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Alumni Perspective: a Confidence Mindset for a Hot Job Market

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No doubt about it, it’s a jobseeker’s market right now. But the candidates who have the greatest advantage are those who can integrate technical knowledge along with human skills, such as communication and leadership, creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and teamwork. All skills that students in Rutgers Master of Business and Science (MBS) degree program constantly hone throughout their educational journey.

All the skills in the world don’t make a difference, however, unless you can adeptly apply them—something that alumna Caroline Thorpe MBS’20 knows firsthand.

A former recruiter, Thorpe is now a digital marketing specialist who is also directing the redesign of the MBS program’s current website. Her background in identifying good hires combined with her experience as an MBS student gives her a unique perspective on how an MBS education gives students and alumni alike particular leverage in today’s economy.

What led you to pursue a Master of Business and Science (MBS) degree at Rutgers?

Right out of college, I began working for a top IT recruiting company. I mostly took the position because I still hadn't landed a job yet, but it wasn’t a good fit at all. The intense sales calls and cold-calling required an aggressive personality, which isn’t my style. Needless to say, I began dreading going to work every day.

That said, the job also introduced me to the field of User Experience Design. I have a dual undergraduate degree in marketing and advertising, but since I often filled UI/UX positions, I saw there were jobs that blended creative communication skills and science and technology.

I didn't know that jobs like User Experience Designer or Creative Technologist even existed until I was tasked with finding candidates to fill those positions! The whole time, I'm thinking, “hmmm…I want to do this!” So, I began researching graduate programs with a good idea of what I was looking for. I applied to MBS, got accepted, quit my job, and graduated in October 2020!

What is the greatest asset a candidate can have in today’s job market?

Aside from having the right skills and experience? Confidence. Because not having confidence is the number one thing that holds people back, both in looking for a job—how wide you’re willing to cast a net—and applying for a job. Having been a recruiter, I know that candidates don't need to check every single box—to have every single item on a list of job requirements—to apply and get their dream job.

And that’s where the MBS degree really shines. Throughout the entire program, you’re developing what I call a “confidence mindset”—you’re becoming confident in your skills and abilities by constantly applying them.

This mindset is so important to have in order to excel in your career or change careers or start a new career.  And once you have it, you can apply it to all aspects of life –personally, professionally, etc.

You became aware of UXD and related jobs through recruiting. There are likely many people who are unaware of jobs or career paths that could be a perfect fit. Any advice?  

It’s true that many people simply don't know what opportunities are available.  Again, that’s where the MBS program really shines because all aspects of the program are career-focused. There are coaches and advisors who help you gain clarity on what your ideal job looks like as well as the different career options that are available. And that's something a lot of other programs either don't emphasize or offer at all.

For anyone, a good place to start is by listing out your skills and strengths. Pulling these pieces out and getting them on paper is so important because a lot of people overlook certain skills and skillsets that they possess—and it can be surprising to see how much you bring to the table once everything is laid out. A lot of people, myself included, really struggle with that—putting on paper what they've learned or what they do on a daily basis in a meaningful way.

You talked about developing a confidence mindset through constant application of learned skills. Can you elaborate?

So, I came to Rutgers MBS program to learn the skills I needed for a career in UXD, which incorporated elements of marketing and advertising, but which was an entirely different discipline in which I had no experience. Throughout the MBS program, I had the opportunity to apply what I learned hands-on—in particular, through the UXD practicum and the Capstone course. I felt like I was crafting a new person, basically. Someone who was confident at the end of her degree to apply for jobs I thought were exciting, and not afraid to aim high—because my skills and interests had been identified and worked on the entire time I was a student.

From beginning to end, really, from the Leadership & Communication course to the Capstone class—where you literally pull together and present all you’ve learned—there’s not just the professional focus, but you have the support of course instructors, coaches, and mentors who are not just telling you, “This is what you need,” but letting you know, "I'm going to help you be that professional you want to be, and I’m going to help you get there."-

You mentioned a number of program elements that drive student success. Do you want to break them out one by one?

Sure. So, top-down, there’s the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB). These are high-level experts from all different industries who help shape curricula and also serve as a collective resource to students at networking events like the IAB-MBS Student Mixer.

Then, there are the course instructors, who are also experts working in industry.

Within my concentration, User Experience Design (UXD), one of my instructors was Tobias Komischke, who at the time was Director of User Experience at Honeywell. To have an industry expert like Tobias Komischke—who is working for a major corporation at the apex of his profession, which is also my intended profession—it’s amazing to have someone like that say, “This is how it's done and these are the skills you need to be successful.” You’re learning exactly what it takes to excel in a particular field, and basically getting a fast-track in learning the exact skills you need to present yourself well, and what elements are essential to career success.

Then, there’s executive coaching and advising, so all along the way, you’re mapping out an individualized curriculum that aligns with your professional goals—and making sure there are experiential learning opportunities designed to support that objective.

I’m part of the MBS alumni network, which is a great resource for students as well in terms of networking, career direction, advice—just to talk to someone who was where you are—an MBS student—not long ago is refreshing, and alumni welcome the opportunity to connect. There’s an alumni-student mentoring component now, too, which is great.

In all, experiential learning is what drives the entire program—it’s the MBS learning model, where the goal is to constantly apply classroom instruction and academic concepts to the real world, in real time, all of the time. It’s not a program or school where you're just taking tests and turning stuff in. Everyone involved wants you to be successful wherever you are at the moment, not just make sure you have skills to use after graduation.

To have all of these resources is amazing. And at the end of the day, employers can see that difference.

Jen Reiseman-Briscoe
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