Passion, humility, honesty and clear personal goals are the key ingredients for post-MIT career success, according to LGO alumni who spoke with current LGO students at a career panel at MIT on September 21.
“You’ve got to know where you want to go,” said Dan Shockley (LGO ’07), general manager for remanufacturing at Caterpillar Inc. “Companies rely on your vision for your future.” Even though you may not have a specific career path mapped out, “know yourself and be able to articulate what you’re passionate about and what motivates you,” said Leigh Hunnicutt (LGO ’08), senior manager of quality assurance at Amgen.
Video of the September 21st career panel for LGO Student
“It’s easy to overthink that first job decision,” said Melinda Manente (LGO ’95), Fab 17 performance improvement manager at Intel. “Make your decision based not necessarily on the specific job, but on the company, industry and culture.”
When he’s evaluating job applicants from LGO or anywhere else, Dave Seitelman (LGO ’93), director of fulfillment at Amazon, looks for “someone who exudes that willingness to jump in and get things done,” even if it means pitching in to pack boxes on the shop floor to meet a shipping deadline. Budding leaders also need to be able to build trust and “instill a sense that you know what you’re talking about,” he added.
On the other hand, the panelists said that humility was sometimes lacking in LGO job applicants they’ve encountered. “Admit what you don’t know and ask for help,” Seitelman said. “People can spot a phony a mile away. If your team believes you’re humble and honest, you’ll get a lot more done.”
“Don’t underestimate the value of opportunities to work on the front lines,” said panel moderator Brian Feller (LGO ’08), director of global operations at Dell. “That becomes your opportunity to learn about and help people, and it gives you a tremendous amount of credibility later on.” However, sincerity is more important in the long run than building a resume. “If you’re in any role just to check the box, you’ll be found out very quickly,” Hunnicutt cautioned.
In dual-career families like hers, work-life balance is a constant challenge, Manente said. “It’s really hard, because now you need to not only be true to yourself, but to your partner.”
One successful strategy is to alternate between which partner is “on” career-wise and who is taking a step back temporarily. “It’s hard for both people to have exactly what they want at the time they want it,” Manente said. “You have to get your lists together and have your values aligned.”
Not surprisingly, panelists said, the network within LGO, Sloan and elsewhere at MIT is every recent graduate’s most valuable resource, both for finding job opportunities and for learning about a company’s culture and whether it would be a good fit.
“I’ve used my LGO network for every job opportunity I’ve had, as has my husband,” said Manente, who is married to Mike Manente (also LGO ’95). However, her wider Sloan network is just as valuable because it can be farther-reaching, she added.
“Your classmates are your most valuable network,” said Hunnicutt, who reached out to individuals and companies via LGO’s online virtual community. “And the satisfying thing is, you always get a response.”
The skills and knowledge you get in LGO are even more valuable than who you know, the panelists said. Since joining Caterpillar, Shockley said, he’s utilized and refined both the technical and managerial tools he acquired. “I came out of the program a very different leader than when I arrived. LGO completely changed my ability to effect change as a leader,” he said.
What should new graduates aim for as they begin their careers? “Figure out what you’re passionate about, and then go out and find the hardest job you can find that’ll put you on that path,” Seitelman advised. “Take on a lot and excel at it.”