By Kavina Patel, MPL, USC
On Friday, September 28th, several USC Price school alumni formed a panel to discuss their careers working in the private sector.
The panel discussion, “A Peek into the Private Sector” was organized by the USC Price Office of Career Services (OCS) and moderated by Seta Kenady, Associate Director of Employer Relations at OCS.
Photo credit to USC Price Office of Career Services staff, Dominic Alletto
Panelists included Shengao (Victor) Xie, a Price MPL alumnus who currently works as a transportation planner at AECOM’s Downtown Los Angeles. Your goal should be “to find something you like and are good at [which] sets you apart” advised Xie, who gained his professional experience from both public and private sectors.
Panelist Brandon McCall, a Price MPA alumnus, highlighted the diversity of projects and the flexibility in private sector jobs. He currently works at Enterprise Community Investments as a Senior Loan Officer, and is based in their Los Angeles office. McCall came to Enterprise with nearly a decade of community development lending experience working to bring creative capital solutions to underserved communities.
Melissa Steinbacher, Price MHA alumna, noted the importance of cover letters and resumes. She currently works as a manager in Deloitte’s Core Business Operations Health Care Provider practice. Prior to Deloitte she completed her residency at HealthCare Partners Medical Group and spent several years as a project manager in operations.
Concerning Visa sponsorships for international students hoping to work at AECOM or Deloitte, Xie and Steinbacher both agreed that employee performance is the most important factor.
Addressing the skill sets necessary to excel in private sectors, McCall described two categories: hard skills and soft skills. “It was important to understand numbers, visualization skills, GIS, and cost estimates” he said, describing hard skills. Assessing people, being able to adapt and learn, and interpersonal skills are a few soft skills that the panelists mentioned as important in the private sector.
All three panelists agreed that networking was one of the most efficient ways to access jobs. Events like networking nights, APA conferences, and WTS conferences would help in building a network, they shared. “You never know who might help you later,” said Xie. Steinbacher added, “there are 2 paths to join Deloitte: informal and formal. The formal method is to apply through internship programs of Deloitte and informal methods [involve] networking.”
“Work experience definitely helps. Try to create a selling point around the work experience in your cover letter and resume” said Xie. Steinbacher added, “Work on your elevator pitch. Be comfortable about bragging about yourself and push it to the next level; that’s how everyone markets themselves.”
To this point McCall said, “sometimes the most hard working person may not be promoted, but the most visible person may be.” Creating your own selling point helps in making a job for yourself.
“Everybody wants to move up. You can only move up if your manager can move up,” said Xie on the topic of career growth in the private sector. He believes that contributing well and reducing the work load of senior managers help towards creating a positive impression and that critical thinking and the ability to project confidence aid an employee’s successes.
About the author:
Kavina Patel earned a degree in Urban Planning from CEPT University, India before joining USC Price as a Master of Planning Student focusing on Transportation Planning. She currently serves as the Lead Graphic Designer for METRANS.