— CSU English (@english_csu) April 5, 2016
~Tweeted by intern Ashley Alfirevic on the day of the event
~By Beth Campbell
I strolled into the Lory Student Center that afternoon, drawing confidence from the click of my heels and the swish of my suit’s skirt. My fingers tingled, though whether because of my hot chai tea or my general nervousness, I could not tell. I had never been to a symposium quite like the Rams Leading Rams event, but despite my anxiety when it comes to the unknown, I was looking forward to it. Within a matter of minutes, I was welcomed by very attentive event organizers who guided me to my chosen lectures with smiles. The entire third floor where the event was held seemed to spark with anticipation and hope for the future.
My first seminar was taught by Roze Hentschell, a professor in the English department. She spoke on a topic I had only vaguely considered up to that point – applying for graduate school. I have always intended on some level for my undergraduate degree to not be the end of my educational career as a student, but beyond the occasional daydream or attending MFA readings when I had the chance, I have never really given it the thought such a choice deserves. Dr. Hentschell went over what it takes it get into a graduate program, how to apply, and gave us tips on crafting an excellent application. As intense as the application process sounds, she made it seem achievable. I left the room still scribbling notes on my handout and already drafting a list of schools I would like to apply to.
A little known fact about myself is that while I am someone who will pinch pennies and save money like there is no tomorrow, I have very little idea as to how to actually manage my money. The second seminar was geared toward managing finances, not only after graduation but also in school. David Chadwick Jones, a professional financial advisor for students in the Veterinary College, gave a riveting presentation that covered the basics of managing finances. For someone like myself whose mind instantly shuts down when numbers of any kind are involved, I was able to follow along, ask questions, and finally understand some concepts that have eluded me for years. He touched on very important topics such as budgeting, paying off student loans, and how to responsibly spend your first paycheck. For the first time, I was able to look at my finances and their management, not as a burden but as a tool to succeed.
For my final seminar, I chose what I thought would be something light and mindless – creating an authentic presence on social media. I use social media everyday. Posting to social media is not that hard, nor is making sure all my accounts are similar. Yet my mind was blown. The panel actively discussed using your social media accounts to pursue a job, make connections, and market yourself as a professional. They spoke on allowing your social media to reflect who you are, but still remaining something a prospective employer would not be appalled to see. The panel encouraged dialogue with the audience members, constantly answering questions and clarifying points as the presentation continued. They were clearly passionate about their work, and that passion was contagious.
The keynote address that closed the event was probably one of the most inspiring talks I have ever had the honor of hearing. Before it even began, there were tables of food and desserts waiting for the attendees (always a good sign, in my book). We filled our plates with classy finger food and sipped coffee and ice water as we found seats in the Lory Student Center Theater. We waited with baited breath to hear Joseph Akmakjian, the 2016 Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, speak. He titled his talk “Making Your Dreams a Reality… Because Y.O.L.O.” He told us about growing up with a disability and a limited life expectancy, but overcoming all the doubt to chase his dreams. Hearing him speak was like hearing a shaman or a guru explain the meaning of life. I left that auditorium to rush off to a choir rehearsal right after he finished speaking, but his words continued to echo in my mind and heart.
~By Ashley Alfirevic
As graduation creeps ever closer, and lurking underneath the excitement, pride, and nostalgia that will accompany commencement, my stereotypical senior existential crisis has decided to rear its ugly head. Once moving past the more nihilistic questioning – Who am I? What should I do with my life? What does it all mean? – the more concrete, possibly even scarier, questions emerge. What kind of salary should I expect? How am I going to fit into a workplace culture? How can I be a leader in my field? And, perhaps the most terrifying of all, how do I attempt this insanely important thing known as networking?
Thankfully, the CSU Career Center held an event to answer the critical questions that become so urgent before graduation. Rams Leading Rams: Professional Development Symposium for Liberal Arts Students held a variety of meaningful seminars to help students navigate the transition from college to career. The seminars were packed with insights from a network of accomplished and noteworthy alumni, so I’ve summed up my three biggest takeaways from each speech (and the student/alumni mixer afterwards).
Session One — Getting What You’re Worth: Negotiating a Competitive Salary
Presenter: Marie Zimenoff (’08)
Low expectations just prevent you from reaching your full potential. Your talents are worth a lot of money in today’s economy, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a salary that reflects it. Here are the concrete tips on negotiating your salary:
- Don’t say the numbers first. If possible, wait until you’ve received an offer before negotiating salary. If you’re asked, try to cordially avoid the question or give a range of numbers.
- Do your research. There are a lot of helpful websites to give you an idea of salaries for your potential line of work. You can only negotiate well if you’re prepared and you know what to expect.
- Work together. Convince the company that you are worth more because of how much you can contribute to them. If they can’t come up on salary, try to work with benefits or vacation days.
Session Two — Diversity in the Workplace: Creating a Positive Professional Image While Maintaining Your Personal Identity
Presenter: Aerin Yates (’11, ’15)
Workplaces that have the most diverse minds and ideas will be the most creative and productive. In order to contribute to that diversity, you have to be yourself and let your creativity flow, but in the right way. A Human Resources Manager tells it like it is.
- Craft your image. “If you don’t control your image, someone else will,” Aerin Yates told us. Put your best qualities forward from the start, and your new co-workers will learn your true colors.
- Hustle every day. Always give your full effort and let your personality shine through your work. You want to people to remember you, and giving it your all will get their attention.
- Keep the resume simple. Again, be unique, but let your personality come across through your accomplishments. Aerin shared some horror stories – no pictures, colors, or QR codes, please.
Session Three — Tales from the C-Suite: Lessons in Leadership
Presenter: James Iancino (’05, ’12)
Being at the top is hard, but the challenges don’t stop once you get there. If you’ve worked your way up the ladder, always keep pushing forward. People will respect you as an authority and as a thought leader.
- Challenge your process. Don’t do something just because that’s the way it’s always been done. If you have ideas for innovation and change in what you do, don’t be afraid to share.
- Know what you don’t know. A good leader knows that they don’t know everything, and they’re not afraid to admit it. Take advice from your co-workers, and try to learn from others in your field.
- Share your vision. If you have great plans for where your company can go, bring others on the journey with you. Create an image for the future, and ask others what they think it should look like.
Student/Alumni Mixer: Networking
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Networking is huge in today’s job hunt, and it’s important to get yourself out there. Don’t worry – I fumbled through the networking process so you don’t have to.
- Jump in. It’s intimidating to just talk to a random person, especially if they’re already involved in another discussion. But I realized it’s better than being on the sidelines, so walk up and say “Hi.”
- It’s not about you. Don’t ask questions that imply you’re looking for a job from this interaction. Even with good intentions, it comes out a little cringe-worthy. Just make small talk.
- Know when to leave. If the interaction is going well but winding down, hand them a resume, shake hands, and walk away. It’s better to leave on a good note than to try and push for a LinkedIn request.