Getting a Foot in the Door: Advice from Friedman School Alumni

I had the pleasure of attending the Block Career Center’s Virtual Midwest Career Trip on November 19, and here are just a few of the amazing insights shared by alumni panelists from Cargill, Compass/E15, Kellogg, and the Wallace Center at Winrock International.

Kate Olender
Senior Manager, Global Impact Partnerships, Corporate Responsibility at Cargill

Cargill Fun Fact: Cargill offers interesting sustainability jobs, e.g., Sustainability Manager, Climate and Sustainability Lead GEOS North America

Kate’s quick tips:

  • Think ahead: There is value in applying for things strategically even if you think it’s out of your league. This way, the organization will know who you are. You might later be remembered for something else. Kate shared a personal story about receiving rejections from Cargill — including on her 35th birthday! — before they hired her. The job she was certain she was going to get rejected her and then passed her on to another department. That’s the job she has today, and it’s the one she would have picked if she could choose from everything! Even rejections and challenges can result in good things!
  • Check out the Tufts Friedman School LinkedIn group: They post fabulous jobs for the community!
  • Look for growth potential: It’s helpful to look for organizations that offer ways to grow. Also, think about orgs that really value what you want to do, for example, organizations where sustainability is part of what they DO vs. an afterthought or an underfunded area.
  • Assess organizational culture: When I’m in interviews, I ask what people do for lunch! It’s a great way to understand the culture of an organization without having to ask the question directly.
  • Know the lingo: Look at the language from websites and job descriptions. If you’re switching sectors, e.g., nonprofit to private sector, there’s a whole different kind of framing that’s used, so it’s valuable to use their language. Present yourself through the lens that the audience will be using, and ask for help with deciphering jargon, if needed.
  • Don’t apologize: Depending on where you’re applying, you may feel a bit like an outsider. Instead of apologizing, present the value that you bring in terms of your uniqueness, e.g., an objective view,  a different way of thinking, a bridge to a different perspective. Focusing on being an outsider as an asset as opposed to a deficit is great.

Erin Moore Ruddy
Director, Consumer Insights at Compass/E15

Compass Fun Fact: Focusing on innovation in food and beverage, Compass is the biggest employer of RDs in the US! For example, someone could be an RD for United Health Group, employed by Compass, but working onsite elsewhere. Compass RDs also work with school lunch programs.

Erin’s quick tips:

  • Strengthen that resume: I can’t stress how important your resume is. I will skip over a resume that has errors because it indicates lack of attention to detail. The job market is turning over at a rapid pace, so it’s important to prepare your resume now so you’re ready when something comes up.
  • Try searching on LinkedIn: Consider looking on LinkedIn. Large organizations will often advertise through LinkedIn, even though you’ll still need to apply through their websites.
  • Practice on Zoom: Practice your interview on Zoom. If you’re reading from a piece of paper, it’s SO obvious! It’s okay to have some notes nearby, but don’t read from them.
  • Don’t stress too much about your experiences: Especially for entry-level, experience is experience. Don’t worry too much about where it comes from.

Kate Schaffner
Global Responsible Sourcing Manager and Sustainable Agriculture Lead with Kellogg

Kellogg Fun Fact: Kellogg internships for summer 2023 will open Sept-Oct 2022; be on the lookout! There’s a lot of demand for sustainability professionals (at Kellogg and at organizations in general), particularly those who can translate their words into actionable plans.

Kate’s quick tips:

  • Understand your applications (potential) longevity: At larger employers, there is an opportunity to be passed around because most of those internal systems will keep your app on record — another great reason to make sure your app is error-free! Your doc lives for a LONG time in these systems.
  • Think cross-functionally: For a number of careers, there’s an expectation that you’ll be working cross-functionally with people who have different backgrounds. As you’re thinking about next steps, think not just about the next year or so, but also opportunities that are adjacent to where you might want to be next. You may end up working with people who fill those roles, so it will help you understand them better.
  • Celebrate what matters in your field: Celebrate things like subject matter expertise versus having an “impressive” degree like an MBA

Elisabeth Spratt
Project Manager with Wallace Center at Winrock International

Wallace Center Fun Fact: We’re hiring now! Here’s the position: Program Associate, Food Systems Leadership. You can also find regular job openings on the Winrock site

Elisabeth’s quick tips:

  • Understand the process: As part of their equity process, they don’t often engage with people outside of the hiring process.
  • Tailor your cover letters: When a cover letter has not been written for my organization, it stands out like a sore thumb! People whose letters make a convincing match will ultimately bubble to the top.
By Susannah Krenn
Susannah Krenn Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing / Career Advisor