"Treat People Right"

Alum shares advice on thriving in the workplace
Alum shares advice on thriving in the workplace
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Michael Wagner '86 is a wealth management adviser whose clients include National Football League coaches and high-profile professional athletes.

With all his success in the financial world, Wagner says there is "one thing I'm really good at."

"I'm happy all the time, personally and professionally."

Wagner offered tips on "how to create your own good luck" and achieve a happy life as the keynote speaker at the ILR Alumni Association's annual career networking event Friday in Ives Hall.

A director for MAI Wealth Advisors, LLC, Wagner spoke to a standing-room-only crowd, advising students to "develop a skill, something that's valued at your organization, to make yourself indispensable."

In the workplace, he said, be prepared for what you know you'll be asked, and "to speak intelligently about something that's not on the agenda."

"Treat people right, even if there's not a good fit with someone as a customer or client at the start, because they could come back to you. If you're good to people, they will be clients for life."

A former Big Red football and two-time All-Ivy League player, Wagner stressed that the key to happiness is to "pursue something that you love doing." He said he feels fortunate to be able to stay close to his love of sports through his work in the investment industry.

"Thank your parents, too, since they've made a lot of sacrifices to get you here."

Wagner also told students to "seek out and work with the smartest people in your field. You have an advantage here (at Cornell), since you're surrounded by smart people."

One of those people for him was ILR Professor Ronald Ehrenberg. Wagner came to ILR thinking he would be a lawyer, but that all changed when he took an economics course taught by Ehrenberg.

"Find someone who will make a difference in your life," Wagner said. "Find your Ron Ehrenberg."