Monica Smith, MBA '12
Graziadio Spotlight Stories
Why did you choose the Pepperdine Graziadio full-time MBA program?
"When I was looking at business schools, Pepperdine's focus on values-centered leadership and emphasis on being an ethical leader is really what struck me. Also my mom is an alum and got her undergraduate degree at Pepperdine, so there was that family connection.
The location obviously makes it special, and there is something very authentic about students at Pepperdine. It was very easy to connect with people of different backgrounds and get an understanding of their experiences."
What made your experience at Pepperdine Graziadio memorable?
"Going back to school is a huge decision and with that you're meeting a lot of new people. It's important to note that the people you meet in business school become your network once you graduate. I really appreciated the diversity of talent within my program, and I met a lot of awesome people that I'm still friends with now who have gone on to do so many different things. We still share our career challenges and successes and it's nice to see that network is still in place.
While I was in school, I enjoyed hearing about alumni experiences and how they navigated their careers post-MBA. Those interactions stuck out to me and I want to be able to provide that for someone else. I think there's valuable advice that we can give current students that no one ever tells you while you're in school."
How has the network you developed helped you in your career?
"I was put in touch with a Graziadio alumni at Jakks Pacific, at the time the second largest toy company in LA. I didn't get an internship right away with the company, but I did keep in touch. When I reached out again close to graduation and said I was still interested, there happened to be a job available that I was able to interview for. It's important to maintain those relationships as you never know where or when an opportunity will present itself.
At first, the thought of networking scared me. The one thing everyone has to figure out is how to network authentically, and how to make it feel personal. It's about building the relationship first, and that can lead to the next step. For some people it's really hard to approach someone you don't know, but if you can find a common interest, that often leads to an easier conversation."
What advice would you give to other people looking to make a change in their career?
"Networking does not stop when you get a job. At a large company like Disney, you're constantly meeting new people, and you should just take half an hour to sit down with someone for coffee and learn what they do at the company. Some people think they only have to network while they are at school and then be done with it, but it's a lifelong tool that should be constantly fine-tuned. After that first job, every subsequent job will most likely be a result of networking.
And finally be open and flexible when it comes to your career. Everyone has this idea of what they are going to do, and opportunities may arise that don't fit neatly into that box. It takes courage to step outside your comfort zone, but the payoff is far greater in the end. Have the mindset to be open to change and new opportunities. Being able to overcome fear and push through it is what will take you to the next level."