Tameka Edwards ’16 earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University at Albany and went on to receive a master’s degree in communications from her alma mater in 2018. She was working as the Graduate Assistant in the Advancement Events office, down the hall from the Alumni Association office, when graduation was approaching.
With graduation approaching and her career looming in the distance, Tameka wanted to connect with an alum who worked in a creative industry in New York City. She knew about UCAN, the UAlbany Career Advisory Network, but had yet to take advantage of it.
As a student, Tameka made the most of her time at UAlbany, working as an orientation leader, a tour guide, a Residential Life assistant, and the Student Association programming associate director. She interned and studied abroad in London and South Africa. But when it came time to start looking for a job post-graduation, Tameka felt she needed to improve her networking skills and make more connections with creative professionals.
When she created an account on UCAN, Tameka connected with Shamara Cox, a producer at A&E Television Networks. The women had grown up in the same neighborhood and had similar backgrounds.
“It’s really inspiring to me to hear from everyday professionals,” Tameka says. “I like to hear how much everyone had to go through to make it where they are. Hearing stories helps me to know that I can get through mine.”
Shamara gave Tameka detailed networking advice on what resources to use, what organizations to join, and most importantly, how to talk to people at networking events. She reminded Tameka to be herself and not sell herself short.
Online platforms like UCAN didn’t exist when Shamara ’09 was at UAlbany, so when she received information about it, she quickly joined as a career advisor. Without a media, film, and TV department at UAlbany, Shamara knew she had a unique opportunity to share her path to success with like-minded individuals, and support budding careers in the media industry.
“I felt like I didn’t have any direction when I was graduating,” Shamara says. “Just having that platform would have really helped me.”
As an advisor, Shamara has worked with dozens of students, providing them with career tips, resume writing help, and doing informational interviews. She always leaves the focus up to the advisee.
“You can hear the excitement and enthusiasm in their voices,” Shamara says. “I make sure that I’m fully prepared for consultations because they come willing and ready.”
Shamara likes the program because she can work around her busy schedule and talk with students in the evenings, but her support doesn’t just stop at the consultation(s). She encourages students to follow-up, which Tameka made sure to do.
“She reminds me of myself when I was graduating,” Shamara says. “We had a wonderful conversation,” and because of Tameka’s preparedness, determination, and follow-up, Shamara took Tameka’s polished resume and sent it around. “I’m going to keep my eyes and ears open just in case anything comes in,” Shamara admits.
Both Tameka and Shamara believe the key to future success occurs before graduation. Tameka encourages students to get involved in extracurricular activities as early as their freshman year. Shamara says the best thing a student can do is intern. Joining groups, following-up, and not being afraid to put yourself out there helps, too.
Someday, Tameka hopes to be a UCAN advisor and help graduating students like herself. “It’s nice to have a fresh ear,” she says, “and to engage with someone who’s not part of your daily life, but who has a common background as you. You can talk for hours about the school you went to, your different experiences, and what you learned while you were there.”
By joining UCAN, you can make a new connection, and you never know where that connection might lead you in your career.
For additional information about UCAN or other mentoring opportunities on campus, please contact Meg McCarthy, Career Services Coordinator, at the UAlbany Alumni Association, at email@example.com or (518) 442-3098.
When Meghan Monroy, ’17, graduated from UConn in May with a Master’s degree in Microbiology, she immediately began a contract position that lasted her through September. Up until that point, Meghan says, opportunities had just fallen into her lap—but once the contract position was up, and it was time to look for new work as not a student, but a graduate, she found herself uncertain on how to proceed.
“Everything was getting lost in the Internet abyss,” Meghan explains, noting that even as she scrolled job boards and submitted her résumé, she felt she wasn’t connecting with employers, and wasn’t sure how to improve her candidacy.
Soon, Meghan found the Husky Mentor Network through UConn’s website, and reached out to a few advisors for a consultation. At first, she limited her searches to alumni in the sciences, but then stumbled upon Tanya Smolkin’s profile. Tanya didn’t have a science background, but she had great reviews on the site. Moreover, she worked at Indeed, so “she clearly knows what people are looking for,” Meghan says.
