EberlyInsight: Manulife—John Hancock Delivers Advice to Eberly Business Students

Posted on 11/10/2016 4:07:31 PM

College is a phase of exploration, curiosity and trial and error. Perhaps the ultimate goal is to find one’s passion and pursue it through career. However, no matter the stage in the educational process, many challenges lie ahead. Students are progressing through one of the most prominent periods of growth in their entire lives. For this reason, it is extremely beneficial when those with experience and wisdom share their insight to those upcoming.

It is with the right information that anyone from any background can find the opportunity to achieve their own personal successes. To this extent, the following article will supply a collection of advice I received from generous individuals within the Manulife-John Hancock firm, in hopes to aid in the development process.

Donald Guloien

Donald Guloien,
Chief Executive Officer

Dave LeBlanc

David LeBlanc,
AVP and Head of Delivery,
Front Office Experience

Brendon Boragine

Brendon Boragine,
AVP, Head of Strategic Front Office Solutions

Tom Schumacher

Thomas Schumacher,

Performance and Operations, Subject-Matter Expert

Advice to Students

Interviewee: Thomas Schumacher

Sitting down for a brief dialogue with Mr. Schumacher, the conversation began by discussing the competitiveness in the labor market, and the necessity for students to align themselves appropriately towards success. According to Mr. Schumacher, “At the end of the day, it is about following what you like, and that comes through in any interview.” Mr. Schumacher went on to tell about his days working in Manila, where he interviewed loads on applicants for their local positions. One of the most important characteristics a candidate can possess, he explained, is intent to grow. In fact, “When you meet with people, you want to see not only an aptitude, but also a willingness to learn. And not only must they have a willingness to learn, but also a curiosity to do so.” This disposition to explore new horizons, face change and uncertainty, and seek out experiences which require productive learning seemed to be important in his eyes. Of course, I had to ask, how does one captivate this inner motivation, and what sustains it?

It comes down to finding your passion, Mr. Schumacher explained. “The best thing to do in some respects when you are young, is try different things. Try as much as you can, and find what excites you. Your passion is what will lead you to where you want to be.” Clearly, it was implied that by successfully finding a career that provides utility and enjoyment, an intrinsic human desire for growth would follow.

Continuing on, we dove into the value in specializing during college versus focusing on exploration and gaining wide-scoped experience. From Mr. Schumacher’s perspective, taking the more well-rounded route is the way to go, and here’s why. When students enter the job market they are expected to have some sort of work experience. Although a catch-22, it is a reality. However, it’s important to remember that not all business majors become career businessmen, just as not all students major in the field of which they end up working. By taking on new roles, both in education and the workforce, individuals gain the necessary skills to not only be employable, but also find their lifelong career of fulfillment. Mr. Schumacher stated, “If you are an English major that doesn’t hold you back in any way from a business career. There are plenty of people at John Hancock that didn’t major in Finance, or focus on investments early on—yet they have very successful careers.” Once again, emphasis was placed on the importance of “follow[ing] your passion, because in the end that is what matters more than where you come from.”

Interviewee: Brendon Boragine

After having the opportunity to speak with Mr. Schumacher, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Mr. Brendon Boragine for further questions. Having focused on intrinsic motivators with Mr. Schumacher, I found it necessary to move the spotlight towards other topics carrying forward. Speaking with Mr. Boragine, I spent a lot of time on two incredibly relevant areas to students.

The first area I addressed was networking. I inquired about the importance of it in his life, and what ways of implementation he would recommend for students.

Mr. Boragine was quick to answer, despite admitting that networking has changed since he was in school. This was surely due to advances in today’s networking mediums, like LinkedIn and social media, of which he highly recommended for keeping connections alive over periods of time. Nevertheless, Mr. Boragine promoted the usefulness of in-person meetings through professional, social, and interest groups. For students in college, he recommended finding extracurricular organizations to take part in. Linking into Mr. Schumacher’s thoughts on passion, he highlighted the ability to share ideas, interests, and experiences with other students who have similar qualities and desires. In the simplest sense, “find an organization you enjoy, and the connections will follow,” he said.

Moving on to résumés, I asked Mr. Boragine what exactly he looks for and expects when reviewing for internship and entry-level positions.

He responded, “from a résumé perspective, it needs to be put together well and tell a story that makes sense.” He stressed the importance of showing off experiences, whether they are internships, clubs, or organizations, and how by simply creating a document which flows inevitably increases the odds of receiving an interview.

Of course, I would have been remiss not to ask about the role a school name plays in his decisions when flipping through résumés. After a moment of thought, he responded sincerely. “In all honesty, we probably don’t look at schools a lot. We have a partnership with Northeastern University, but when comparing students for positions, school title isn’t necessarily moving the needle,” he said. In the end, however, he emphasized that the best candidates have one thing in common. They use their résumé to tell a story of relevant experience, aptitude, involvement on campus, and certainly their interest and curiosity to learn. I found it intriguing his mentioning of this “curiosity to learn,” just as Mr. Schumacher had previously done.

