How do you elevate your career when you’re not sure yet what you want that next level to look like? You get after it. When Chris Herndon enrolled for his MBA at Portland State, he did not have a specific career destination in mind, but he knew he wanted to branch out of finance.
Having worked as an insurance underwriter for a few years, he found himself missing the depth of direct impact and personal connection he had enjoyed in his previous career in fitness. It takes about two minutes of conversation to realize this makes perfect sense. Chris has the kind of people skills that in the right setting multiply the potential of business acumen of any stripe. He shows genuine interest in the motivations of individuals and groups (he holds an undergraduate degree in political science and sociology), paired with the drive to help them reach their goals.
“I’m all about people,” he says. “It’s that everybody is different, and everybody has something to offer. I’m an optimist and a positive person, and I always see opportunity. When someone else doesn’t, I try to change that conversation.”
Among his Portland MBA cohort Chris appreciated the diversity of backgrounds and personalities. It allowed him to learn about industries with which he had not had much contact before, and to reflect on his own unique strengths and leadership style.
Building his network beyond the classroom, Chris took advantage of the chance to reach out to business leaders who helped him get a clear picture of what different career avenues might open up for him, and how they’d align with his interests and values.
“PSU does a great job making introductions and providing training in networking skills so you can gain insights into a range of industries that interest you.”
These connections developed into concrete career opportunities. As he approached graduation, Chris faced the challenge of choosing which one to pursue — and decided to again go for uncharted territory. He joined a startup providing change management consulting and is planning to launch his own coaching business. It promises to be a phenomenal match for his real-world experience and his passion for the human element of business, now backed up by strong leadership skills.
“I definitely am a better leader because of the program,” he asserts. “Besides the technical training, what was the most valuable for me was the chance to develop that mindset.”
Chris’ straightforward advice to other students envisioning a career change through the MBA reflects the attitudes that have propelled his own career transition forward: “This is a good time to take risks, and to get proactive about finding out what success looks like to you. The point really is that it is possible to make a shift in the direction of where you’re headed.”