Donna Granato ’95 believes that getting ahead means hard work and not being afraid to take a chance on something new. She holds a bachelor’s from Rider and an MBA from NYU’s Stern Business School. After beginning her career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, she has worked primarily in the advertising and media industry. Recently, Granato launched R&D Venture Partners, which provides mergers and acquisitions advisory services to clients in marketing, consulting and technology.
These are her words of wisdom on how to approach the daunting task of navigating a career.
1. Look for opportunities, not jobs.
Sometimes, the right job opportunity is about finding the right company or people. Even if it isn’t the perfect long-term fit, don’t be afraid to go for it. During one of my best job experiences, I ran investor relations even though I knew little about it, but within a few years, I was tasked to run the corporate development group, my dream job. This opportunity came because I worked for people I knew would allow me to grow.
2. It’s OK to be a generalist.
I’ve worked for CEOs and CFOs and created value for them — and myself — as a jack-of-all-trades. When you take on new challenges that are out of your comfort zone, you learn something new that can make you better at your job while also showing others that you are smart and nimble. Those attributes make you invaluable to an organization.
3. Life is what happens when you’re making plans.
My first job was as an auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers. One of the things I liked best about it was that I could map out my career path to retirement — a staff accountant all the way through to partner. Twenty-one years and several companies later, I’ve gone back to school and have even become an entrepreneur. I thought I had it all figured out when I graduated, but I realized you can’t be scared of change. When you’re open to new opportunities, the sky is the limit.
4. Never underestimate the power of networking.
I’ve worked for eight companies and all but one of my jobs came from networking or leveraging relationships to get introductions to the right individuals. I’m my own headhunter. I’ve targeted companies I’m interested in and found ways to meet the right people, even in my first job and before LinkedIn. Today, technology has made networking easier than ever and there is no reason not to do it.
5. Explore every opportunity, even if you’re not looking.
No one is going to care about your career more than you. I have lived through three company mergers and lots of uncertainty. You never know where the next opportunity will lie. I always spoke to headhunters who called me, and I kept learning about the market even when I wasn’t looking. This made me an educated consumer when the time came for a more formal job search.