Interviewee: David LeBlanc

I later sat down with Mr. David LeBlanc, my supervisor at the time, and we got straight into the details. I had one particular question reserved for him, primarily because he always seemed like the type who wasn’t afraid to be honest about things. I asked, “how much internship experience should students have upon graduation from an undergraduate degree?” I asked this because I have found an apparent variance between schools across the U.S. in terms of the average number of internships their graduates obtain.

Almost instantly Mr. LeBlanc spoke with a sincerity and passion that I could easily sense. He said, “When I am taking resumes, don’t think for a second that I am not comparing you to the next guy, and the next guy, and the next guy, right? If someone has three internships versus one internship, I am absolutely considering that person with three internships way above someone with one…just being honest.” Fair enough, I said, realizing that competitive students will have upwards of three, six-month internships prior to graduation. My evidence of course having come through example of Northeastern University students, who graduate with a mandatory twelve months of internship, in addition to research I had conducted on Fortune 500 interns. Mr. LeBlanc spoke more to this point. “The reality is when you are trying to make that leap, if you don’t have relevant experience it is so hard. If you don’t know anyone who can get your foot in the door, how are you separating yourself from your competition?” We spent a few minutes addressing the processes for applying for positions and the mechanisms which facilitate getting job openings to the public. I recall the pleasantry that was his honesty in speaking toward the role of social capital in society. In fact, he spoke consistently to the unfortunate reality that there are those in the applicant pool who simply are at a disadvantage only because of lack of equality of opportunity. We agreed that students must fight tooth and nail to get relevant experience prior to graduation, in hopes that it will propel them into a successful career. I concluded my interview with Mr. LeBlanc, happy with the results.

Interviewee: Donald Guloien

Having been thoroughly impressed with the generosity of the Manulife leaders in their willingness to table a discussion with me, I felt a sense of true compassion from these individuals. So much so, that I knew stopping at upper-management was not enough. I was compelled to go straight to the top—the c-suite executives. Despite his busy schedule, Mr. Guloien spared a few moments to answer some of my inquiries and was incredibly gracious in doing so. Below are the questions I had posed, and the responses he returned.

Question I

Go to the nearest book store and you will find shelves of books promoting how to be successful. If you were to write a synopsis listing your top four keys to success, in order of importance, what would they be, and why?

“Learn, learn, learn. You have a great opportunity to soak up as much knowledge and as much experience as you're capable of taking. The direct compensation that you receive for your work will, over the course of your career, pale in comparison to the value of the learning experience.

“You must also work hard, network effectively and seek stretch assignments. But as you start out, take the opportunity to learn, learn, learn.”

Question II

Tell us about the role of mentors in your life, as well as your thoughts on the general importance, or unimportance, of individuals having them. How many should a person have, if any, and are there different kinds to look for?

“I actually admire most the entrepreneurs who start with a vision of what they can do, using a technology, service or product to make people's lives significantly better... and then pursue that vision with tremendous perseverance and enthusiasm. They start first with addressing a customer need. Fortunately, many of these entrepreneurs ­ but certainly not all ­ end up making a lot of money, which is one of the remarkably positive things about a free market economy. In other words: serve a customer need, make money. Unfortunately, as businesses get larger and larger, sometimes the pursuit of making money surpasses the desire to serve customer needs and companies go into decline. We must pursue customer needs with the same passion as if we were a startup.

“I avoid referring to individuals for a reason. Sometimes, very flawed characters’ lead companies to greatness, and if I refer to individuals, we run the risk that some people will focus on the negative aspects of their character, rather than the great things they have done for the customers that they serve.”

Question III

What is one, simple line of advice for current undergraduates?

“I hate to say this, because it may sound hackneyed or self-serving, but the best advice I can give is to work diligently, work hard, actively network and seek out stretch opportunities.”

Question IV

Irrespective of cost, risk, criticism, etc., what would be your dream job outside of what you do today? Custom surfboard maker out of Australia? National Geographic world photographer? Alaskan crab fisherman?

“Your question had the phrase in it, irrespective of cost, if you add another phrase which is irrespective of competence, I guess what I’d love to be is a musical performer.

“I have very few musical talents though and that’s an impossible dream, but you know I think that when you see some guy up on a stage playing a guitar and singing and motivating a bunch of people creating a spirit within them I think that’s just a remarkable thing and so that is something I think would be very cool but again, I have no talent in that direction.

“Speaking more realistically, I guess a policy role where I would be dealing with government policy, academic analysis, strategy, figure out good economic policy for government to follow, I think is a very meaningful and important role, and I think it’s more important today than it’s ever been with some of the big questions that we’re being confronted with as societies.”

I had to ask Mr. Guloien that last one...it always brings out the child-like element we hide away as we age; the dreamesque persona that gets buried in a complex world.

Moving Forward

Success is subjective, there is no doubt about it. But for those in pursuit of their own “good life,” information is key. Never stop learning, never stop growing, and never hesitate to search for wisdom. From all students at the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology, we thank each Manulife employee for sharing what could be the pivotal knowledge leading to student success.

Check back soon for more EberlyInsight as I interview former director of People of Walmart, Michael Bergdahl.

—By Robert L. Schwartz