Liberal Arts Students Make Career Connections
by Patrick Gordon
Dr. Joan Pastor has traveled the world working with dozens of multinational corporations as a high profile career and organizational consultant, but working with ambitious college students — especially from her alma mater — remains one of her favorite things to do.
"Working with these young adults is such a thrill," Pastor says. "I'm more than happy to help and talk about ways they can begin their career."
Pastor was one of several prominent College of Liberal Arts graduates in town earlier this fall for a Board of Visitors and student networking event at the Hotel Palomar in downtown Philadelphia. The conversations ran the gamut, ranging from how to best market your internship experience to how to find happiness within a career.
"Students are starving for this kind of information," she says. "It really is an individualized conversation since everyone is so different, but that's where we can come in and help with our experience."
Networking is a buzzword in career development, but studies show it's becoming the differentiator that lands you a job. According to data published recently by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs are secured through networking and building personal connections within the workplace. Beyond the obvious role it can play when it comes to securing a job, networking also is about collecting relationships with influential people when the benefit may not be immediate — in part, that's what made this mixer so special.
"[Students] should be bold explorers in networking in their career or vocation," says Dr. Henry Lewis, a board member and a practicing physician. "At one point early in I was shy in thinking, 'who would want to hear from or about me?' Time taught me otherwise. So go forth and multiply your connections. Put yourself in the arena, or you have no chance to play. "
Networking alone, however, won't score you points during an interview. A recent poll conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found the skills most in demand in today's workplace — the ability to complete research, effectively communicate, and analyze data — parallel those developed through a rigorous liberal arts program.
"I was eager to inspire their hope for the future by telling them I had some of the doubts and fears they are having when I was leaving with a liberal arts degree," adds Lewis. "I was convinced I would fail and amount to nothing, but I kept on connecting, reaching and challenging myself. It wasn't always a success or lucrative all along the way, but looking back, it was so interesting and rewarding. Their journey will be unique to them, but mostly I wanted to tell them to enjoy the life they will make with their efforts, work smart and be happy."
Amma-Sika Adomako, a sophomore majoring in psychology, was one of nearly a dozen CLA students that participated in the networking event. She connected with board members who shared career advice and suggestions on how to lay the foundation for a fruitful career.
"What drew me to the event was the idea of speaking with some successful CLA alumni," says Adomako. "I learned if you work hard and push yourself, you can end up wherever you want to be. Hard work and dedication are all it really takes to be successful.
"I also learned that as a student is it crucial for you to gain knowledge not just inside the classroom, but outside as well. Going to events like this gives you the ability to connect the skills you learn in the classroom to the real world."
Nikhil Patel, a senior majoring in economics, left with a similar impression.
"Do something you are passionate about and align your passions with your career. I think this is important advice for anyone, especially for someone about to go into the workforce."