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Alumni coaching made all the difference for alumna Taren Windish

Taren Windish (left) and Kim Warmbeir (right)

College of Business alumna Taren Windish ’07 shared the following story of trying to find a job after graduation.

As I prepared for graduation in May, I began to evaluate my career goals and identify job markets that would best suit my needs. While I have always called Central Illinois my home, I wanted to branch out to a larger urban area with a wider variety of prospective employers. I decided on Dallas-Fort Worth, as the Metroplex is home to a number of Fortune 500 companies.

I knew that finding a job in an unfamiliar place would be a challenge, but I was unprepared for how difficult it would be. Because I graduated with high marks and numerous leadership roles on my resume, I believed that I would at least be invited for a few interviews. I was confident that once I had a DFW address, companies would begin to notice me as a serious candidate.

In August I moved to a Dallas suburb eager to secure my first professional position. However, one month passed, then another… I completed dozens of applications, tweaked my resume into position-specific versions, and wrote many cover letters, but I did not get a single call. After three months, my spirits were down, and I was contemplating moving back home, sure that if I hadn’t made any connections by this point, I would never do so. Also, I figured the longer I waited the more stale I would appear to employers back at home where the ISU brand had greater recognition. I felt as though I was letting everyone down who had believed in me and backed my decision to relocate after graduation.

I contacted Linda Showers, Peter Kaufman and Joe Trefzger, three former professors from whom I had sought advice in the past, and asked what I could do to make myself more marketable. They all recommended connecting with alumni in the area. I had considered this, but I wasn’t sure who would want or be able to help me. Fortunately, Norris Porter, Amy Humphreys and Claranne Perkins in the College of Business helped me connect with a few individuals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who might be able to help me network and market the strength of the Illinois State brand.

Within days I received supportive messages and invitations to meet, discuss ISU, and review my resume. Backed by a handful of distinguished alumni, my resume was heavily circulated, and I knew it was actually being read and considered instead of just registering as one tiny file in a vast database.

Kim Warmbier, a recent Alumni Hall of Fame inductee and Chief Personnel Officer for PepsiCo Sales, listened to my story. She helped position me as a candidate for temporary employment at Frito-Lay in the HR Department. Although I had little experience in HR, I had strong data analysis and technical Excel skills, making me a good fit for completing some important projects. Knowing that this was the spark I needed, I quickly accepted. Immediately after starting, I began to receive callbacks for interviews. Clearly there was more employer interest now that I had a highly recognizable DFW company on my resume.

The insights and self-esteem boost that I got from other alumni and individuals at the College of Business made all the difference in the interviewing process and helped me to stay focused on the job search. So thank you also to Michael Collins at American Airlines, Kerry Balch at Pegasus Solutions, Patrick Manning at Proman International, and Connie Oller-Heston from Verizon for their help and encouragement.

In short, I don’t think I could have ever gotten the confidence and connectivity I needed without the joint efforts to connect me to the DFW alumni network. I was amazed by the number of prominent alumni in that area and their willingness to help. The alumni are truly one of the college’s most important assets, and made all the difference to a recent graduate like me.

In December Taren secured a full-time position in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as the Planning and Forecast Analyst for Neiman-Marcus Direct, working on sales planning for the catalogs and online store. And yes, she is already becoming an active and supportive ISU alumna in her adoptive state of Texas!