When Yolonde Smith (’17) entered Southern Nazarene University’s MBA program, specializing in Health Care Administration, she hoped that her new degree would catapult her into a successful career as a healthcare administrator. However, with little guidance and information about career paths, Yolonde struggled to figure out the best direction forward.

In this career path, job descriptions require Registered Nurses, not non-clinically degreed personnel. “What I’m finding in school is that there’s not a lot of information they’re giving us on what healthcare administrators should be doing. We know what accountants do, we know what financial officers do, and we need mentors to help guide us,” Yolonde explained.

Then, she received an email about the SNU Alumni Career Network, a platform that could connect her to key advisors in her field. Yolonde connected with Dr. Robert Wood (’02), an advisor who opened her eyes to a new, unconventional way of looking for opportunities.

Robert told Yolonde not just to look on conventional sites like LinkedIn and Careerbuilder, but to get out and network with people in her desired career area. Yolonde began to look at areas where health administrators in her area were meeting and signed up for a mixer.  In addition, she began participating in relevant school clubs in order to meet people in her desired career area—a piece of tangible advice not easily found in a standard school program.

Robert knew a lot about unconventional career paths himself: after completing a bachelor’s degree at SNU mid-career, and then a master’s and doctorate degree at other universities, he began managing a family of companies that provides engineering and IT services to the government. To all of his mentees on the SNU Alumni Career Network, he stresses the importance of taking an unconventional approach to job hunting.

“When you apply to a job online, not getting a response is kind of the norm,” Robert explained. “If there’s an ideal role you’re trying to get into, tackle it from the nontraditional methods. Anybody can transmit a résumé over the Internet into somebody’s database and get it rejected.”

Candidates who want to make it to the next steps should also look at their own networks, he explained, by figuring out if they know someone who works there and learning everything they can about the organization.

Helping students learn to navigate these untraditional methods on the SNU Alumni Career Network has allowed Robert to give back to a community that helped him make an important mid-career change—now, he can teach new SNU students that sometimes, the best path to success is the unconventional one.