Alumna: 40 years of wisdom

Friday, June 16, 2017

By: Jeannette Kuda, MBA '08
(Originally published in the Charlotte Business Journal)

I just celebrated my 40th birthday, and with age comes wisdom – at least I hope.

I always thought of myself as just a late bloomer. I was happy with my mediocre job, mediocre relationships and a mediocre bank account. I felt there would always be time to make a change; because after all, I would be young forever and spending time improving my situation would impinge on my fun and freedom.

It is obvious now that I am not unusual; delaying adulthood is normal today. Delaying marriage in favor of swiping right, renting rather than purchasing a home, postponing saving to spend today; good or bad, this is now normal in our culture.

Deep down, however, I knew I was not living up to my potential, and I was not happy. I would secretly look at job listings and covertly research MBA programs. Finally, in my 30s, I turned a corner and learned a few lessons along the way.

Do not be afraid to go for it. I know, I know, how cliché. But worth repeating here because it is just so true. I used to let the fear of failure stop me from trying new things, which of course meant I had already failed. Now, I make it a practice to say yes. Some things are hard or make me nervous, but I do them anyway. Each time I face my fears and survive, I grow a little more and learn it wasn’t that scary after all.

Never be comfortable. I stayed with my first company for 10 years, despite the obvious writing on the wall that there was no future and the owner was not a stand-up guy. I felt comfortable, I knew the job. I thought the lack of a challenge was a good thing, and I should stay in the nice warm frying pan to avoid any possible fire. Now I thrive in being challenged every day and am doing my best work yet.

Apply already. I used to read the requirements in a job listing and think of myself as woefully underqualified. There could be two dozen items in the listing, and if I didn’t have one of them, I would not apply. Now, sitting on the other side of the desk, I can assure you most job listings include a ridiculous number of requirements. Besides, if the job lists all your current skills, it would be for your exact current job – where is the growth in that? If the job sounds interesting, just apply. It costs nothing and could lead to the opportunity of a lifetime.

Commit yourself. There are exceptions to this rule but those should be extraordinary circumstances. When I accept a position, I set my mind to a minimum two-year commitment. If a firm is investing in me, then it is only fair that I stick around long enough to give them payback on their investment. This not only gives you time to learn new skills to add to your collection, but also protects your resume. When I receive a resume that has a new position every year it most certainly goes on the bottom of my pile.

Live your values. I have had occasion to stand up for what I believe and put my career on the line in the process. I came out standing tall and so will you. Short-term gains are soon erased by long-term consequences. Look only to the nightly news to see a long parade of those who compromised their values in pursuit of money and power. Treating others with respect, kindness and compassion results in keeping company with those that do the same.

Start slow and watch the momentum grow. We all want everything and we all want it yesterday. Patience, my friend. I started saving all that I could afford, which in the beginning totaled a measly $10 a week. I thought it would never grow, but it did. As I made more, I slowly increased my savings and the dollars are starting to add up to a healthy nest egg. This principle applies to all my greatest achievements and allows for balance in life. I finally decided to start grad school, part-time, and began to make actual progress. When I moved to Charlotte, I didn’t know a soul, but I built my network and now feel like I have great connections in the Queen City.

I guess this milestone birthday is supposed to make me depressed. But I have always enjoyed bucking the trends and shrugging off the status quo. I am happy to report that 40 is my happiest year yet. I finished my MBA, met and married the love of my life and we bought our dream home. Earlier this year I made a big change and began the next chapter in my career. I hope to keep up these lessons (maybe even add a few more) and see where they take me. Check back in 10 years and I’ll let you know how 50 is feeling.

Jeannette Kuda is a vice president at LPL Financial and an MBA graduate of the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte.

The Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte is the academic partner of #NextGenCLT. The Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research business school. Accredited by AACSB International, the Belk College of Business offers business education programs at the undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and executive levels. Find out more at