by Gina Reilly, recent graduate of the Smith PT MBA program.
When I arrived at Smith, I had visions of completing a journey that would set the stage for success in my next role. Well, not just set the stage but catapult an eager business student into senior level management with offers thrown at my feet like roses at the end of an operatic performance. So eager was I to reach that next level, that I accelerated my track, completing my MBA program a full year early. In devising a flexible, adaptable and if necessary, scrappable strategy and timeline leading to offers prior to graduation, I needed a team in my corner.
Around the completion of year one, I met Jeanette Jordan (Smith MBA 2009) who I immediately connected with and felt compelled to put on that team by recruiting her as my mentor. Her exact response to me was “Mentor? How can I mentor YOU?! You’re already a Director, what could I possibly have to teach you?” At the time, I didn’t know exactly how she would fit into my strategy. As it turns out, Jeannette specializes in career transition, and would become a powerful force guiding me through the process of self- discovery, self- celebration, becoming a “conference commando”, establishing a success circle with recent alumni based on the Lean-In format, and an all-around coach.
Recognizing the importance in having a diverse roster where each player has a specific role that adds to the strength of the network, I added Suzanne Lamoureux, Assistant Director, Office of Career Services – Supply Chain Management; Sharon Strange Lewis, Director of Graduate Alumni Relations and Swapna Arora (Smith FT MBA 2015), who interned with Amazon, to the squad.
With all of the strategizing and construct, I still wasn’t quite prepared for how the real career search would look and feel. I had taken a leap of faith and left my stable career during the program, to make room for greater opportunities and allow for early graduation. So I gathered my team and embarked upon the search that would end with roses at my feet. What I did not know, was that this journey could and should take months for the specific roles I was looking for, how misaligned my career search timeline would be for the accelerated graduation date, that there would be LOTS of rejection (and a lot of that would feel personal when in actuality none of it would be), that timing and who you know really would be crucial, and that staying focused even when you are ready to give up and settle for ANY job would be key. I also wasn’t quite as aware of the reputation I’d left or was leaving in my wake. Having organized events where I noticed need, volunteered at various symposiums, attended mock interviews, competed for spots to represent the University of Maryland in case competitions, establishing connections with professors (and genuinely nurturing those before the start of classes and after their finish) in addition to being present and active in discussions and thinking outside the box in how I connected myself with the larger Smith community, I had established quite a backing for myself. That became evident when I saw unsolicited recommendations made by my classmates, heard of recommendations made by professors, and witnessed the first hand effort of those going out of their way to help land my next role.
I applied to no less than a hundred positions by the time Suzanne was able to get my credentials in front of the MBA recruitment team for Amazon. I had recently applied to an ops role with the company when I caught wind of the approaching deadline for the Pathways Operations role. Armed with my extensive resume, a strong professor’s recommendation (who not only had me for class, but also served as my case competition coach) and her own evaluation and recommendation having interacted with me at the same competition, Suzanne Lamoureux successfully placed me in front of the right recruiter at the right time. Having gotten through to companies at a time when there weren’t roles available, that were on a hiring freeze, or being weeded out early on as a result of the “buzz word” the search process, I realized the importance of timing and connection. From there, as I began to go through their assessment process hoping for an invitation to interview, I leaned on my network again in addition to the normal research. Both my alumni and Career Services connections had gone through interview processes with Amazon and were able to guide my focus on pertinent information and the appropriate time spent prepping for each round. Largely, that advice came as reminders to relax, know your story, know their story, and link the two.
As prospective students, we had various reasons for choosing the Robert H. Smith School of Business, and a common theme running through those decisions is that of connection and community. The Smith network is strong, protective, far reaching, creatively aggressive, incredibly responsive and reciprocates the energy you invest. Looking back on connections made during my program and through this search process, I’m amazed at those I have on my front line and the lengths to which they have gone and will go in my name. My Smith network positioned me in front of the right people at the right time, polishing my presentation of self to a level that I was able to really relax and be confident for the rounds of interviews that followed the initial assessment and screening. As a result of establishing and nurturing this professional network through Smith, I was able to begin the process that would secure the offer from Amazon that I’d been looking for – an ideal fit, an ideal organization, ideal role, ideal salary, ideal location, and I am ready.
Gina Reilly has over 10 years experience in management-level operations in a variety of industries. She recently completed her MBA at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, where operations, logistics, change management and supply chain were her areas of focus. Prior to this accomplishment, Gina spent over 7 years leading school-wide operations for a charter school in its start up phase and a bilingual elementary school in the District of Columbia. During the completion of her MBA, Gina was an active member of the Part-Time MBA Association where she served on the Professional Development Board. Ms. Reilly utilized her position to conceptualize and implement innovative programming to close identified gaps in skill sets and access such as The Girls’ Gamble – Poker and Business, and the Smith Family Gamble. Gina recently accepted an offer from Amazon and will be moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee as a member of their Pathways Operations Team.