Career Talk: Elizabeth Bader, executive briefing consultant
Elizabeth Bader always thought her main “career” would involve being a wife and mother. But by her early 30s, she was the divorced, single mother to a toddler and desperately in need of career advice. In this Career Talk podcast, Bader explains how she got back into the workforce, offers advice on those seeking similar careers and provides tips for others who may have been out of the workforce, by their own choosing or otherwise.
Welcome to Brandman Speaks: Career Talks. I’m Cindy O’Dell and recently I spoke with Elizabeth Bader, an executive briefing consultant at Experian.
Elizabeth always thought she was destined to be a wife and mother. But when she was in her early 30s, she was newly divorced and the single mother of a young child. Like so many Brandman students, she realized she needed a career. She just wasn’t sure what it would be.
I was very fortunate that I learned about the Women’s Opportunity Center, which sadly no longer exists. But it was a wonderful place where women in transition could go to get a career counseling, resume assistance, interviewing skills on a sliding scale.
And I had the great fortune of meeting a woman who became my mentor and my friend and she was able to coach me into identifying the next step in my career path, which included starting a master’s degree program at Chapman University.
But before starting back to school, Elizabeth needed to know what to study.
I took some aptitude testing, which I highly recommend. I took the Johnson O’Connor Center for Human Engineering testing in Los Angeles, which is a two-day commitment with a financial, but I highly recommend aptitude testing whether its Myers-Briggs or Strength Finder or many that are available. I believe that some are available through the Brandman Career Counseling Center, either at nominal or no charge. If you haven’t taken aptitude and interest testing, it’s a great way to learn about yourself and to find out perhaps how you’re naturally made, which always makes school and work a lot more enjoyable. So I did this aptitude testing and I discovered my strengths were in psychology and sociology. And so as I started looking for occupations or vocations within those segments, I stumbled upon graduate school programs. And initially, I thought I was going to be a career counselor and get my master’s degree in career counseling.
However as I was researching graduate programs I came across the organizational leadership program at Chapman and decided to pursue that, and that, you know, fundamentally changed the trajectory of my career and myself as a person.
I had read a book by Warren Bennis in the late ‘90s that actually was on the bestseller list on becoming a leader. And I think it was probably one of the first books that ever crossed over into the mainstream. And I read it and I thought, “Really? People do this? This is the career?” And I had no idea. So when I found the organizational leadership program. I said, “Wow, this is awesome!” so I decided to pursue the organizational leadership program. It just made so much sense and my career counselor just said, you know, I lit up — my whole .. my eyes, my person, and my demeanor changed when we were doing talking about that curriculum.
Being in school also introduced her to a new network of connections.
I was very fortunate. A classmate of mine was that Ingram Micro at the time and she was in the training development department, and I desperately needed to get back to work and start honing my skills and I was willing to work for free.
And at the time, there was a gentleman there who was a like-minded soul who was the head of the department and gave me a chance, which is what everyone usually needs someone to open the door and invite you in to participate.
And so I was really fortunate that I through a classmate at Chapman, I was able to get my first training position at Ingram Micro and it was a tremendous collaboration of spirit and people and opportunity.
Eventually, Elizabeth took another break from the workforce but was ready to return when her son headed off for college.
So I currently am the executive briefing consultant at Experian, here at our North American headquarters in Costa Mesa. I have the great privilege of working with our account representatives and their clients, and I assist in facilitating very high-level strategic business planning meetings between their high-level executives of our clients and the high-level executives at Experian. And that’s what makes it an executive briefing unique and different. One is the level of participation in that way decisions can actually be made during the course of the meeting as well as that it truly is a strategic business meeting, not a product push. It’s really talking to a client’s organizations about what’s top of mind for them, what’s keeping them up at night, how we can help them to achieve their business goals.
Here’s what the two portions of her career path have in common.
Well, the first step was the master’s degree in organizational leadership which was both a personally and professionally transformative experience. As you study organizational leadership, you obviously learn about yourself. Who are you as a leader? And some of the essential elements such as like what are your communication style. How do you work in a team? How do you work within the structure of the system within an organization? Those fundamental cornerstone pieces really set you up as an individual to re-enter organizations in a much different way. Because I had that wonderful transformative personal experience when I entered into organizations, especially through the training and development arena and I specialized in leadership sales and sales leadership. So I really was focused in on those skill sets. I really feel that I was able to contribute in a way that I hadn’t been before. So spending 15-16 years in organizational leadership, training and development, the skill set was very transferable to becoming an executive briefing consultant because I’m still putting on a meeting instead of a training. Organizational skills, attention to detail, communication and facilitation, and coaching are still the skills that I’m using on a daily basis.
