Rich Miller, retired CEO of Virtua Health, shares his advice for students entering the workforce. - Photo via Pixabay.com

On March 30, the Rohrer Center for Professional Development hosted their new series “Conversations with a CEO.” This series features top-level executives speaking about their career paths and what students can do to stand out to potential employers.

Retired CEO of Virtua Health Rich Miller joined the panel of students and faculty for the event. In 1995, Miller was the CEO for West Jersey Health System. Three years later, he played a pivotal role in a merger between West Jersey Health System and Memorial Hospital in Burlington County. This led to the formation of Virtua Health in the marketplace, where Miller would work for 22 years.

Miller stressed how important it is to think about what you would like to accomplish right now, as an undergraduate student.

“It’s very important that you benefit from your college experience in a proper way, so that you set yourself up for a career path,” Miller said.

When Miller was a recent graduate applying for jobs, the marketplace was not international like it is today. He didn’t have to worry about losing out to someone on the other side of the country. Times are different, and Miller advised students to make sure that their major works best for what they want to do.

“I can’t stress that enough, because you’re competing across the world with people,” Miller said. “It’s very important that you’re prepared to enter the marketplace with the right background.”

When preparing to send out applications to potential employers, Miller believes it is important to show your best self.

“Don’t undersell yourself,” Miller said. “You’re smart people. You have confidence that when you interview, you’re going to hit it out of the park. Have some humility about it, but be confident about it. And shoot for the stars, in terms of the role you want to get.”

Miller spent decades as a leader in the healthcare field, but he always made sure to leave his troubles at the door and enjoy what he did. In whatever career you pursue, Miller suggested that it be one that gives you purpose.

“Keep your head up, and keep a positive attitude,” Miller said. “When you work every day, whether it’s 12, 13 or 14 hours a day, whatever it may be, make it fulfilling for yourself. Take care of yourself in that role. If you find yourself unhappy, find something else to do.”

According to Miller, the first few interviews that you land out of college can make or break your chances, so it is best to be prepared beforehand.

“Look up the organization you’re interviewing with,” Miller said. “Go in armed with information. Have all the information at your disposal. What’s the mission and values of the organization you’re going into? What’s their strategy? What are they thinking about? Do as much research as you can, so that when you hit that table and you have that dialogue, you’re prepared.”

Miller noted that stress in the workplace is unavoidable. No matter if you step into a leadership position or not, you are bound to feel it. Because of this, he has always had a reliable support system, and believes students should make sure to have one as well.

“You have to have somebody that is somebody you can talk to on a constant basis,” Miller said. “Because there’s times it hits a boiling point. You have to find somebody that you can talk to, that’s out of the role, and that’s not involved in the work that you’re in, so they can give you unedited information about what they think.”

According to Miller, your first few jobs will help you prepare for what you really want to do in life; that is part of the process and perfectly normal.

“If you really want to get in the industry direction that you want to tackle,” Miller said, “find the industry that you say, ‘I like this. I like what I see in this industry, and I want to stay here for a while,’ and that will become important at some point.”

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