Staff feature: Meet Allen Thayer

Allen Thayer
Allen Thayer is the Professional Development Specialist in PSU’s Graduate Business Programs.

Please give us a brief overview of your academic and professional background.

The path that brought me to PSU as the Professional Development Specialist in the Graduate Business Programs Office was definitely not a straight one. I believe that I stumbled into career advising because I’ve experienced a number of different careers working for for-profit, nonprofit, government and hybrid employers. My bachelor’s and master’s degrees were in international affairs with a focus on economic development in Southeast Asia and Brazil. Before starting my career in academia working at the Center for Social Innovation at the Stanford Business School, I was active in the flourishing fair trade movement. Upon deciding to move back home to Portland and after attending one of the first Elevating Impact conferences, I identified PSU as the place I wanted to plug into for my next professional adventure!

What are your areas of passion and expertise in The School of Business?

I love working with candidates in an advising setting, navigating their career paths, helping them understand and maximize their strengths, exploring new options or focusing their job search strategies. One of the initiatives I’m most excited about is the curriculum and workshop series I’m developing — Career Design — that uses design thinking methodologies to unpack and better understand our career goals in both the short and long terms. The industries or sectors that I have the most expertise in include the social-purpose business (B-Corp, etc.), nonprofit and social enterprise space, which I have been involved in for decades.

What do you enjoy most about working in The School of Business?

I most enjoy the people, namely the students and staff who work tirelessly to advance their own and others’ careers in so many ways. Having worked in a number of different environments in different cities and coasts, I find the PSU community to be the most authentic, passionate and impressive I’ve had the good fortune to experience.

What does “redefining business” mean to you?

To me, “redefining business” means breaking down the barriers between sectors, as well as recognizing the collaborations that are possible and the commonalities that are evident across corporate, nonprofit and public sector initiatives. In the 2020s, business is just how things get done, regardless of the sector, and we’re training the next generation of leaders to navigate this sometimes opaque environment while considering social, cultural and environmental challenges and opportunities.

What is the most important soft skill that employers are seeking in 2020?

As difficult as it can be to demonstrate and communicate this, what employers are most looking for is a well-rounded background and the ability to problem-solve, work creatively and collaborate with others. As industries evolve and adapt to increasing implementation of technology in the workforce, employers will still need people who can make sense of greater amounts of data, manage staff as well as algorithms, and explain and make recommendations based on constantly evolving factors.

What is the most common, but easily correctable mistake that you see students make in their resumes, cover letters or job applications?

It’s essential that job seekers tailor their experiences to the roles they’re pursuing, bullet-point by bullet-point. Do some work on transferable skills, exclude accomplishments that are irrelevant to the job you’re applying for and add more context to the ones that are, like $, #, % and frequencies and durations. Make each entry on your resume relevant to the job you’re applying for and order that information so that the most impressive items are closer to the top. For example, if you’re a career-changer, you should probably highlight your master’s degree work at the top of your resume to demonstrate to potential employers how you are positioning yourself for the career change you want to make through adding new skills and competencies.

When you are not working, what do you do in your free time?

When I’m not at the Karl Miller Center, I’m usually wrangling my two sons (ages 6 and 9) and listening to music, most likely on vinyl from my extensive collection that skews heavily Brazilian. I host a weekly radio show on KMHD Jazz Radio (89.1 FM in Portland) every Saturday from 9 to11 a.m. In addition to DJing music, I also write about it in book form, on websites and other places people read things.  Check it out at allenthayer.com.


If you’re a current student who would like career support, you can schedule a virtual appointment with Allen by clicking here.

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