It’s just now I’m not in front of the room anymore. I’m more of an air traffic controller and more of a coach and more of a cheerleader, which works great for me. I had my fill of being in front of the room so that was fine.
So it just it’s all really very naturally fallen into place in a sense, for as a natural as all of the other transitions have been.
These are some other skills Elizabeth sees as critical for careers like hers.
Well for training you have to want to be in front of the room. You have to enjoy public speaking. If that’s, you know, right up there with death, then, you know, obviously for some people it really is an absolutely horrific, you know, thought that they’re going to get up in front of a room. If you like being in front of a room, training and development is a great place to be. If you like education, because it’s educating adults, right. So it’s a lot of fun to do that in a work environment. Not that teaching students isn’t, it is it’s just a different type of teaching. And if you want to go into training and development, organization, attention to detail, public speaking, obviously very strong verbal and written communication skills, and professionalism. We need to look professional. You need to act professional and you need to be prepared to be a role model within an organization because you really are. Whether you’re doing on-boarding or representing the leadership, you are the spokesperson, you are a brand ambassador, whether they realize it or not you really are. For executive briefing, so great, it’s who I am. I learned about this career a year ago when I started. It was a natural transition for me because of my skill set. But again, highly polished, highly professional, extremely well-spoken, highly gracious, strong attention to detail, organizational, able to collaborate and work across the organization. So if you enjoy those kinds of things, if you like dressing up for meetings and you know being kind of the hostess or the host for the day or product person and some organization, I highly recommend executive briefing. Right.
She also has advice for those taking a break from the workplace and looking to return.
If you are able to continue to work at least two days a week, or you know make yourself available, to keep your skill set up, especially with the computer on whether it’s Outlook or PowerPoint or some of the more basic ones. I think it really is critical. If you have the opportunity to stay home or you’re in a different transition, I think it’s really important to continue to keep your skill set up and that was something I didn’t do. And I’ve had to play catch up as a result of that. Always networking, staying networking, I think is really important. So whether it’s professional organizations or church groups or wherever it is that you want to devote your time, volunteer work. Having a network is incredibly important because you’re going to need that network to open doors for you. I’m a huge believer in LinkedIn. Linked-In, I know it’s getting some criticism because it’s getting a little Facebooky with the birthdays and the anniversaries, but really for professional networking, it is a way to find some. Informational interviews — I highly recommend those. I would go on to LinkedIn and, whether was an industry or an occupation, sending someone a very professional email, saying, you know, I’m in transition and I’m looking to make a switch. Do you have 15 minutes? And very rarely did someone not have 15 minutes for me to speak with and ask them. Of course, I’d be prepared and ask them questions about how would I enter this industry, what are the skill sets you’re looking, for what are the opportunities?
And you never know those people could be the people who represent you into the organization. So networking, keeping your skills up, I think are really important during the time of the transitions, whether you’re out of work by choice or out of work by election. I would recommend those. And then when you’re ready to really get back to work, it’s its job right. And not getting down and knowing that there is the right job for you. And school certainly can be a huge component of that. If you get a certificate or you get some classes, further education and also a great networking opportunity and community building.
Elizabeth had one more piece of advice.
Persevere. Going back to school as an adult, usually at night with every or full day or daily commitment is, I get it. I understand it. It’s a grind but I think the most inspirational person that I’ve ever met was a classmate of mine in graduate school, who was the first person in her family to go to college, and it took her 10 years to get her undergraduate degree, because she paid for it herself, and it was a commitment, and then here she was a night school in graduate school. And that really hats off to her. I mean she transformed her life. She transformed her career. And I mean 10 years to get your undergraduate degree, that that really is, right, an uphill, a slow incline uphill.
No matter what your education or career path, Brandman University’s Career Center is available to offer guidance and opportunities. For more information, go to www.brandman.edu/career-services.
Career Talk podcasts are a production of Brandman University’s Communications Department. For stories, videos and more podcasts, go to www.nimbler.brandmannews.sachiel.xyz.
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