B-schools may excel at helping MBA students land jobs, but what happens later when grads are looking for career changes?
According to John Gordon, former senior executive at IBM, General Electric, Bose Corporation and Lenovo, universities are heavily involved with supporting current students’ career paths. However, alumni coaching often falls to the wayside. “There’s this gap once you’ve left school,” Gordon shares with Poets&Quants. “Plenty offer alumni coaching, but they just hope that not all of their alumni call them on it because they don’t have the capacity.”
An MBA grad from University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, Gordon spent his career helping companies launch their next divisions. Through this experience, he saw how many people struggled to grow their careers; many didn’t know how to navigate their next steps despite graduating from business school a few years earlier. And he realized that instead of helping companies grow, he wanted to help people.
SCALING ALUMNI CAREER PLANNING
In July 2022, Gordon left the corporate world and launched a free online career planning platform called Whomi shortly after. His mission: help every person find a career that they love. “The biggest thing you do in your life is sleep,” he says. “The second biggest thing is work. We want to help people feel like they used their time well.”
Since developing the platform in October 2022, Whomi launched their pilot partnership with University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business in November and plans on helping several other B-schools scale alumni career planning, too. The platform offers universities two things: the ability to stay in touch with alumni and help people be proactive in their career growth. “I’d love to see our work drive up business schools’ engagement with their alumni in ways that they haven’t yet been able to achieve,” he says.
The platform will be monetized similarly to LinkedIn, where people can pay for upgrades and extra features. However, they want to keep the base of career planning free so that it’s accessible to everyone.
HOW WHOMI WORKS
The name, Whomi, derives from the question many business grads ask themselves: Who am I? To answer this question, Whomi users are asked to get curious; they go through a guided networking phase in order to discover what they want out of their career and position themselves for success. “Business is a really ambiguous career path,” says Gordon. “There are so many different ways you could go, and there’s no blueprint.”
Similar to a social networking site — but with much more privacy features — users form their ‘inner circle,’ which is made up of the person’s trusted colleagues and peers. Then, each user is asked a series of questions that help them determine their career goals and next steps.
But Gordon doesn’t want students to just fill out the questions and leave it at that. In fact, he says that the whole point of the process is for users to go and talk to people in their inner circles to learn how they can get to their next level. “We want them to draft their answers, get feedback, and finalize every one of these answers — step by step,” he says. “I’d love for Whomi users to feel like they have a place where they can be authentic and really wrestle with issues with a group that cares about them.”
Gordon says that the intentionality behind answering them is crucial. “It’s about stopping and asking people who know and care about you – and who have insight — for their thoughts and feedback,” he continues.
In fact, Gordon believes that feedback is a prerequisite for career growth. “It’s what unlocks the difference between people who grow their careers and people who get stuck because they just try to do it on their own,” he explains.
THE POWER OF MENTORSHIP: ‘ALL OF US GET STUCK IN OUR OWN HEADS’
But being open to feedback means being willing to get uncomfortable; although it can be vulnerable to ask for help, rarely do humans grow from their comfort zones. “All of us get stuck in our own heads,” he says. “We only have the benefit of knowing our own experience. And sadly, that’s never enough to think through all of the possibilities.”
In Gordon’s former career, he realized what set high-level executives up for success: the willingness to be in the driver’s seat of their careers. Just like in asking for feedback, driving your own career requires vulnerability. “There are plenty of really smart people working in companies,” explains Gordon. “But the folks who are leaders were vulnerable enough early on to ask people for advice, learn about their options, and go for it.”
Rather than waiting around for opportunities to show up, Gordon wants Whomi to empower users to become “hunters” rather than “gatherers” when it comes to work. “You can make a lot more progress when you’re driving your career than when you’re just drifting,” he continues.
SCALING ALUMNI PLANNING ‘AT A LEVEL THAT’S NEVER BEEN POSSIBLE’
Aside from partnering with University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, the Whomi team has also worked with NC State University’s Poole College of Management in their entrepreneurship clinic, and has spoken about building impactful careers at University of Tennessee Knoxville Haslam College of Business. “Universities care about you throughout your career,” he adds. “And Whomi is going to allow them to scale alumni planning at a level that’s never been possible.”
“This is the place where people can be authentic and ask, ‘what should I be working on and how can I get to my next level?’” he says.
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.