UM President Donna Shalala offers candid advice during TCI-South Florida luncheon

Young college graduates starting out in their careers should focus on preparation, professionalism, meeting people and networking during lunchtime rather than eating at their desks, said Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami.

Maintaining relationships with fellow graduates is also critical, she said, speaking at a panel discussion Thursday during The Commonwealth Institute-South Florida’s Ninth Annual Awards Ceremony & Luncheon at the Hilton Miami Downtown.

Recalling once being asked how to become a cabinet member, her response was: ‘“Look around the room and see which of your friends is going to run for president, and keep in touch for 30 years.’”

Shalala’s advice for executives also includes being well rested to make wise decisions. “All the professional mistakes I have made in my life were because I was overtired,” she said.

The recession was rough on UM, which has had to “re-size, rethink,” centralize functions and cut costs, including staff, Shalala said. UM derives two-thirds of its budget from healthcare, and as the economy sank, fewer people went to the hospital. Since the university operates a teaching hospital, it faces challenges in getting proper reimbursement for its medical education and research, she said to an audience of about 370 attendees.

“Any one in my business who sees the light at the end of the tunnel,” Shalala said, “is probably going in the wrong direction.”

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