment, it’s important to remember that the time is always right to pivot and not be afraid to make drastic changes.
Shaifer exemplified this. She worked 13 years in training and development and resigned to work as a learning strategist consultant before deciding to work on her own. She is now about to start her consulting company. Shaifer acknowledged that she went through a scary time. After working full-time for so long, she made the bold decision to leave and shifted to another field. Although she clearly felt vulnerable at one moment, Shaifer noted that having a clear idea of what she wanted helped her to keep going.
Balancing school, career, and personal life
According to Shaifer, the perfect life balance is a bit of an unattainable goal. Each person has their norm and Shaifer stated that as long as things happen within the circle of what each individual considers normal, then it’s okay. Nonetheless, it is important to work towards achieving a minimum balance.
Taylor declared that the first step to do this is to define priorities and ensure that there is enough time for them. “It’s all about making time,” he stated.
Shaifer advised students to give themselves some grace while trying to find balance. “Don’t think you need to have work-life balanced at all times, because there will be periods when you’ll have to stay up late nights.”
Taking rest when needed is crucial to preventing burnout, Taylor assessed. Kolbe invited students to also be communicative with those in control (boss, professor, etc.). “By communicating your needs and requesting some adjustments, you can take some pressure off yourself,” he said.
Professional Development Goals
The panelists’ last piece of advice is to be intentional about advancing their careers. Kolbe recommended students identify their career goals and list out the skills needed. They could then accelerate their growth by going to their bosses or professors and asking if they can take on projects that will help them build those skills.
To that, Taylor added, “paint the vision of what you want to be and write it out. Take the pressure off yourself too. It’s okay if you’re not where you want to be in five years.”
Likewise, Shaifer urged aspiring entrepreneurs to pinpoint their motives to reflect back on them when times get tough. Once the motives are clear, “make the jump and figure out along the way,” Taylor indicated.