Ready for the Real World?

When Shawnice Meador became the director of career management at MBA@UNC in March, she brought with her a skill set heavy in personal brand development and talent management. She takes this real-world know-how and advises students on how to create their own personal brand and how to determine what workplace will be best for them. Meador said, however, that most students forget to keep diversity in mind when developing a brand or deciding on a workplace.

What led you to your current position as director of career management at the MBA@UNC program at UNC?
Believe it or not, I started my career as an engineer at General Motors and General Electric. In my first few positions, though I was technically an engineer, I gained a lot of process improvement, team facilitation and leadership experience as well. I utilized these experiences to go after my next position as a process improvement manager. While in this role, I also pursued my MBA and found my true passion in organizational behavior and talent management. I took the experience I had as a process improvement manager and the new skills I gained from my MBA experience and marketed myself for an HR leadership position within my company. This was a turning point in my career. I became the corporate-wide director of talent management, and got to help executives and employees with recruiting, leadership development, succession planning, career management and workforce strategy. I loved the diversity of work I did for corporations over the years, but I always had it in the back of my mind that someday I would like to take these experiences and transition to the academic side of things.

I took a few years off to raise my small children and when the time came to go back to work full-time, I had my eyes set on the academic world. I took what I had learned in the corporate world at various Fortune 250 companies, my time as a full-time professional pursuing an MBA and all of my personal experiences to brand myself for my goal of working as a career and leadership consultant in the academic environment. I marketed myself for my current position as director of career management for MBA@UNC, something that I now help students do for the jobs they want. I leveraged the fact that I could relate to the MBA@UNC student population, understand how to find a job in the current economic environment, translate a current skill set into a benefit for an employer and have a passion for helping others continuously improve and grow as leaders. Repositioning my skills and diverse work experiences helped me get to where I am today.

As a career consultant with expertise in branding, should diversity be something individuals emphasize in their personal brand?
Yes. Your personal brand should emphasize all of the unique skills, attributes, abilities and personality that you bring to the table. Diversity is an essential part of that equation. Whether you are actively seeking a new position or just working on branding yourself through online professional sites, it is important to emphasize what sets you apart from everyone else. These differences should include professional accomplishments, education, skills, activities and diversity, amongst other things. For example, if you are active in professional associations that have to do with diversity, it is important to mention them on your resume and professional profile. This is a great way to show your leadership and commitment in a positive and professional way.

As a director of career management, do you see students choosing careers where diversity and inclusion are stressed?
Absolutely. One of the key things I strongly encourage our students to think about when they put together their career goals is what type of company culture they are looking for. When students have specific goals in mind, many times this includes a list of companies in a particular industry. It is also very important to research the culture of a company that you want to join. The culture includes many different facets — from the company value system to their focus on ethics, diversity and inclusion and even sustainability. Work is such a major part of people’s lives and many times people don’t take the time to really look into the overall package of a company before saying “yes” to a new position. I try to emphasize to my students to really know and prioritize what type of working community you want to be a member of, because this environment will play a major role in your life.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I love when I see the “light bulb” go on for a student. It happens at different times for different students. For some of them, it happens when they finally can articulate what they truly want to do in their career path. For others, it happens when they can connect the dots between the value of personal branding and professional networking and the probability of increasing their chances of landing their dream job. Those moments can be life-altering for some people, and I treasure the fact that I can share those with them.

Jeffrey Cattel is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. He can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.