“So I’m sitting there in my suit and my tie, with my little wine glass and hors d’oeuvres, and I’m in the corner kind of looking like I don’t know many people, and this person walks up to me and says, ‘Hi. I’m the Chief Operations Officer of Bonneville Power Administration.’ And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh. It must be my lucky day, because in fact I’m working with a mentor from Bonneville Power and I already have an application submitted for an internship position there.”
Serendipity. That is the word that first comes to mind as I’m listening to Rodrigo George recount a chance meeting he had over a year ago at a Business Advisory Council networking event. Rodrigo is a Brazilian-American MIM student who was drawn to PSU by his interest in environmental sustainability, and PSU and Portland’s reputation as leaders in this area. He had worked hard to prepare himself for a career change toward the sustainable energy sector, and as he continues with his story, I can’t help but get the sense that Rodrigo was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. “I had basically 20 or 30 minutes with a top level executive, and this was a time where all those workshops that you do, like practicing your elevator pitch, this is where it all comes together… or at least you hope it does.”
Rodrigo came to PSU with an impressive resume of having worked in both Brazil and the US, including global companies such as HSBC, and had actively volunteered with environmental groups for several years as well. He knew that he wanted to shift his career focus in order to better combine his job with his passion for environmental sustainability, and felt that PSU offered both the coursework and community networking opportunities necessary to accomplish this. Even with his extensive background and experience, however, he still knew that he could use help in narrowing his career focus, and preparing himself for a career change. He took advantage of a variety of career workshops and resources that the PSU graduate business school provides, attending both group seminars, as well as getting individual help from career advisors in order to hone his resume and LinkedIn profile, and practice interview skills. He also signed up for the Mentor Program and was paired with a program manager in energy efficiency, which is how he was first able to learn about the BPA and opportunities in the energy sector, and realized that this was a career path that he would like to pursue.
Which brings us back to the networking event when Rodrigo met the COO of Bonneville Power. He says that that conversation was invaluable because he was able to meet a key person in an organization he was interested in, and through her was able to learn about a different internship position than the one he had applied for, and one that fit his interests even better. Rodrigo is quick to point out though that he didn’t get his internship simply because he talked to the right person, but the fact that he had already put in the time to learn about the organization and the industry meant that he could show a genuine interest when the opportunity to talk to the right person presented itself. Rodrigo is also quick to voice his appreciation for all the career preparation opportunities available to him at PSU, and says that these made all the difference in him finding his position. “The theme here is not Rodrigo George, the story is PSU.”
He also has several pieces of advice for other students who are trying to position themselves for a particular career. “Be authentic, don’t try to pretend to be someone that you’re not. Have your resume, experience, and network connections line up with the jobs that you are applying for. Be passionate. Be able to demonstrate to people who are in the field you are interested in that you have a genuine interest in their area, and that you know enough about it to ask the right questions. And remember that networking is not about building as many connections as you can, as much as it is about building the right connections.”
After hearing him recount the process that he went through to find the position that he is in now, I begin to see that it really wasn’t luck at all that helped Rodrigo get there. It was a combination of focusing his career interests and taking the time to polish his job search skills that helped Rodrigo position himself for success.
Josh is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou. Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.