Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Fall 2009

Huntsman graduate has weathered changes; shares her tips to success

Editor’s note: Danette McGilvray has been invited to speak at conferences throughout the United States and in Europe. She has written a book, “Executing Data Quality Projects: Ten Steps to Quality Data and Trusted Information.” The Jon M. Huntsman School of Business presented her the Professional Achievement Award in February 2009. She is now the president and principal consultant of Granite Falls Consulting. Her continual career progress since she graduated in 1991 has been fueled, in part, by her ability to adapt to changing workplace conditions. For many of us, the struggling economy has brought an uncomfortable amount of uncertainty into our lives. We know Huntsman students need to be flexible and be ready to adapt to succeed after graduation. That’s why we asked McGilvray to share with us her top five career tips.

Author and consultant says “showing up” is a key to career success

Danette McGilvray

(Photo by Steve Eaton)

By Danette McGilvray

It seems that change has been a part of my life since I graduated and accepted a job offer in California. The first company I worked for was bought out less than a year later and with that change came new responsibilities. I also had to adjust and create opportunities when a corporation I worked for split into two different companies. Four years ago I started my own firm. My clients come from organizations of all sizes, with the majority being Fortune 500 companies. With that background, let me share with you my top five career tips for this changing economy.

1. Show up!

I have heard some complain that it’s not what you know but who you know that makes a difference when you get a job. The truth is – it is both. No matter how good you are at what you do, if no one knows you, how can they hire you? Join a professional association and attend its local meetings. Go to conferences and talk to other people sitting next to you in the sessions. Exchange business cards. Show up at the luncheons and receptions. Participate in company activities. Invite a colleague to lunch.

2. Hone and expand your communication skills

Communication includes verbal, written and people skills. Figure out what you are good at and find ways to develop new strengths. If the majority of your communication looks like: “How R U? cl me! TTFN,” you might want to consider expanding your written communication skills. If you have limited your job search to postings on the internet, realize that only a very small percentage of jobs are found that way. Learn how to talk to people. If the last time you looked for a job was before the Internet existed, learn about other forms of communication to complement a hardcopy resume and cover letter. Use on-line communities such as LinkedIn or Facebook that can help you make the most of your professional network.

3. Build your network of trusted colleagues

No one can do it all on their own. You need to find allies you can turn to for advice in dealing with a situation, to brainstorm new ideas or to commiserate when things are not going well. Trusted colleagues can be both inside and outside of your company and may include peers, those who are subordinates and those above you on the organization chart.

4. Be a trusted colleague

Figure out what you have to offer and contribute. Continue to learn and develop your expertise. Be a person that someone can call for advice, brainstorming or support. Be willing to share your time and talents. Join the planning committee for a professional function or present at a conference. Volunteer and use your business talents to help a charitable organization. Follow through on your commitments. If you make a mistake, fix it and move on. Your actions tell who you are and people remember that.

5. Show up!

So, did I emphasize this one enough? Every major job opportunity that has come my way has been due to meeting someone when I showed up. It started when one of my professors at USU required us to join the student chapter of a professional association. That organization hosted a dinner for the speakers the night before a Partners In Business seminar. I met the vice president of a high tech company from California at the dinner and then attended his session the next day. He inquired about my resume and asked if I would be interested in coming to California to work. I ended up getting a job there and moving my family to the San Francisco Bay area, a career move that has proven challenging and rewarding.

Showing up also made a difference when meeting potential clients. Over time, showing up gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that I had the capabilities and the experience to help them solve their problems. This approach has opened doors for me and allowed me to build my business. This global marketplace we are in changes continually. That can be a good thing if we prepare for and seize the opportunities that come our way. If we have the skills and we look to serve, we can create our own luck and a rewarding career too.

Danette McGilvray is president and principal of Granite Falls Consulting, Inc. ( and is the author of Executing Data Quality Projects: Ten Steps to Quality Data and Trusted Information™ (Morgan Kaufmann, 2008). She may be contacted at Do you have an idea for your own Vision column? Send it to