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Past WIU Presents on the Future

Tabi Jozwick

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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 elevatospeech and how you do that is learn your elevator speech off your resume.”

Leahy  said  that  the  resume  is aimportant    document    anit should not only focus on just the work and educationahistory, 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.”

Leahsaithaoncstudents enter the workforce, their employ- ers do not care where they received their degrees or what their grades were, but rather results.

“It’no abouhoharyou 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- dentsregardlesof theimajors 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.”

Leahmentioned    that  a  company’s    business    culture,    whateveit is professionasportor another industry, is very important and even the change in ownershianpersonnecoullead to the changin the company’s business culture.

“The   ChicagCub have   done a coupl of thing over the last two years, which led them to their world championship,Leahy said. “They went out and hired a  new generamanagerwhwathe 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    technologyancertain 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    whateveindustry    people    enter, they must  work  on  improving  themselves 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- cal website(andattentrade conferences     within    the    indus– try. If they do that, they will do continuineducationeedeto 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 thoughof th GEICcommercial,”  LeahsaidYoremember the GEICO commercial with the camel  walking  thoughmaking 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.”

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Past WIU Presents on the Future