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A firm handshake, a meeting of the eyes

March 21, 2014
Peter Garrity

Peter Garrity

During Souper Wednesday, alumnus Peter Garrity gave invaluable tips on how to be successful during an interview and on the job.

Although this weekly lunch hour event is designed for University Honors students to learn from alumni, his tips are beneficial to anyone who is searching for a job or already employed.

Garrity, who serves on the board of directors for the NIU Alumni Association, has worked in the corporate world for more than 40 years and recently retired as a field service director from Snap-on.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in marketing from NIU in 1971, Garrity landed a job with Proctor & Gamble and built relationships with retailers to market paper products that have become a household name, such as Charmin, Bounty and Puffs.

“One of the areas that I had a lot of interest in was product management. I liked to be on the inside developing products, figuring out how to move those products out on the marketplace,” Garrity said.

Peter Garrity at Souper Wednesday

To advance his opportunities, he attended night classes over three-and-a-half years while maintaining a job and earned his master’s degree in business administration from NIU.

Because of NIU, Garrity said, he became a successful businessman who could win against other competitors.

To give students insight on interviewing, he suggested:

  • Research the company. For instance, find out what people think about the company’s products, look at an employer’s website and quarterly reports and know the movers and shakers.
  • During an interview, it’s paramount to offer a firm handshake and look the person in the eye.

Once on the job, he said, the first 90 days are critical to show productivity, interest and engagement so your manager knows that you were the right choice.

NIU Alumni Association logo“When leaving a company for whatever reason, you want to work as hard during the last 90 days as you did during the first 90 days,” Garrity said. “You want to leave them wanting you to stay and you want to build a bridge to show that you’re the kind of person that stays with the task at hand.”

That work commitment is critical to maintain a network, he said, and working with staff in other disciplines can expand networking and job opportunities as well.

He suggested using the same foresight on the job that Wayne Gretzky had to gain control of a puck.

“See where the action is” to gain positioning and help with the growth of a company, he said.