Graduates of the class of 2011 will soon find themselves out of the
classroom and on with their careers.
“This transition can be a recipe for happiness or heartache,” says Jeffery
Smith, director of the Banta
Center for Business, Ethics and Society at the University of
Redlands. Graduates who “find themselves in an environment that is in
agreement with their personal values can more seamlessly transition from
personal to professional life.
“When a graduate lands in a work environment that conflicts with his or
her values, dissatisfaction and disillusionment can take their toll – on
both the employee and employer,” Smith says. “That is why it is so
important for graduates to match not only their skill and experience
with an organization, but their ethical identity as well.”
The field of corporate ethics has had a presence in the C-suite for less
than 20 years, according to Tim Mazur, chief operating officer of the Ethics
and Compliance Officer Association. While it began in response to
defense contracting practices during President Ronald Reagan’s
administration, today organizations as diverse as Starbucks and Newmont
Mining are known for their social responsibility and ethics codes.
“Ethics responsibilities and leadership are found at the top of
companies from the CEO to the Board of Directors, but they are the
responsibility of every employee and embedded in all management
decisions. Organizations are looking for candidates with a strong work
ethic and values,” Mazur says.
To determine if the organization with which a graduate plans to
interview or accept a position is a match, Smith advises graduates to do
1. Visit the organization’s website to see if it provides public
information about its code of conduct and company values.
2. Listen carefully when the interviewer gives an example of how the
company met a specific challenge or handled a recent controversy.
3. Ask questions about the company’s communications climate or listen
for clues when the interviewer explains how decisions are made or
controversy is handled. Open, transparent communication is a positive
indicator of an ethical company.
4. Graduates should ask themselves what type of values they want the
organization to be known for and examine the company responses and
public face to see how it measures up.
5. Be prepared to respond to questions about his or her personal values
and ethics and provide examples of situations where they had to confront
decisions that might have challenged them.
Smith emphasizes that ethical decisions are not silo-styled decisions in
and of themselves. Rather, ethics are integral to every leadership
decision from finance and human resource questions, to supplier
relations, logistics, and more.
“Effective leadership has by necessity an ethical component mindful of
trust, fairness and open communication. Graduates seeking such an
environment should take steps to match that desire with the companies
they seek to work for after college,” he says.
Smith, Director, Banta
Center for Business, Ethics and Society, University of Redlands,
(909) 748-8785; cell: (909) 557-7416
Tim Mazur, Chief Operating Officer, Ethics
and Compliance Officer Association, (781) 647-9333; cell: (920)
About University of Redlands:
of Redlands is a private liberal arts and sciences university consistently
ranked among the best universities in the nation by U.S. News &
World Report. Since the university's founding
in 1907, Redlands has emphasized academic rigor, personal
development and interdisciplinary studies. An Education + culture of
elevated learning provides students with a holistic education that
results in a unique life transformation. Redlands students learn equally
about service, commitment, life and the world. As a pioneer in the
burgeoning field of spatial learning, Redlands integrates spatial
learning across academic disciplines. At the innovative Johnston
Center, students have the opportunity to design their own custom
major. Home to one of the oldest accredited music programs in
California, the conservatory-style School
of Music educates the whole musician. Adults may continue their
education with programs tailored for working professionals at the
Schools of Business
offering evening degree-completion and graduate programs at eight