The University Record, April 3, 2000

Brown-bag offers ‘how-tos’ for getting through the ‘Maize’

By Theresa Maddix

“You have to believe in yourself—think of yourself as capable and confident and know you can make a difference,” Marilyn Knepp told the assembled group at “Navigating the Maize,” a March 28 brown-bag presentation.

Knepp, assistant provost for university budget and planning, shared the platform with E. Karen Clark, human resources manager in LS&A. Their talk was sponsored by the Center for the Education of Women.

“I’ve never worked at a better place,” Knepp said of the University, and cited its intellectual and egalitarian atmosphere, alongside annual merit increases, good benefits and employee-centered policies.

Knepp began working at the University 21 years ago as a secretary in the Office of Academic Planning and Analysis, an office in which she was promoted five times to the level of director. She also earned her M.B.A. at the U-M while working full-time. Of her current job in the Office of the Provost, she says, “I think I have the best job at the U—it’s interesting, challenging, suits me perfectly and I get to work with very bright people at a wonderful institution.”

Knepp offered a few of “Karen’s phrases to remember”:

  • Contribute more than you cost.

  • Help your organization succeed.

  • Fix problems; don’t assign blame.

    Clark, who began work at the University in 1969, has left and come back twice. She finds her job as human resources manager highly rewarding and offered the following tips to working in the best possible job:

  • “Take advantages of opportunities in your own job,” Clark said, encouraging staff to reap the benefits of the University environment.

  • “Be willing to change. Think of your careers, jobs and expectations as being mobile. Sometimes we make wrong turns on our career path but we can turn again.

  • “Set goals,” Clark said, “and ask a friend to help you follow through with them.

  • “Pursue education. Formal education is important in an educational institution.

  • “Work at a job that interests you. It’s easy to be successful in a job that intrinsically interests you. Don’t take a job because it’s more money. Take one that interests you.”

  • Most of all, Clark said, “Continually improve.”

    Knepp offered tips on the job application process, from resume and cover letter to interview and follow-up.

    For Knepp, it is crucial that applicants “make the resume and cover letter perfect. One typo or spelling error automatically moves a resume from the ‘Yes’ pile to the ‘Maybe’ pile,” she said. Knepp also likes to see resumes tailored to a particular position, not just a tailored cover letter.

    Cover letters can contain even more specific language, pulling the wording from the job posting itself. The letters also should be personalized. If you don’t know who to address the letter to, “call them up” and find out who the office supervisor is and who’s in charge of hiring.

    Interview preparation, Knepp says, should include three lists: One descriptive list about the department and people who work there. The University Record Web archive has many helpful articles for this and many University units have their own Web pages.

    A second list should be prepared with potential interview questions and their answers. The third is a “confidence-builder list” with reasons why you are a great employee and facts, such as ‘supportive of others’ and ‘gets along with people.’

    Before the interview, Knepp says, use the restroom and read over the final two lists.

    After the interview, follow up promptly with a thank you note. For Knepp an e-mail message is inappropriate, but she says this might be all right for other employers.