I began to wonder to myself, ‘how did I make it, coming from a young, single-family home with an absentee father?’ The difference for me was in receiving my education, listening to others and learning from those had gone on before me."
Shortly after this realization, Mario and his wife, Ana, made the move from Texas to Illinois. During that time, Mario accepted a position as a Director of Member Services at a national non-profit dedicated to the employment, development and advancement of Latino professionals. “In Chicago, I was able to start realizing what I wanted to do based on the power of an education,” said Vela. “I also started realizing the other piece in addition to my education — It’s really the career piece.”
After seeing a position for a Business Development Lead listed at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Mario was determined to begin taking a series of strategic steps to make a career shift. He reached out to his network to identify anyone who had a mutual connection to Kellogg, and began asking himself critical questions, such as, “How am I going to make my skill sets transferable to a premiere business school such as Kellogg?” and “What will it require?” Mario set out, preparing for the interview process almost methodically. “I took the interview very seriously - I had to be flawless because this was going to be a big shift,” he said. “I did my research, properly prepared for my interview on campus and landed the role.
Over the next two years, Mario was promoted to the Director of Employer Relations at The Kellogg School of Management. “When I first started, I was focused on new recruiting relationships, but now it has evolved into managing existing ones, as well as engaging up-and-coming industries through high-touch, high-return experiences.”
Today, Mario fulfills the early desire in his career to give back to others by educating students to learn about potential new industries and companies that may not have been on their radar. He also cultivates strategic employer relationships across all industries by active listening. “It’s important that I listen. I listen to industry experts to understand the market. I listen to the student’s interest, and it makes it much more effective to lead that way,” Vela explains. “I have a dedicated team that I work with and listen to in order to identify opportunities to improve relationships with employers.”
In this role, Mario oversees all of the employer partnership relationships, creating recruiting strategies and efforts for Kellogg’s student population. “Our team is very passionate about creating an amazing experience for both the employer and our Kellogg MBA grads,” Vela said. “Our students are absolutely fantastic. At the same time, it’s crucial that we have a return on investment when a company comes and recruits.”
“Listening has always been a part of my career,” Vela further explained. “How did I go to college? I listened to people who graduated. How did I shift from social services to diversity recruitment? How did I start working for Kellogg? I networked with a Kellogg alum. In all cases, I had to listen. That has always been a part of me.”
Listening has always been a part of my career."
When it comes to creating new employer partnerships, Mario leverages existing relationships. “Our best practice is to partner with a Kellogg alumni at that organization,” he stated. “Our alumni are very dedicated to us, and most HR groups will see their success.”
Mario and his team are most proud of the recruiter engagement scores they have received from employers. These scores evaluate how employers view Kellogg, its partnership and the success they have with its candidates.
For those preparing for an interview, actively seeking a new career or desiring to make one’s skill sets more transferable, Mario recommends:
On the flip side, if you are a candidate, Mario strongly encourages you to listen for the following cues in an interview setting:
Mario Vela is the Director of Employer Relations at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University located in Evanston, IL. In this role, he oversees the employer relations efforts for approximately 1,500 full time MBA students, 1,100 part time students and 500 Executive MBA students, and works to develop opportunities for an alumni base of more than 60,000.
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