38 Pieces of Career Advice Learned on a Saturday in Western Massachusetts



Women of Isenberg Conference 2017

February closed out with a fun day on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus at the Women of Isenberg Conference. This was the second time I’ve attended the conference, which is put on by the Women in Business organization within the Isenberg School of Management and their faculty and staff advisors.  350 women (and men) were in attendance, dressed in business formal on a cold Saturday.

The morning keynote was by Karyn Schoenbart of the NPD Group, one of the largest market research companies in the world. Ms. Schoenbart is a UMass alum with a degree in education whose hunt for work right out of school led her to a new field.  Charismatic and an entertaining storyteller, Karyn highlighted her career journey and some advice I think is worth sharing again!

  1. Bring your A game every day
  2. Work hard and volunteer for everything you can – this is how you get noticed
  3. Connections are the currency of networking, and it is important to take a give to get mentality.  If you do for others first they are willing to help you later.
  4. Handwritten thank you notes still matter!
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously and have a sense of humor
  6. Be yourself by being true to your brand, but create differentiation from the crowd in who you are
  7. Figure out what “having it all” means to you – there will always be sacrifices, so you need to figure out what is important to you
  8. Sometimes a lateral move will get you the skills you need to move up
  9. Track your accomplishments, but don’t compare yourself to others
  10. Women should learn to say thank you – without any caveats.  Just “thank you”
  11. Working hard is not about the time you put in, but about giving 100% to what you’re doing in the moment
  12. “Don’t sell after the close”
  13. Managing your network is all about quality – focus on that one person you are with
  14. Write everything down about people you meet – it helps you remember the important things later
  15. Don’t let yourself get bored or held back.  If you feel that way, it is likely time for a change.
  16. Support at home in a woman’s career is important. Having a great husband helps, as does outsourcing as much as you can

After the morning keynote, panel discussions were held.  I had the opportunity to speak on a panel focused on personal finance and how I’ve been able to navigate the topics within (taxes, insurance, apartments, houses, cars, etc.) since graduating and how I balance needs today with the anticipation of future needs. Kristin Fafard and Rachel Northup were great co-panelists and had pertinent advice to offer.

I attended three other panel discussions throughout the day.  In addition to the 16 pieces of advice above from Ms. Schoenbart, I learned 22 more professional development nuggets from the panels described at the end of this post.

  1. Communication, diversity and inclusion, transformational, and evolving were how the panelists described their own leadership styles
  2. Listening is key.  As a leader, it is about others and helping them grow. In doing this, you also benefit in your own growth.
  3. Sometimes you need to go slow to go fast – important to bring your team on board
  4. Ensure there is a common, collective, inspired purpose. When the team is bought into the purpose like this, they are 5 times more likely to be successful
  5. Important to know who you are as a person to be a leader, and be able to articulate your values. These values are how you connect with others.
  6. Cultures allow for different communication and leadership styles to exist – awareness of the culture, the differences present, and what is acceptable in an environment is important
  7. You will need to take stands in your role as a leader (versus not offering an opinion)
  8. Chaos will happen – important to build support and be willing to ask for help
  9. Saying no is okay – be a role model in saying no.
  10. Soliciting feedback as a leader needs to be acceptable within the culture if you want to improve in that way. Provide alternate methods for feedback if that helps others feel more comfortable
  11. Keep broadening your foundation and base by adding expertise and new challenges.
  12. Develop our active listening skills
  13. Ask, and not just answer questions
  14. Even in times where you aren’t the expert, remember to find and bring in those experts and at the same time not forget about the skills you do bring to the table
  15. Challenges faced are just misunderstandings. Have you asked the right questions before reacting?
  16. Think about the impact of the things you say.  Try replacing “I don’t know what I’m doing” with, “I have a few questions.” This has a more positive connotation.
  17. The best mentoring relationships are natural and organic as opposed to structured programs
  18. Seek out mentors with whom you can be open and honest as well as someone who can dedicate the time to you
  19. Instead of asking someone to be your mentor, try something like, “I admire you and want to learn from you”
  20. Come prepared to mentoring sessions with questions and scenarios you need help on – don’t expect the mentor to guide the conversation
  21. Being well read can help immensely in developing relationships with a variety of people
  22. Never stop learning

I pulled these golden tips of advice from a few different panels:

  • Leadership Styles
    • Panelists: Diane Holman (SVP, Chief People Officer) of athenahealth, Heidi Bailey of LEGO, Margery Piercey (Partner-In-Charge) of Marcum, and Michele Equale (AVP of Continuous Improvement) of MassMutual
  • Overcoming Career Challenges
    • Panelists: Kate Diemand (Manager of Pegging & Distribution in Manufacturing Accounting), Angela Ceppetilli (Controls and Compliance Manager for Operations Finance), Ariel Methe (Operations Finance for Global Supply Chain), and Susan Keegan (Senior Director and Chief Financial Officer at IAE), all of Pratt & Whitney
  • Mentoring
    • Panelists: Zheng “Wei Wei” Ding (Data Scientist) of OpenSky, Emily Baldarelli (Planning and Allocation) of TJX, Jodi Warshauer (Executive Director/Compliance Manager) of JPMorgan Chase, and Ariel Methe (Operations Finance for Global Supply Chain) of Pratt & Whitney

To find more information on the speakers and details of the event, check out the Women of Isenberg Conference website.

One concept echoed several times throughout the day was the importance placed on having a great partner in life. This reinforced that nothing in life is achieved alone, and also the need for balance and prioritization.  

A great thank you to the Women of Isenberg Planning Committee for the opportunity to speak on a panel and be part of a day filled with learning and development.  I was impressed with the event and the quality of students at UMass’ Isenberg School of Management!

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