Submit articles to
The Power of Networking
Submitted by: Gary Spoales
The Power of Networking - a true story
How involved are you in your profession? What impression do you make on your direct supervisor; the head of the department; colleagues at other schools? If you ever left one position or organization for another one, how did you handle it so you might be remembered in a positive light? How do you measure your professional success: by the number of people that you climb over and thru to reach your goal or how you make the climb to get the results? These are all questions that you should ask yourself on your journey through the Financial Aid or any other profession. Let me tell you two true stories to emphasize the point.
One week this past Fall, with little advanced planning, I decided to attend a Tri-state activity on Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional staff. It is an annual event sponsored by the Tri-state Association to make ourselves known and to provide our association and its members as resources to staff members. As an Associate Vice President for Financial Services at a 100% online school, I was concerned that we were under represented and I wanted to attend to learn how we might influence the discussion with staff members.
As a former association Chair and former MD President, I met many practicing aid officers, many of whom are still my friends today. On this occasion, I spoke to several people on the way into the session and settled down next to a valued colleague, David Manning. David and I first met when he was the Executive Director of the Maryland Higher Education Loan Corporation ( at least I think that's what it was called). We subsequently battled for business from many of you reading this. David is of course with National Education and I was with Bank of America for 12 years. After a few minutes of conversation, my good friend Laura Donnelly from Johns Hopkins appeared and we struck up a conversation reminiscing about our days doing sessions at EASFAA in Puerto Rico to one person at 3 pm on a sunny day - go figure!
Before the session ever began, Laura and then separately during a break, Katherine Allen (then of HCC), approached me about one of their former employees, Michele Bowser. Michele had worked for both of them at their respective schools. They knew that she was interested in looking at financial aid opportunities in a new location as she was moving to Brunswick, Maryland. Laura and Katherine could not stop singing her praises. I asked them numerous questions hoping to evaluate Michele's experience to determine where she might fit in at my school, American Public University System. It was a little premature as she was not quite ready to move. However, a position that I had hoped to have approved was on the drawing board and the stars were beginning to align. I hadn't advertised and I hadn't discussed this potential position with anyone up to this point. Sometimes fate plays a part in these things but if it weren't for Michele's and my mutual circle of professional friends, we may have never met.
Michele Bowser, formerly of Howard Community College and Johns Hopkins University, moved away from Financial Aid for about 18 months to dedicate her service to Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed Medical Center. Michele spent most of her financial aid career with Howard Community College where she worked with among others, Carl Emerick, Dawn Mosisa, Stephanie Johnson, Katherine Allen and others. Prior to my Training position being approved, Michele and I met at a Starbucks to discuss potential opportunities based solely on the recommendations of our mutual friends. As it turned out, Michele had previously visited the university at one of my teams "Group Interview" sessions. Interestingly, I was unable to attend this event and it is the only one that I''ve missed. My managers determined that Michele was over qualified for the positions they had open. I remembered that they made a passing comment about an over qualified candidate but nothing clicked at the time.
As winter progressed, my position as Senior Manager for Training and Process Review was approved. I let Michele know that the position was posted so that she could apply. After a couple rounds of interviews with me and my management team, Michele was our unanimous choice and she began her new role in July. This all came to fruition due to networking and leaving behind a positive impression with former employers.
Oh, and the second story, is about me. My successful career steps are overwhelmingly due to a combination of my mentor, Dr. Herm Davis (a Tri-state life member and founder of our neophyte program); my circle of professional friends and colleagues (too many to mention here) and the willingness of Cissy VanSickle to come to work with me not once but twice in a row.
I was laid off in April 2008 from Bank of America, as the student loan industry was tanking. It was a great Summer and perhaps my best Summer of my working life. I had 4 months of nothing but golf, grandkids and free time. I made plans for the future; applied sporadically for jobs; and formed my own company with my wife. I was completely satisfied never to work for anyone again. In late July, my friend from Frederick Community College went out of her way to find my home number. She called me on a Sunday and told me about two jobs that she felt were right for me. One month later, I started my new career with American Public University System. That's the power of networking. Brenda Dayhoff and I worked together as colleagues; talked at meetings; shared student stories and positioned solutions to each other over the years. Brenda did not owe me any favors. She just knew that I was looking for new opportunities and went out of her way to tell me about two. Our casual friendship and professional experiences left positive impressions on each other and I was the better for the relationship. I tried to hire Brenda away from FCC but she is dedicated to her school. I hope to have many dedicated employees who feel the same way about their experience with me and APUS over the years. Thank you Brenda.
And thank you Katherine and Laura for sending your positive impression to my doorstep. Michele has proved to be a great referral and is already leaving positive impressions.
The moral of these simple examples is that attitude and work ethic and integrity count. They will create for you the same type of incredible network of friends who will help you when least expected. Best wishes to all of our new professional colleagues hoping to make a name for themselves. Let the networking begin.