John Kilpatrick, (from left) Jeff Terrill, Hayden Wieck, Tom Nihoul, and Kaycee LeCong.

Five Career Tips from Carson Cougs

By Becky Kramer, Carson College of Business

Alumni from the Carson College of Business recently shared career advice with students at Finance Professionals Night.

The panelists’ advice transcends a major in finance or even a major in business. Here are some of their top tips for developing communication skills, landing an interview, finding mentors, and evaluating career goals.

Give your smartphone a rest. Go out to eat with friends.

The ability to connect with people is an important skill in business, says Jeff Terrill (’03, Bus. Admin.), senior vice president at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Portland.

Strong social skills are developed through practice, and social media is no substitute for face-to-face relationship building, says Terrill.

Making a lunch or dinner date with friends will give you opportunities to practice listening, conversing, and building rapport, Terrill says. You’ll find yourself using those skills when you’re networking or meeting with new clients.

You want the job or internship? Don’t send a generic cover letter.

Prospective employers will quickly spot “fill in the blank” application letters. Read the job description carefully, then explain how you meet the qualifications in a cover letter, says Hayden Wieck (’14, Fin.), portfolio manager at Fulcrum Capital in Seattle.

Wieck recalls receiving a cover letter where the applicant took the time to explain how his previous work experience and education prepared him for that specific job. The applicant also had tailored his resume to highlight relevant experiences.

After the interview, the applicant sent a thank you letter that referred to topics discussed during the interview. He got the job.

Be prepared to ask questions during the job interview.

“We know you won’t have a ton of work experience, so what happens in the interview is critical,” says Kaycee LeCong (’07, Fin.), advisor at Brighton Jones in Seattle.

When she interviews recent graduates, LeCong wants to know whether they’ve taken time to research the company. She’s also interested in the caliber of the questions they ask.

“If you have a list of engaging questions, it shows you’ve prepared for the interview,” she says.

Besides impressing an interviewer, asking questions has another benefit. You’ll get a better sense of whether you want to work for that company and team.

Trying to get a meeting with a business professional? Keep it short

When you’re a recent graduate, finding people to mentor and advise you is invaluable. But how do you approach business professionals for a spot on their calendar?

“Don’t ask, do you have an hour?” says John Kilpatrick, co-managing director and chairman at Greenfield Advisors in Seattle. Instead, be prepared with a relevant question and ask, “Do you have 15 minutes? I’d like to pick your brain about something.”

Don’t be afraid to adjust your career aspirations

Sometimes, the job you worked so hard for isn’t the right fit.

“I thought being the vice president of sales at a high tech company was going to be my next step up the corporate ladder, so I took that job at a software company,” says Tom Nihoul (’69, Comm.), financial advisor and franchise owner at AGP Wealth Advisors in Spokane. “I was always on an airplane, and I was always fighting corporate politics.”

Nihoul realized it was time to reassess his career goals. His wife, Linda, (’71 Home Econ.) was working as a financial advisor in Spokane.

“I was living in an apartment in Kirkland while my family was in Spokane. And, I really wanted to be with my family,” he says.

Linda’s manager, who was also a family friend, encouraged Nihoul to join the financial services industry.

“Don’t be afraid to make a change,” says Nihoul, who considers making the switch among his best career moves.