Earlier this week we had the opportunity to interview a current employee of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Brett Hulse is the Director of Membership Strategy for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He has been with the organization since 2012. He started out as a Membership Development Manager, and became the Director of Membership Strategy recently. We asked him about his career experience and what is important in the early stages of professional development.
Indiana INTERNnet: Can you gives a brief background about your early career development?
Brett Hulse: I grew up as the son of a golf professional and spent most of my early years at the golf course. From an early age, I was confident that I would follow in my father’s shoes. For 5 years I worked in this capacity, but eventually the lack of work-life balance made this career undesirable. I wasn’t sure where I might land next, but luckily, I had developed a strong network in the community, including several individuals who worked for Cummins. I leveraged these relationships to secure a role in the supply-chain side of the company, and then advanced into a sales and marketing role working with a key customer. After 5 years at Cummins, I found a good fit at the Chamber in membership development. Seeking a more strategic role, I transitioned to my current position where I lead strategic initiatives to improve membership recruitment and retention and oversee the day-to-day operations of the membership team.
INN: What skills did you gain while working at Cummins that helped you with your current role?
BH: My roles at Cummins required me to interact with people, both co-workers and customers, in a wide variety of functional areas – logistics, purchasing, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and finance, to name a few. I also worked closely with individuals up and down the organizational chart, from shipping clerks to vice presidents. To manage these relationships effectively, I had to be an effective communicator and be able to develop a strong rapport, both of which serve me well in my role at the Chamber.
IIN: What would you have done differently before starting your career?
BH: My “internships” generally consisted of me returning home during the summers to work for my dad at the golf course. If I could do it all over again, I would use that time to explore some different career paths in other industries. This would have served me well when I was contemplating leaving the golf business early in my career.
IIN: When you’re recruiting new candidates for your department what do you look for?
BH: There are three things that I think are key for the roles in our department (and most business development roles in general). First, be a strong communicator and be able to develop a rapport with the person you are trying to convince to invest. Second, be able to take a complex issue (often legislation in our case) and make it both compelling and easy to understand. And third, have confidence in yourself and your ability to do the first two items!
IIN: What would you recommend to young professionals who are about to start their job search?
BH: Figure out what is really important to you and seek out organizations that can offer those things. Is great pay and benefits at the top of your list? Great! Seek out organizations that can offer that. Want to care deeply about the work you’re doing? Maybe a non-profit is what you are looking for. But don’t discount your quality of life outside of work. So many young professionals these days are considering where they want to live as they search for jobs, which I think is great. I likely could have had a long career at Cummins, but grew tired of spending 90+ minutes in the car each day commuting between Columbus and my home in Indy. Being a short bike trip or bus ride away from the office was really important for me, and I’m happier because I have that now.
IIN: What tips do you suggest for networking opportunities?
BH: Networking can be challenging and uncomfortable at times but can pay big dividends – each job I’ve had came about because someone within my network came to me with an opportunity. Find ways to make your network as diverse as possible – other young professionals are great to know, but people more established in their careers will be able to more easily open doors for you. And take risks and reach out to people! Is there someone you don’t know personally, but you think would be a good connection to have? Offer to buy them coffee and pick their brain. Having a strong network will enrich your life in so many ways, both personally and professionally.
IIN: Any last pieces of advice?
BH: Be bold and take chances! I had a colleague at Cummins who, as a soon to be graduating senior at a tiny liberal arts college, sent an out of the blue email to the CFO of the company with her resume. Keep in mind, this is essentially the second most powerful person at a Fortune 200, global company. He passed her resume on to someone, she got an interview and was able to kickstart her career with a great first job.