Past WIU Presents on the Future
February 15, 2017
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Western Illinois University hosted Jim Leahy this week to talk about his experiences as an alumni and in his post-academic career.
Leahy, who is the Chief Operating Officer of Veterans Canteen Services within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), delivered his presentation “The future is bright. Are YOU ready for it?” on Tuesday and Wednesday in Stipes Hall.
“When I joined the VA, I was excited because all of the sudden, I get to serve my country in a civilian capacity,” Leahy said. “I never served in the military, (but) my father served in the Marine Corps and my father in law (also served) and I have a high regard of the military effort, so this is the opportunity for me to serve my country in a civilian capacity.
During his presentation, Leahy talked about the importance of creating a good first impression when meeting someone, whatever it is for an interview or while networking.
“The first 30 seconds, when you walk into the job interview and you shake the hand of that hiring official, they have already made a decision on you,” Leahy said.
Leahy stressed that it is important for everyone to be able to deliver the elevator speech about themselves.
“If you can’t talk about yourself, nobody else can talk about you,” Leahy said. “You need to know your elevator speech and how you do that is learn your elevator speech off your resume.”
Leahy said that the resume is an important document and it should not only focus on just the work and educational history, but also achievements.
“It’s more about what you have accomplished while (you have) been here at Western,” Leahy said. “Talk about one or two stories about your internships or special projects, (even) a special leadership opportunity that you have here at Western that is really important.”
Leahy said that once students enter the workforce, their employ- ers do not care where they received their degrees or what their grades were, but rather results.
“It’s not about how hard you worked and how much time you put in your job,” Leahy said. “What it means is about results. What are you getting done to help move the mission forward?”
Leahy’s comments during his lec- ture were not only geared towards business students, but for all stu- dents, regardless of their majors and what industries they will enter. “I think in the healthcare field, that is a great example, is that you’re
providing patient care, patient safety and that the patient is a customer,” Leahy said. “You got to make sure you’re providing a comfort- ing and an enjoyable experience for them, answering all of their questions if they have any and the services that are provided for them. Many of the principles in business can be applied to any industry, and I think that the healthcare industry is a good example of that.”
Leahy mentioned that a com– pany’s business culture, what– ever it is professional sports or another industry, is very important and even the changes in owner– ship and personnel could lead to the change in the company’s business culture.
“The Chicago Cubs have done a couple of things over the last two years, which led them to their world championship,” Leahy said. “They went out and hired a new general manager, who was the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, Theo Epstein, who is very successful. Epstein won three world championships with Boston and the Chicago Cubs and then the Chicago Cubs went out and hire Joe Maddon, their manager. By hiring leadership at those levels, they change the culture of the Chicago Cubs organization from a mind- set of ‘maybe we can win’ to ‘we are going to win.’ As a result of that, they win and I think that is a huge thing.”
Leahy said that for an industry to be successful, it is the people that are key.
“It’s not about going out and spending a lot of money on IT (information technology) and certain things, but it’s about people,” Leahy said. “You’ve got to find the right people and put them in the right position and that’s what the Chicago Cubs did.”
Leahy stressed that whatever industry people enter, they must work on improving them– selves in order to be successful in their careers.
“They have to get involved in their industry trade groups, what- ever industry they go in,” Leahy said. “They need to know the trade magazines and the trade periodi- cals websites (and) attend trade conferences within the indus– try. If they do that, they will do continuing education needed to be successful.”
Leahy said he hoped that certain things will stick with the students who listened to his presentation, such as the GIECO camel commer– cial as an example.
“When I got up that morning, I thought of the GEICO commercial,” Leahy said. “You remember the GEICO commercial with the camel walking though, making fun of everything and having a good time? What I like about that commercial is that it’s a sticky commercial. You remember the name and that’s the purpose of my presentation.”