FARGO-As college graduates head out with their newly minted degrees and perhaps a vague sense of unease about how to pay off student loans, here for their perusal is a smorgasbord of career advice from people who have made names for themselves in their respective fields.

• Lisa Borgen, vice president of administration, American Crystal Sugar Co.

Borgen graduated In 1982 from North Dakota State College of Science with a licensed practical nurse degree; she also graduated in 1993 from what is now Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in criminal justice and she is a 1996 graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law, where she earned a juris doctorate degree.

"Be open to go wherever the job opportunities are. Don't settle for something you would not enjoy, but don't pass up an opportunity for a less-than-perfect job that will give you experience and the ability to make connections within your field," Borgen said.

"Those relationships may lead you to your next career opportunity; who you know is important-find a mentor that you can look to for advice and counsel and make sure they will be honest and give you constructive feedback, even if the message may be hard to hear.

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"Don't limit yourself to a specific career based upon your diploma," Borgen added. "People develop different skill sets based on experiences and their various jobs. Customer service jobs are invaluable to learn 'soft skills'-communication, respect of others, patience and tolerance. These skills will enhance your ability to succeed in any career.

"Finally," Borgen said, "believe in your ability to adapt to any career that you have a passion for. Commit to continuous learning and insatiable curiosity.

"One more thing-aspire to have balance in your life. Work, family, spirituality, volunteerism and fun should be in balance. If you are feeling stressed or dissatisfied, chances are you are not in balance and need to consciously make adjustments to your priorities," Borgen said.


• David Batcheller, president and CEO of Appareo

Appareo designs, develops and manufactures electronic and software solutions for original equipment manufacturers, as well as consumer products. Batcheller is a 2005 graduate of the University of Minnesota.

"First and foremost, pursue a job that you will enjoy regardless of the compensation or what other people (significant other, parents, etc.) think about the job," Batcheller said.

"No matter how you slice it, an enormous amount of your adult life is going to be spent at a job. If you really enjoy your job, you are going to enjoy a lot of your life," Batcheller added.

"The key to achieving a work/life balance is not maximizing the amount of life and minimizing the amount of work; rather, the key is to really love your job so your work and life are integrated in a way that finds a natural equilibrium," Batcheller said.

"If you want to take ownership of things in your job, try to do a task by yourself before asking a supervisor or mentor for assistance. You will develop a great deal faster than if you ask for specific direction upfront for how to accomplish a task.

"It demonstrates to your peers and supervisors that you are a person that can be entrusted with a task, find your own direction, and get consultation when you need it. That pattern builds a lot of long-term trust and sets you up for additional responsibility. Over time, it will yield an enormous benefit," Batcheller said.


• Dayna Del Val, president and CEO of The Arts Partnership.

Del Val graduated in 1995 from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a bachelor's degree in theatre arts and in 1999 from Concordia College with an English education licensure. In 2002 she graduated from North Dakota State University with a masters of arts degree in English composition.

"I wanted to be a professional film actor in Hollywood, but life threw a curveball at me and I ended up staying in the FM area," Del Val said.

"I might not have my 22-year-old dream job, but I can easily say that being an arts activist is my best role yet, but I didn't start this job until I was 37," Del Val added.

"Have patience and trust that your dream might not end up looking exactly the way you see it today, and that's OK; in many ways, this job far exceeds any dream job I ever imagined and I have gotten to do some great acting along the way. In fact, I've had a more successful acting career by staying in the Metro than many of my friends who moved to New York City or Los Angeles ever did.

"Life has a way of working out for most of us; just keep putting one foot in front of another, and you'll be surprised many times at where it takes you," Del Val said.


• Richard Solberg, chairman of the board of Bell Bank.

Solberg graduated in 1968 from Concordia College with a business degree.

"People with successful careers start out going into something they're interested in and have a passion for, and then they specialize. The passion comes when you enjoy your vocation. That's important because when you have a passion for something, and you're really interested in it, you become better at it, and you become more skilled at it," Solberg said.

"For many people starting out, it's about getting your foot in the door and working hard, and then you end up moving into a job that fits your passion and skill set. You also have to have patience," Solberg said.

"Sometimes we work for a company, and the opportunity for us to advance isn't there when we think it should be, so we become impatient, and we start bouncing around. But if we can become more skilled or specialized, all of a sudden our skills will be recognized," he added.

"We spend an awful lot of time at work, so if we end up in a career and a vocation we really enjoy, it certainly contributes to happiness in life."


• Tim Huckle, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

He graduated in 1984 from the University of North Dakota.

"Very few students know the specific job they want when they select a major and head off to college. While there are some individuals who have a clear career path, for many, knowing what you want to do with your life and working career at the age of 18 is difficult, if not impossible," Huckle said.

"Once in college it is common for students to change majors once, twice or several times. In my personal experience, I was initially interested in biology, but quickly found that it wasn't the right fit. It takes some exploring and trial and error to find the right path, but eventually, you will find it.

"The same principle applies early in your working career," Huckle said. "Instead of focusing on landing the perfect job title, I recommend selecting a job with a company that appeals to you because the position, company mission, products and services, culture and other factors are enticing. It should be a good fit for you as an individual and for future growth opportunities."

"Once you are working, be flexible and try not to box yourself in on a narrow career path," Huckle added. "Seek opportunities or stretch assignments within your organization that expand your knowledge and skills and diversify your work and life experiences. Build relationships and take advantage of opportunities to mentor with people within and outside of your employment.

"Most career paths are not straight; they tend to change direction and have periods of uncertainty. Your willingness and ability to change, continually learn and to challenge yourself will provide you with a meaningful and satisfying career that can and should benefit you greatly in your personal life," Huckle said.


• Mark Nisbet, North Dakota principal manager with Xcel Energy.

Nisbet is a graduate of what is now Minnesota State University Moorhead.

"I graduated on a fine spring day 40 years ago this month from Moorhead State University, now Minnesota State University Moorhead," Nisbet said.

"I don't remember my commencement speaker from graduation day, but I do have many lifelong friendships from my college days," added Nisbet, who said he has a dream job of helping customers use energy efficiently as Xcel transitions to a clean energy future.

"My advice to you is that it is very rare to go through your career on a straight, upward trajectory. People will respect you all the more if you can bounce back from career setbacks," Nisbet said.

"It was important to me to have a support system," he added. "You build that support system by treating family, employees and friends with respect regardless of the external challenges you may face in your career."