College grads, listen up: Area business leaders offer advice

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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 12:00 am

With graduations scheduled over the next month, we asked Omaha-area business leaders for their No. 1 piece of advice for job-seeking college graduates. Here's what they said.

Nick Bowden

CEO of MindMixer

My advice for recent college grads is a piece of advice that I received when I graduated school: Work with intention. Even if no one appears to be watching, working with intention helps improve your craft, build confidence and establish expertise.


Frank Hayes

President, Hayes & Associates accounting firm

In this fast paced world of Facebooking, texting and tweeting, with information of all forms being presented to us in smaller and smaller sound bites, distinguish yourself from the crowd with strong written and verbal communication skills. Above all, treat others with respect.


Colleen Batcheler

ConAgra Foods' executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary

Know and live your values; work with people and organizations that you're proud to be associated with. Make yourself invaluable. Be willing to do whatever is needed to achieve a team goal, and you'll be noticed.


Dan O'Neill

President, First National of Nebraska

Recent college graduates who have been most successful are those who have been open to all opportunities. In today's world, career paths aren't always linear. Be open to the potential and learning available in any role you take. Your first role may not be your dream job, but it will be the first step in getting to your dream job.


Todd Becker

CEO, Green Plains Renewable Energy

I tell our new hires right out of college two things. The first is: Be the first one in and the last one to leave. You learn by osmosis when working long hours as you engage in discussions with older, more experienced co-workers before the day really begins or after it ends. It also shows you are seriously interested in working hard. The second is: Know how to read a financial statement.


Jamie Gutierrez

President of Midwest Maintenance Cos. Inc.

Demonstrate confidence, ingenuity and the ability to listen. Eagerness to know others is important, and an attitude of service to others is what great leaders are made of. I love a person who is always looking for creative ways to do things bigger, faster, cheaper, easier, and who is not afraid to voice their opinions and new ideas ... showing up wanting not only to succeed, but also with a great desire to make others succeed.


Ivan Gilreath

President and CEO, of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands

Be willing to take a job that might be slightly below your expectations as a way to get into a company of your choice. Once in the company, you have a chance to prove your ability and rise up the corporate ladder. Continue to differentiate yourself by pursuing a post-graduate career. Good work ethic, however, is the ultimate differentiator.


Dan Neary

CEO of Mutual of Omaha

While college graduation is an accomplishment worthy of pride and celebration, it's one of many milestones in a lifetime of learning. The next phase in your education begins your first day on the job, and the most successful people are those who continually seek knowledge, are open to new ideas, are willing to try new things and to push themselves beyond their comfort zone.


Rodrigo Lopez

President and CEO, AmeriSphere, a multifamily rental housing lender

Job candidates should possess strong communication skills and be very aware of what it takes to behave ethically in the business world. Technical training can help develop outstanding credit underwriters, but it's difficult to remediate poor writing and speaking competence and to modify behavior of those not always inclined to maintain a sense of ethics and integrity. Other advice: Show a positive attitude. Tell prospective employers about previous leadership positions and volunteer activities. Participate in at least one internship.


Connie Ryan

President, Streck, developer and manufacturer of clinical laboratory products

Work hard at knowing yourself and your skills. Choose a career that you can be passionate about. Self-fulfillment will come from being committed to what you love doing and do well.


Derek Leathers

President and chief operating officer at Werner Enterprises

Simply stated, believe in yourself. No person, company, government or organization will ever have as much control of your future success than you will. These are difficult economic and geopolitical times but not any more so than many past graduates have faced throughout history. Believe in yourself, dedicate yourself to on-going learning, and be prepared to demonstrate a commitment to both your personal goals as well as the goals of the organization you choose to join. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best over 70 years ago: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Choose to be great. Choose to be an idea person. Choose to make a difference.”


Gail DeBoer, President

SAC Federal Credit Union

As you build your career, you'll soon discover that you aren't done learning. As you will grow in both your point of view and your abilities, you must stay true to your values. You must be conscious of your choices and their ethical implications, no matter what you do next.


Jane Miller

Chief operating officer, the Gallup Group

Find a job and a manager that encourages you to use your strengths, and find a company with a rich mission or purpose for something that makes society better.

Compiled by World-Herald Staff Writers Steve Jordon, Cindy Gonzalez, Barbara Soderlin, Emily Nohr and Paige Yowell

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