Building Connections

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CareerBuilder.com leader credits Kennesaw State with successful start
Brendan Sweeney has logged more frequent flyer miles than he can remember. He and his family lived in England for a year. His passport bears the stamps of Norway, Finland, Italy and a host of other countries, including France, which he has visited at least 65 times.

Sweeney is vice president of development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at CareerBuilder.com, the largest online job site in the U.S. The company has a presence in more than 60 countries, a network built through a series of mergers and acquisitions with Sweeney’s help.

“In 2006, CareerBuilder.com surpassed Monster.com as the number one recruitment player in the country,” said Sweeney, who graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in communication. “We always said we would not go international until that happened. In 2006, we started forming the business team to bring CareerBuilder to the global market.”

To make the leap across the waters, CareerBuilder.com started buying small online recruitment companies in the United Kingdom, India and Canada. Sweeney helped build the teams and developed the online platforms, tailoring the sites for the needs of the local markets to bring them into the fold.

“I am very much focused on the product, making sure our technology is able to deliver what the businesses need,” Sweeney said from his home in Acworth.

Sweeney’s professional career began at the Norcross-based HeadHunter.net, which was bought out by Career Builder. com in 2001. While he was at Head Hunter. net, Sweeney was taking classes at Kennesaw State. He attended part-time, full-time and nights. He loaded up classes on a couple of days, so that he would be free to work the other days. It took him a decade to graduate from college. Still, Kennesaw State provided him with the infrastructure he needed to finish, he said.

Professors and administrators at Kennesaw State “are sensitive to the needs of people who are working and who need to improve their education,” he said. “I was working a full-time job while I was studying. That wasn’t going to happen at another school. I felt that professors there understood that a lot of students were working and geared their programs to make them fit into students’ schedules.”

Sweeney left CareerBuilder.com in 2002 to work for PIC Energy Group in Marietta and later United Health Group in Atlanta. He returned to Career Builder. com in late 2003 as the senior product development manager and later became the director of product development for EMEA. He was named vice president of development for EMEA in 2011.

Sweeney earned his MBA in Global Business at Georgia Tech. Last year, as he was preparing for a Harvard Business School program, Authentic Leadership Development, he had to interview three people in his work, education and community life about their leadership philosophies. He reached out to Kennesaw State communication professor Katherine Kinnick, who taught several of the courses he took.

“She understood that the majority of her class was working,” Sweeney said. “But she had an expectation that you were going to participate.”

For Kinnick, her old student’s request was a pleasant out-of-the-blue moment. “He illustrates the perseverance and dedication of our working students,” Kinnick said.

Afterward, Kinnick connected Sweeney with Joan Dominick, an associate professor of communication and the coordinator of the senior-year seminar course. Sweeney has been a frequent visitor to her classes.

“Brendan has been so generous to the students,” Dominick said. “The students hang on his every word. He came with great advice. He was just inspiring. He came not as his job, a vice president. He was Brendan who came to Kennesaw.”

Sweeney said when he speaks to students, he wants to make sure they understand the time they spend at work is an investment — they are learning, building skills, making connections.

He also wants them to understand that they should “do tomorrow’s job for today’s pay” – that is, be willing to give the extra effort it takes for the job you want. Early in his professional career, Sweeney said his attitude at work was “I will do more, if you pay me more. I learned that’s not how it works. That was a big revelation for me.”

He also tells students that once they land an interview, they should ask a lot of questions. “You should ask where is the company going, ask about strategic goals, the culture. If you do this, you separate yourself from everyone else.”

And once they have the job, “develop your knowledge and skills. You can get any kind of training you want to for free. That way you are always adding meaningful stuff to your resume.”

 
- Yolanda Rodriquez