Kimbrough worked relationships to build career

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Betty Kimbrough, retired executive

Betty Kimbrough, Class of 1976, worked her way to the highest reaches of corporate America.


ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Betty Kimbrough planned her work and worked her plan.

The 1976 graduate of the Herberger College of Business networked her way to the highest reaches of corporate America, retiring in 2004 as a human resources vice president for department store giant Target.

She told a Ritsche Auditorium audience April 8 that continuous self-improvement and networking are among the keys to building a successful career. View video clips of Kimbrough's presentation.

Kimbrough, 54, said a job with a banking chain taught her the power of relationships and the importance of envisioning an ideal job and then working to attain that job. Her goal -- to be a human resources (HR) generalist.

"They put me in the controller's division, right across the hall from HR," Kimbrough said. "So every chance I got I was across the hall, meeting and greeting and getting to know the people in HR, letting them know what my career goals were and looking for that opportunity for them to draw me in."

From that point on, Kimbrough said, she knew the power of relationships and that networking was going to be the main means of advancing her career.

"So, I learned about networking, inside and out."

Networking with an acquaintance at Target headquarters in Minneapolis allowed her to make the jump to the world of retail department stores.There she found a mentor and formally asked him to be her career coach. A promotion to a position in Los Angeles finally got her into HR generalist work and laid the foundation for the remainder of her 21-plus years at Target.

It was in Los Angeles that she refined her "elevator speech," her strategy for networking with Target leaders.

"When I did approach a senior executive I did it in a way that didn't shout me, me, me," she said. "When you approach somebody you have to have a genuine interest in them."

Her career advanced with a promotion every five years, including stints in Minneapolis and, again, in Los Angeles. The five-year increment is based on the belief you hold a job long enough "so you can eat your own cookies," she said.

"So in a five-year period of time you can tell if the strategies you put in place are starting to bear fruit. You can tell if the talent you've been developing along the way is actually growing and learning and progessing as you wish they would," said Kimbrough, who earned a bachelor's degree in management from St. Cloud State.

Her continuous self-improvement efforts included joining the board of directors of a battered women's shelter. At every meeting Kimbrough made it a point to be the first person to speak. It was, Kimbrough said, a safe place to improve her confidence level and overcome her natural introversion.

Kimbrough's husband, John Kimbrough, Class of 1976, was a Husky Hall of Fame wide receiver for St. Cloud State. He later played in the National Football League. Parents and grandparents now, the Kimbroughs make their home in Texas.

Betty's presentation was part of the Herberger College of Business Executive Leadership Speaker Series. 


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