By Becky St. Clair
On Thursday, April 19, the departments of business, communication, and visual arts at Pacific Union College held a joint colloquium. It was a panel discussion on the topic of “Successful Alumni,” and each department had alumni representing.
Panelists were: Jackson Boren, 2008 graduate of the department of communication, currently the alumni director for the Loma Linda University School of Nursing; Amanda Granados, 2010 graduate of the department of business, owner of Granados | Hillman, an accounting firm; and Will Yoshimura, 2015 graduate of the department of visual arts, currently employed as a graphic designer at Facebook.
Michelle Rai, chair of the department of communication, moderated the panel discussion.
What are the top three skills you utilize every day in your work?
Jackson Boren: People skills are extremely important, in both large and small groups. Public speaking is also something I do often.
Amanda Granados: As an accountant, I clearly use my numbers skills regularly, but critical thinking and people skills are right up there, too. Which is something a lot of people don’t realize about accountants—we do actually need to know how to interact well with others.
Will Yoshimura: Well, obviously graphic design. But also critical thinking.
Name a class in which you wish you would have paid more attention.
JB: I wish there had been the project management class PUC offers now when I was in school, because that would have been extremely helpful.
AG: Real estate. It’s something that affects everyone, and I wish I would have put more effort into that class.
WY: Statistics, for sure. Also, I wish I would have taken a philosophy class. I honestly think it would benefit anyone in any field.
What would you tell your freshman self?
WY: Actually try at college. I didn’t take it seriously until the end of my sophomore year. I would tell myself to take classes I was interested in and see what fits; see what I want to do with my life.
What’s your secret to success? What gets you up in the morning and keeps you going?
JB: Honestly, it’s about identifying an internal need and finding the path to fulfill it. In my current job, my personal philosophy is that the foundation of alumni identity is their experience as a student. If I can connect them with the best part of that experience and build on it now that they’re alumni, I’m succeeding at what I do. That’s what keeps me going.
AG: Helping people. When I can help my clients see something they hadn’t noticed before, or save them from having to pay thousands of dollars somewhere down the road, it makes me feel good. It’s definitely awesome motivation to get out of bed and go to work in the morning!
WY: Being obsessed with what I do. I mean, not to a harmful degree, but if you’re really interested in the work you do, you’re going to work harder and learn more about it than those who aren’t so obsessed, and it gives you a leg up on others. You’ll get better and better and what you do won’t feel like work.
There’s a lot of talk these days about how Millennials are changing the workplace. What advice can you give to the students here as they prepare to be those Millennials?
JB: People don’t stay in one job for 30-40 years anymore. We change jobs a lot more. So take the experience you get from all of those jobs and apply the lessons to your current work. It’s a different workplace scenario than it was in past generations.
AG: Communicate what you need and want to those you work for and with. If you want to come in later in the morning, talk to your boss about it. They will likely be understanding and work with you within reason. But they won’t if they don’t know what you want.
WY: It depends on what field you’re in, but honestly, as long as you show up, work hard, and get the stuff done, you’ll be fine.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you face in your work?
JB: Sometimes you have to say no. And that’s hard and it doesn’t make people happy. One of the hardest things to learn is how to say no without actually saying it, even if that’s really what you’re saying.
AG: Admitting when I’m wrong. And yes, I’ve been wrong on someone’s taxes before. It’s so hard to admit failure, but it’s so important. Then I pick myself up, learn from it, and get right back to work.
WY: Being a politician. When you work with a lot of people, you have to be really diplomatic.
When things get tough, what do you do to stay on track?
JB: Someone once told me, “Don’t let the details destroy you.” Keeping a big picture perspective at all times helps in those moments, because I can take a step back and see where I am and where I need to be.
AG: Take a break and call a friend. Talking about the problem aloud really helps me work through it and often helps me find a solution.
WY: Take a walk.
What’s important to keep in mind when negotiating a salary?
JB: Definitely research industry standards. If you can get an internship before you graduate, take it seriously because it can translate into a job when you graduate. Don’t just think about salary and benefits, but also consider your quality of life. I once had a job where I was commuting quite a ways every day, and I negotiated with my employer to cover all of my tolls for the commute and incorporate that cost into my salary.
AG: When you get to negotiate it’s your one opportunity to make a difference in your compensation. Don’t miss the chance! Ask for what you want and the worst that will happen is that they will say no. Always ask.
WY: Like Jackson said, do your research. Glassdoor can be really helpful in this area. Also keep in mind that your total compensation includes equity in the company—stock. So think that through and ask for more if you want it. Statistics say that 90% of employers won’t rescind their job offer because you asked for more money or benefits, so just ask.
What advice would you give the scared seniors who have no idea how to get started after graduation?
JB: Find an internship where you want to work. It may not be paid, but you get face time with the company, you get experience working there, and you make connections. Also don’t overlook the line in the job description that reads, “Other duties as assigned.” Do those things well. It will show your character and work ethic, and might reveal skills you didn’t know you had. Become familiar with the process at the company where you’re working, and the different players you work with. Become familiar with their roles so you can respect and appreciate them, and that respect and appreciation will be reciprocated.
AG: Look for ways you can apply everything you’ve experienced and learned in college to the jobs you want and are applying for. You may think you’re starting with nothing, but everything in college can be a benefit to you in your career. So keep a positive attitude and stay confident.
WY: Apply to a bunch of places. You won’t hear back from a lot, and you’ll be rejected a lot, and you may want to just finish your homework and go to a dark place to cry, and that’s okay! But in all seriousness, stay positive and know that eventually, your hard work will pay off. And use LinkedIn! It’s how you get recruited.
Amanda, tell us about transitioning from the traditional “work for someone else” situation into owning your own business.
AG: It was a hard decision to make, to be honest. There’s usually some loyalty involved between you and your boss, and you wonder if leaving is the right thing to do. The clincher for me was stepping back to look at the big picture: What would my life look like if I were to make this change? It would eliminate my commute, making me more flexible, able to spend more time with my family, and take my office anywhere I want to. I also keep more of the money I make working for myself, which is a big deal! It takes confidence to do something like this, and that was my biggest obstacle. I had to convince myself that enough people believed in me, and I believed in me, and I could do it.
How do you maintain your creative side while doing what someone else wants you to?
WY: I’m not going to lie—at some point you’re likely going to be doing work you don’t like and don’t want to do. It’s a fact. So I recommend you keep doing side projects. Also, keep in mind that working with what other people want involves compromise. Keeping the balance between introducing your own vision and also accepting theirs. You walk through problems together as a team.
How did your experience at PUC impact your career?
JB: I’m a better communicator because of PUC. I saw the power of good communication in a professional setting and learned the value of recognizing and learning from my mistakes. I learned not to be afraid of failure, but to learn from it and allow it to direct me toward progress.
AG: The best things I took away from PUC were positive relationships and solidified ethics.
WY: PUC gave me the thing I love most now—design.