Volunteer Spotlight: Ric Hinkie


Ric Hinkie Head Shot

Ric Hinkie presented “Fast Forward Your Career: 7 Career Success Principles” on February 12, 2019. Watch it here.

Q. What prompted you to get reconnected with the Alumni Association?

A. Since retiring to the high country of Arizona, after living in Minnesota most of my life, I realized two things: first, how much I miss the open-mindedness and creative citizenship so many Minnesotans exhibit. I believe this is a tribute to the high value Minnesotans put on education, especially the University of Minnesota. Second, I wrote a book about career success principles based on interviews with over 70 very successful people. I knew them from their tenure on a not-for-profit board I led for 17 years. Their motivation in sharing with me was to “pay it forward.” As I heard their stories, I reflected on my own growth, from being part of the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre staff from opening night in 1963 to serving as president of a national safety-oriented trade association from 1990-2007. Without mentors, my University of Minnesota education, and the many connections I made along the way, I would not have accomplished as much. “Pay it forward” might appear to be a trite phrase, but I assure you it is not. It is a concept that motivates a lot of successful people and can only be passed on by living it.

Q. Why do you volunteer?

A. My career success came primarily from two things: seeing opportunities that others did not and using my U of M communications skills to get others to join with me to make those opportunities a reality. The time, energy, travel away, and my 23-year Army Reserve career - which was parallel to my business career - did not allow much time for volunteering until retirement. Serving as a Big Brother, Habitat for Humanity board member, and mentor to kids and disabled vets through an outdoor focused non-profit helped me realize that working without pay was also very rewarding and greatly needed.

My reflections on the great spirit of the people of Minnesota made me realize that that spirit will only continue if the University of Minnesota remains strong. Helping students make the most of their unique gifts, so they can make great contributions and enjoy themselves in the process, is something I can do long distance. It’s especially easy now that I am a volunteer with the Alumni Association’s free Maroon and Gold Network.

Q. Why would you encourage others to volunteer?

A. If one believes in and lives positive values, then sharing those values and demonstrating them to the next generation is a gift to the future. Today’s University of Minnesota students at all levels, in all fields, are challenged just like we were. Finding the money to pay for school and life - and the time to work and study - while balancing life’s other challenges, and then choosing a career path and securing employment are all part of the process. Positive values can be lost in the hassle. Sharing, mentoring, and guiding in the ways that have worked for you can be a huge support system and a major investment in everyone’s future.

It is a deepening of our connections and relationships with one another. It is a strengthening of our values for community and supporting higher education. It is passion and curiosity and engagement in something bigger than us. It is sharing, understanding, seeking, pondering, reflecting, honoring, supporting, and advocating.

Q. Could you share some words of wisdom from your book, Fast Forward Your Career: 7 Career Success Principles?

“No one gets ahead by themselves” means finding a mentor or mentors, formal or informal. Asking for guidance, hanging around successful people, and volunteering to connect with people was part of almost every career story. The Maroon and Gold Network is a perfect tool for both those seeking to connect and to those like me who want to give back.

“Be ready, organizations can no longer wait for you to develop” means that the pace of business is such that if a higher-level opening occurs and you are not ready in terms of experience and/or education, you are unlikely to be considered. Many of the highly successful people I interviewed were initially reluctant to seek their bachelor’s degree or graduate degrees once they were on the job. Family time, work demands, and even skepticism about whether additional education was really going to teach them much, held many back. Yet, for many, it was only when they made the additional educational effort, that their careers took off. It wasn’t always what they learned, specifically, that helped them. But rather it was that they demonstrated the positive traits of focus, life-long learning, ability to complete difficult tasks, and a willingness to invest in their futures that brought them to the attention of senior management and resulted in huge career jumps for them.

“Get connected and get noticed” means that regardless of your great ideas, hard work, and wonderful education, if the right people do not know who you are or what you can do, you are not going to move up. There are all kinds of ways to achieve higher visibility in your organization. Clearly, being involved in outside organizations like the U of M Alumni Association, the Maroon and Gold Network, and community organizations are all ways to be “seen.” Volunteering internally for task forces, purposely connecting with fellow employees in other departments or divisions, and even taking a lateral transfer to expand your awareness and connect with new people are other strategies.

More about Richard
Richard “Ric” Hinkie (B.A. ‘68) has always been drawn to communications. With an interest and some simple skills from a high school journalism class, Bradley Morison (one of the great communications gurus in Minnesota) choose to mentor Ric while he was an usher at the Guthrie Theatre. The career passion was launched. By studying at the U of M School of Journalism and with a boost from active duty in the Army Reserve with Department of Defense training in news writing, photography, and public speaking, he completed his career prep.

In various organizations over the years, Ric’s communications skills helped convince the Minnesota Legislature to build the Minnesota Zoo; create the Energy Bank with the City of Minneapolis to fund neighborhood energy efficiency; develop national distance learning/certification programs in human resources, payroll management, and energy; and launch the largest online “University” for electric, gas, and oil employees.

Without the ability to communicate effectively with diverse audiences, inviting, cajoling, and inspiring them to sign on to major, innovative projects, very few if any of these beneficial efforts would have been launched. Ric sincerely thanks the University of Minnesota for the inspiration and the tools to make a difference.

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