By Anna Mann
“When you’re at Sewanee you’re in an environment where you can choose a lot of things,” said Frazer Buntin (C’97). “Choose your major, choose your dorm, choose a fall break trip. Then you hit your career and you don’t. You can work towards things but you don’t know.”
Buntin was discussing a topic he would cover in greater depth later in his talk: “The Journey from Toilet Paper Buyer to CEO: Lessons in Entrepreneurship.” With hardly a dull moment, the Humphreys Entrepreneur-in-Residence gave his presentation on October 23 to a packed Torian Room.
The author, artist, and CEO used anecdotes from his working life to offer three major takeaways, all of which circled around finding purpose in career despite uncertainty. Many of these tips originate from his humorous and helpful book about finding one’s way through the world of resumes and job changes: A Monkey Could Do Your Job: Practical Tactics for Understanding and Overcoming Crazy Feelings about Work.
Buntin, former president of value-based services at Evolent Health and co-founder of SilverCare Solutions, didn’t always have entrepreneurship in mind though. In fact, he studied natural resources during his four years on the Mountain.
He continued by explaining that he wasn’t as involved as he could have been, saying, “I came up here and I was a mediocre student. I had a ton of friends, I was in a fraternity and I had a good time, but I didn’t activate on campus. I wish someone had kicked me in the pants and said ‘get out of the bubble of this typical college path and go activate.’”
He encouraged students to attend art shows, events, and engage with University clubs during their time at Sewanee. “Put down the beer can and activate,” he advised.
In an interview with The Purple earlier that day, Buntin offered more advice on differentiating oneself in applications during the digital age. In a time where applications are sent through the click of a button, it’s not enough simply to apply anymore. Buntin stressed the importance of doing research. Not just on the company, but the person conducting the interview as well. He explained that this could tip the scales in favor of the interviewee even if they lacked experience.
In fact, Buntin did this very thing during his switch from working in merchandising at Dollar General and his work in health care. With no experience in the field, Buntin memorized information and names before his interviews and landed a job at Healthways.
He also emphasized the importance of networking. “Find folks like me or others through the networking services and call them up on the phone, pick their brain, and tell them you’re at Sewanee. At least half of them will take that call and then network around,” Buntin explained.
Buntin said that though the first job is the most difficult to land, the acquaintances and friendships made will help with future searches and building a solid network.
“To be successful in business you can’t just have all the technical knowledge,” finished Buntin. “Here’s how finance works or here’s how marketing works. You will have a ceiling if you just know the technical side. You’ll push that ceiling up if you have the technical side and the liberal arts side… the best leaders that I’ve seen have both of those skills.”