“If you want something, tell the world,” says Jennifer Chenoweth ’07 MBA. As she celebrates her 13th work anniversary at Target Corp., Chenoweth emphasizes the power of networking in her explanation of how she started at the company.
After working at Ford Motor Co. negotiating with car dealers, Chenoweth was looking for a way to translate her skills into the retail market. Although she met many Target team members at St. Thomas while pursuing her MBA, Chenoweth’s eventual connection to the company was found through an unlikely source.
“My insurance agent connected me to a person at Target who ended up being on the team that hired me,” she said. This single connection made by chance opened up a world of opportunities. Starting in a role in retail negotiations, she eventually transitioned to working as a buyer, then worked to help implement Target’s clinics. Throughout her time in this new position, Chenoweth assisted in training buyers – a role which then helped her to take the next step in her career.
Searching for a role within Target that allowed for more flexibility while she was pregnant with twins, Chenoweth moved into a part-time role in human resources, similar to what she had been doing when she was training new buyers. As the lead learning and development consultant, Chenoweth creates programs to teach team members working everywhere from headquarters to distribution centers and stores. This can prove challenging, especially when considering factors such as technology constraints and the vulnerability that learning requires. However, Chenoweth’s goal is to not only make sure that these teaching programs are effective, but for team members to enjoy them as well. “That’s always my success factor … You’ve learned something, but you might not even have known you were learning something because you were having so much fun inside of the experience.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of Chenoweth’s job at Target is its alignment with her own personal values, including the importance of helping others. “I feel like everyone was born with a purpose, and that part of my role is to help people live out that purpose,” she states. “Through helping people grow and develop into their best selves, I feel like I’m really making an impact on the world.”
This value also translates into Chenoweth’s side business, The LinkedIn Gal. This consulting service run by Chenoweth helps individuals and small businesses learn to market themselves and their brands. Chenoweth gives credit to the professors who taught her MBA program at St. Thomas for helping her determine that starting a business was right for her. What excited Chenoweth about St. Thomas’ program was the amount of real-world experience that the professors brought to the table. “I needed someone to tell me, ‘In theory this is how it’s going to work, and in actuality here’s five different ways this could actually turn out.’”
Chenoweth is especially thankful for advice that she received from Alec Johnson, associate professor of entrepreneurship. Chenoweth recalls three principles that Johnson taught her class to use in order to evaluate whether a business opportunity was the right decision for them: me, money and market. “Me, meaning do I have a personal passion around this thing? Do I want to talk about it all day, every day? Money … Will it give me the money I need to survive? Or like, will anyone pay me to do this? And market, meaning are there people out there that have a problem that your service or product will solve?” After taking these factors into account, Chenoweth decided to proceed with opening The LinkedIn Gal. “I started a business because of my MBA and St. Thomas,” she says.
As a LinkedIn expert who knows the power of networking, Chenoweth has some advice for undergraduate students setting up their LinkedIn profiles for the first time. “Just get out there and start something,” she says. “Talk about the lessons that taught you on leading a team, or coming up with a strategy, or giving feedback. Because all of those soft skills can be really attractive and very translatable inside of your career.” Chenoweth also encourages students to reach out to others for help when necessary, and to be sure to look at the examples set for them on LinkedIn by their parents. “Many of them [undergraduate students] probably don’t look to their parents as great examples of how to be on social media, and the exception to that rule is probably LinkedIn.” Through looking at the examples set on LinkedIn by other adults in their lives, students can learn how to better leverage their own experiences, Chenoweth explains. “LinkedIn really transcends all ages.”
Whether she is working in her role at Target or The LinkedIn Gal, Chenoweth maintains that her biggest priority is ensuring that her work adheres to her core values, especially that of family. “… My work is a means to support my family, and if I can have joy inside of that, that’s just the icing on the cake,” she says. “I hope my career continues to grow and develop in a way that constantly honors my values.”