How one MBA candidate leveraged her Capstone project to land her dream job

Chelsey Reinoehl (MBA ‘20) thought hard about her final Capstone project. She was hoping it could lead to a job in her field after graduation.

Reinoehl studied urban planning as an undergraduate. She loved the subject and the idea of working in the public sector. After completing an internship in one particular area, she had hoped to try out different areas in the discipline. But Reinoehl found it difficult to branch out after establishing a focus within one career track.

Reinoehl hadn’t planned on getting her MBA, but her urban planning network, as well as alumni from The School of Business, spoke highly about how The Portland MBA could expand her skillset and options. Reinoehl entered The School of Business and quickly gained new skills in finance, marketing and other traditional business topics, and she deepend an interest in land use and the built environment.

In the summer before her second year, Reinoehl found herself speaking to a new friend, Brook Mentire (MBA ‘19), in her Advanced Leadership class. He worked at Prosper Portland, a public agency focused exactly on Reinoehl’s interest areas of economic and real estate development. She knew she was interested in the work they did and in building contacts at this agency, and the immersive Capstone project was the right opportunity.

First, Reinoehl gathered a team of trusted classmates with whom she had already successfully collaborated. Then, she reached out to Mentire, expressing her interest in doing a Capstone with Prosper Portland. Eager to help, he solicited Prosper project managers in need of help. Reinoehl’s team was able to choose the project that most appealed to them: determining the financial viability and management logistics of transforming an underutilized property into a thriving food cart pod.

This project helped clarify Reinoehl’s professional interests. She was able to apply new skills from her MBA through the development of a business plan and financial model, while thinking strategically about the big picture of a built space and working through a rigorous line of inquiry: How could the space best be utilized? What would the space look like, and how would it function? What were the implications for the community? “It was like putting a puzzle together,” she says.

And it was fun — Reinoehl enjoyed working with her teammates, especially when they toured other food cart pods to gain an understanding of how those spaces functioned (and to sample the tacos, of course).

As a result of this project, Reinoehl confirmed her passion and developed her expertise for real estate and economic development. As she started job hunting, she made sure to feature her Capstone front and center on her resume to show how it complemented her school and work experience. Reinoehl reached out to a recruiter who she had been in touch with previously, sharing about how the Capstone qualified her for a role.

Reinoehl says she was lucky to land a job as an assistant planner so quickly. It is not a public sector job, but her employer was actively seeking a planner with extensive public sector knowledge and experience. As the only planner on the team, she is able to bring specialized urban planning skills while retaining a deeper understanding of financial and community considerations.

As for her advice to current graduate business students preparing for their Capstone? “Do something that is in the area you want to work in, choose a team you know you can work well with, and try to have fun with it!”

Karen Lowe is a 2020 graduate of The Portland MBA. She manages marketing and strategic partnerships for The Give Bin and writes regularly for Portland State’s Graduate Business Blog.

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