Business conference inspires students’ careers

Judith Jones speaks to attendees of the Spirit of Women in Business Conference after accepting the 2014 Spirit of Women in Business Award, Wednesday, March 05, 2014, in the student center ballroom.

Paul Csizmadia

Judith Jones speaks to attendees of the Spirit of Women in Business Conference after accepting the 2014 Spirit of Women in Business Award, Wednesday, March 05, 2014, in the student center ballroom.

Michael Lopick

Farai Chideya recalls her interview with a woman she refers to as “Kristen,” a 20-year-old prostitute and past heroin addict turned shipbuilding welder, as “exemplifying joy and resilience through work.”

“After being a prostitute since she was 12 and becoming addicted to heroin, Kristen decided one day that she wouldn’t be living much longer if she kept following her current path,” Chideya said. “She detoxed herself off heroin and took a job as a chambermaid for the very hotel she turned tricks in. With that money she went to a trade school and took up ship welding, which she continues to this day.”

Kristen went from making $800 per day as a prostitute to $80 per day working for the hotel and $300 a day welding, but Chideya said the career change allowed Kristen to find her “right work,” a job in which she now takes great pride.

Chideya shared her experiences about how she found the “right work”  at the Spirit of Women in Business Conference held Wednesday in the Student Center Ballroom. She has worked as a journalist for Newsweek magazine, CNN, ABC News and NPR. She said her lectures and books bring the human experience to life through discovering people’s “right” career fields while teaching them to act ethically in them.

The conference, hosted by the College of Business Administration and Kent State Women’s Center, aimed to provide female students with informational and inspirational lectures as well as networking opportunities.

The event started with a conference kick-off as the College of Business Administration awarded the Spirit of Women in Business Award to Kent State alumna Judith A. Jones. Jones, a 1964 graduate of the College of Business Administration’s Masters of Business Administration program, was the first woman to receive an MBA from the university.

The event also included a morning keynote speech given by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy who discussed her work on power posing — brief, nonverbal expressions of understanding and power.

Chideya’s luncheon address hoped to address students’ future career concerns and teach them “how to assess what career options are available nationally and internationally, while finding the right one,” she said.

“Americans are working harder, faster and better while virtually getting nothing for it,” she said. “Right now a lot of people are scared, especially graduating students. To find the job you’re meant to do, not just one that pays the bills is important because that’s the only way to excel.”

To illustrate her point, Chideya highlighted her interview with a woman named Hazel she conducted for her upcoming book, “The Right Work.”

“Hazel was a human resource professional who normally wouldn’t have any troubles finding a job, but after leaving hers to take care of an ill father, the recession prevented her from acquiring one,” Chideya said. “After spending her savings and moving into a shelter, she began doing what she did best: human resources. During her time in the shelter, she began helping other displaced workers find jobs and through doing her right work, became human resource director for the shelter.”

Her advice was simple and to the point: Enjoy life and be resilient.

“All you need to survive is joy and resilience,” she said. “Don’t take life too seriously because the breaks you take give you the energy and motivation to persevere when things get tough.”

Sophomore communication studies major Rachel Stine said she was inspired to worry less and reach out to others more.

“It’s refreshing to have a professional give such a fun, candid talk about student’s future professional lives,” Stine said. “She really drove home the importance of working in a career you feel happy in and how connecting with others can help you do it.”

Contact Michael Lopick at [email protected]