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Spotlight – Ralph Brigham, Southwestern Advantage

Ralph Brigham

Global Director of Campus Relations, Southwestern Advantage

Ralph-BrighamRalph received at B.S. degree and a M.Ed. from Northern Montana College.  He also received an Ed.D. from Montana State University.  Ralph has been in his current role with Southwestern Advantage for 12 years.

What was your career path to get your current role? Guidance counselor (high school), Coord. of Student Activities, Registrar/Director of Admissions, Assistant Registrar, Director of Career Services, Global Director of Campus Relations

What was your first job? Feeding chickens, pigs and cattle on the farm – oh, you don’t mean literally my very first job. My first job after college was serving in the Army in Germany as a photographer at a ski resort, then as a ski patrolman.

Why did you choose this career? I’ve always enjoyed working with students and helping them grow in whatever avenues of life they would like to pursue. I didn’t apply for my current position nor my last job, I was sought out and convinced that I was the right person for these jobs.

What is the skill that is most important in your current role? Relationship building

How did you develop this skill and how do you fine-tune it regularly? I am continually working on this skill. The question I often ask of those I’m coaching is “What percent of any relationship that you are in are you responsible for?” I get answers ranging from 49% to 100%. The right answer is 100% and that’s not always easy to keep in mind.

Did you have a mentor?  I have had several mentors as I’ve moved to different jobs and volunteer leadership positions. I think it’s important to keep in mind that it is the responsibility of the mentee to keep the relationship going and to keep asking questions. I’m not afraid to ask questions and I think that has been useful over the years.

Did you hold any EACE leadership roles? I have not held leadership roles within EACE. However, I have served as president of the the following associations: National Association of Colleges and Employers, Rocky Mountain Association of Colleges and Employers, Montana Career Planning and Placement Association, and the Bozeman (Montana) Chamber of Commerce. All of these roles have been tremendously helping in shaping the ways that I work and lead today.

Sam Ratcliff introducing Ralph into NACE Academy of Fellows

Sam Ratcliff, long-time EACE member and current NACE President, introducing Ralph into NACE Academy of Fellows in 2013

What is your biggest career accomplishment? NACE presidency, being inducted into the NACE Academy of Fellows and attending professional meetings in Australia, Great Britain, Lithuania and South Africa

What is your advice to students looking for their first job? Start working on what you might like that job to be as a freshman. Get to know your professors; go to Career Services; do more than one internship; design the resume you would like to have as a graduating senior, but in your freshman year, complete with GPA, experiences, organizations, etc.; network with other students, alumni and professionals; remember that your success is determined by the books you read (outside courses) and the people you hang around with, so choose both wisely.

What is your advice to young professionals in the field who aspire to your current role? Get involved early and often – but that is so cliche. Go to professional meetings; local, regional and national. Work with a mentor, hire a coach, set goals, have an accountability partner. Don’t just settle, but shoot for the stars and if you fall short at least you’ll hit the moon.

What was the best career advice you have ever received? Do your job so well that someone will notice your excellence and come and recruit you for a new job, so you don’t have to apply.

What would you like colleagues to know about your organization? Southwestern Advantage, established in 1855, is the longest running summer program for entrepreneurial college and university students. We recruit about 2,500 college students from some 300 campuses in North America and Europe for a summer internship and those first-year students average approximately $8,000 in that summer. But even more important are the skills they develop, such as setting goals, being motivated, listening, reading people, selling, and negotiating. Students receive, free of charge, over $3,000 of professional business and sales training before embarking on their internship so that upon arrival they are able to hit the ground running.

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