Last Thursday President Becky Roloff sat down with more than 30 St. Kate's students in Rauenhorst Ballroom for an exclusive informational interview hosted by Career Development. Moderators Divine Islam '19 and Dalee Lor '18, who work in the career office, sought her advice on building skillsets, networking and communicating professionally.
President Roloff's extensive career in the business and nonprofit sectors have furnished her with both the wisdom of experience and anecdotes aplenty. She graduated from St. Kate's with a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1976 and went on to earn an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School, before embarking on positions with corporations and organizations such as Pillsbury Company and the YWCA of Minneapolis. She was president and CEO at the YWCA, before her celebrated homecoming to St. Kate's in fall 2016 — this time as University president.
Roloff's overarching advice to students at the interview: Be open, be proactive and always pursue opportunities, even if they aren't obvious.
"My approach was always such that when someone asked me, or I saw an opportunity, I would say, 'I'll try that.' Because I thought I would learn more doing that," she said. "I always tried to figure out how many tools I could fit in my toolbox."
- Develop a reputation as a problem-solver, not as a complainer. "I was always the one to ask, 'What can we do about it?' If there was a problem, I believed there was a solution we could find."
- Know the difference between disagreeing with someone strategically and disagreeing with someone ethically.
- To maintain your network, find out what your connection is interested in and pay attention to them. Watch for their career accomplishments or interests in the newspaper and send a clipping to them along with a personal note.
- Make sure your word is impeccable. "Your name is the most important thing you carry."
- If a promotion is what you're after, take the strategic, broader perspective. "When you make decisions, are you thinking about it from your position, or are you thinking about it from two levels up?"
- Be wary of making close friends in your professional workplace. "If your best friend is in the department, and for whatever reason you have to fire the department, it's going to rip you apart. I never wanted that. Some of my dearest friends now are people I worked with — but not while I was there."
- Figure out how to heal yourself and use that knowledge. "You are going to run into people and situations that will try to destroy your self-confidence. How do you restore your sense of balance when you get knocked down?"
Cortney Kostreba '17, a history major with a minor in business administration, considered President Roloff's suggestions a very timely prompt. "It's easy to get caught up in making the most of senior year," she remarked, "but everything she said in this interview reminded me to prepare myself as best I can for after graduation."
As the event drew to a close, President Roloff reminded the students to embrace the challenges that lay ahead.
"When you're sitting where you're sitting right now, the terrifying part is that all options are open," she said. "Just start! Enjoy the journey. You'll figure it out as you gain experience. Work hard. Have fun. Help other people as much as you can. Say yes to opportunities."
To read more about President Roloff and her storied career, see her St. Kate's bio.
Now is the perfect time to put President Roloff's advice into practice!
"Backpack to Briefcase" prep sessions are February 13–17 and the 2017 Minnesota Private Colleges Job & Internship Fair is February 22. Click here for more information, or contact Career Development — located in 460 CdC — at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-690-8890.
By Michelle Mullowney '17