Spotlight – Sheila Curran, Curran Consulting Group
CEO and Chief Strategy Consultant, Curran Consulting Group
What was your career path (previous roles) to get your current role? Executive Director, Career Center, Duke University; Director of Career Services, Brown University; Director of Organizational Development, Brown University
What was your first job? Receptionist, Library Personnel Office, University of Michigan
Why did you choose this career? I held many director-level roles in human resources before switching to careers. My move to careers was serendipitous, in that the Dean of the College asked me to fill in as director for a six month period. I discovered I really enjoyed the work and applied for the full time position. I have loved the careers world because I’ve been given the opportunity to make a difference in students’ and graduates’ lives on both a macro and micro level.
What is the skill that is most important in your current role? Being able to see how a college or university can achieve strategic goals, and align its vision with action
How did you develop this skill and how do you fine-tune it regularly? It helps to be a critical thinker, who is always considering how to do things better. In my past jobs, I’ve always started with the end in mind, and then worked creatively with staff to make the best use of people, finances and technology. As a consultant, every Strategic Opportunity Assessment (my version of an external review) challenges me to consider a college’s needs and opportunities, and to see how they can achieve better results. I am learning all the time.
Did you have a mentor? If so, how did that mentor help in your career development? I have had many mentors–usually bosses. They have been the people who gave me opportunities to grow, to overcome weaknesses, and to encourage my passion for making a difference.
Did you hold any EACE leadership roles? No. I have presented at EACE several times, which pushed me to do research, hone my ideas, and enhance my communication skills.
What is your biggest career accomplishment? I have been able to demonstrate to leaders of colleges and universities around the country how career initiatives can be an institutional strategic advantage.
What is your advice to students looking for their first job? Know where you can add value. Remember, when it comes to getting a job it’s no longer about you; it’s about how you can use your education, skills and talents for the benefit of the employer.
What is your advice to young professionals in the field who aspire to your current role? As a consultant, you must be able to answer the question “why should we hire you”, and “sell” your expertise, approach and results. A good strategy is to develop deep expertise in an area where those buying the service need that knowledge, but typically do not have it. You should also go to training on how to start a business to decide whether you have the kind of personality and drive for this kind of work.
What was the best career advice you have ever received? Act “as if”, and learn very fast. No one wants to pay for your learning curve.
What would you like colleagues to know about your organization (i.e. hiring practices/programs)? We are a boutique company that specializes in helping academic institutions achieve strategic goals–frequently in the careers area. We differentiate ourselves from other entities that do similar work by not only providing analysis, “quick wins” and longer term recommendations, but also by building implementation services into our proposals. We evaluate our success based on the percentage of clients who invite us to perform additional assignments and the percentage who achieve personal and institutional success from our consultation.
Sheila visited her career center while in college.