While today's students display more career savvy than ever, there's still a disparity in the degree of focus. Some new students confidently declare a major and make a beeline toward their career goals. Others arrive less sure and, without gentle but persistent nudging, may have only a vague sense of professional direction by the time they reach graduation. Most students fall somewhere in between. |
Typical of the early-to-focus graduate is Matt McFadden '98. Before he enrolled at SU, McFadden and his father discussed the future of the marketplace, forecast huge growth and opportunities in information systems, and selected a management information systems/information studies major in the School of Management and School of Information Studies. McFadden also set his sights on a career with Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati, his hometown. Getting an interview seemed assured, since his father had been with Procter & Gamble for 25 years. But McFadden quickly learned that nepotism is a no-no at Procter & Gamble. They recruit by the book.
Early in his sophomore year, McFadden approached Procter & Gamble about a summer job, using his 3.94 GPA as a calling card. "That got me in the door," he says, "but they still blew me off. They were looking for experience.
"I knew you acquired experience through internships, and you found internships by networking. Our professors really ingrain that in us," says McFadden, who scoured databases in the School of Management and the Center for Career Services looking for internship opportunities and alumni contacts. He soon landed a plum summer internship at GE Aircraft in Cincinnati, where he helped develop a multimillion-dollar program that organizes data from airplane computers. That fall, McFadden sent Procter & Gamble an updatedand upgradedresume. Three interviews later, and barely halfway through his college career, McFadden accepted an offer for a lucrative summer position with the employer of his dreams.
Naml Lewis '98 also entered SU with a clear sense of direction. Excellent in math and science, he majored in mechanical engineering at the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science because he knew he could quickly convert that degree into a job. "I'm from Newark, New Jersey, and from a low-income background," Lewis explains. "So a job was important."
To bolster his marketability, Lewis spent three semesters in the college's Cooperative Education Program, earning academic credit for placements with Dow Corning in Michigan and North Carolina. At the start of his senior year, he launched a serious hunt for a permanent jobin a totally different field. "I suddenly realized I have an entrepreneurial spirit," explains Lewis. "After a lot of research, I decided to work in security sales for two years, then earn an M.B.A. and become an independent financial advisor. I'd specifically like to help small African American businesses find capital, and help people in low-income communities meet their financial goals, like sending their kids to college."
Lewis is now waiting to hear from several financial firms with whom he interviewed. "I'm nervous, because I don't have a job yet," he admits. "But I'm young, I have a dream, and I'm really trying to make it happen." |
Both Lewis and McFadden have had career counseling from their academic departments, plus coaching from the Center for Career Services' interim director, Kelley Bishop. "At SU, most students tap into career services at a variety of venues. It's like shopping at the mall," Bishop explains. "You usually don't buy everything in one store."
Lewis turned to Bishop when it was time to line up interviews with investment firms and repackage his mechanical engineering degree for a financial market. "I was impressed with Naml's wish to leverage his education to help the African American community," says Bishop, "and I encouraged him to follow his dream. Going to college is about something much grander than getting a job. Our role is not just to construct resumes; it's to help students assess their values, their strengths, and themselves."
CIGNA representatives Pam Joell, senior consultant for corporate relations (far left), and Anthony Percival '95, technical analyst (second from right), entertain questions from students.
Lewis's engineering background was versatile. He'd completed a rigorous academic program; he had a lot of experience converting theory into practice; and he was familiar with scientific methodology, which is important in any financial field. Why shouldn't he dream big?
"I see my job as helping students navigate the transition between college and career," Bishop says. "It's a major transition, because getting a degree doesn't automatically earn you a great career. That's something you have to work at, and we're here to help. My role is to help students harness and leverage their SU education. These students are bright, ambitious, articulate, and worldly. But when it comes to dealing with employers, they don't know what to emphasize. It's a matter of articulation. We have to show them how the game is played."