Tanya was able to give Meghan some great advice on how to get noticed, including information about how programs can sometimes sort résumés by format, font, address, and more. She also boosted Meghan’s confidence, telling her that even though she was still building her experience, someone may be looking for exactly what she had to offer. But first, Tanya noted, Meghan had to put herself out there.
To that end, Tanya advised Meghan to attend some networking events, even though she knew that it could be uncomfortable. Many students and recent grads are initially feeling overwhelmed and scared, Tanya notes, but reaching out to people in the industry can be extremely powerful. She advises students to utilize all resources available to them, and to “find an advisor or a mentor, somewhere in school, somebody who can help guide you and give you that basic ‘what to expect.’”
Armed with new confidence from her consultation with Tanya on the Husky Mentor Network, Meghan attended a networking event and found that people were positive, kind, and very helpful. After, she landed three phone interviews, one in-person interview, and an internship—all very promising, and all in the bio-tech industry.
“You’ve got to just get out of your comfort zone in order to see something great come of it,” Meghan says. “If you want it bad enough, go out there and get it.”
When Reid Larkin ’19, a senior at Bowling Green State University, was trying to figure out his best career move after college, he attended a conference run by his fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi. There, Reid picked up a flyer that informed him about the Alpha Sigma Phi Mentor Network, a platform that connects fraternity alumni to current students.
Not sure what to expect, Reid set up a consultation with an array of mentors. Being a business major with a specialization in finance, Reid was motivated to find a career in the finance industry, though the number of options were daunting, and it was difficult to know where exactly to best focus his efforts.
The Alpha Sigma Phi Mentor Network offered Reid the chance to learn about several different areas of business—and figure out which ones might be best suited to him. “I’m planning for the next five years of my life, which obviously can change at any moment. There was a lot of information to take in,” Reid said. “This platform was one of the better things I could have done.”
However, Reid also knew one crucial fact about careers in finance. “Things change very quickly in the business world,” he explained. Reid needed to talk to someone who could relate to where he was in his career, and give him advice on how to manage those early career steps.
He found Jason Patel, a senior vice president who graduated from Rutgers University ten years ago, and is also a member of the Alpha Sigma Phi Mentor Network. Jason was excited to hear about a platform that opened opportunities for students and alumni to talk, since that didn’t exist for him when he was a student.
“Overall, having that ability to have members in different areas around the country reach out to us is really powerful and really useful for everybody,” Jason said.
Since Jason is just about ten years older than Reid, Jason could offer Reid important advice on how to approach internships, how to choose which geographical location to work in, and the benefits of financial certifications and grad schools. For instance, he recommended that Reid not enter grad school immediately, so he could get some real-world experience, but not to wait longer than five to ten years if he did decide to go back—because “often, after that amount of time, people are more reluctant to go back to school.”
Jason, Reid noted, was an especially useful mentor, given that he is relatively young and has had so many experiences and accomplishments in a short time. Jason also praised Reid, and noted that he loved the opportunity to connect with other fraternity members and students on the Alpha Sigma Phi Mentor Network.
Ultimately, Jason had this advice for his mentees: “Failure is completely acceptable,” he said. “From a career standpoint, so many people are afraid to fail. They need to not worry about that, and just go and do. Anytime anyone has ever failed, they will learn from that experience and they will become a much better candidate in the industry they’re looking to go into.”
When students go to college, they often have some inkling of what career they’re interested in. However, that career path may morph and change over time as students learn more about their desired jobs—a process that relies on that student learning more crucial information about different career paths.
That was the case for Emma Herman ’18, who used her school’s Alumni Mentorship Platform, CareerConnect, to help narrow down her list of potential careers. Emma is an upcoming senior at Principia College studying computer science, a field that opens doors to a number of careers.
However, at first, Emma wasn’t entirely sure which career path she wanted to follow. After hearing about CareerConnect from Principia’s Academic and Career Advising office, Emma set up five consultations with different mentors to get a more realistic understanding of what various career paths entailed.
“I joined [CareerConnect] not really knowing what I wanted to do, but having somewhat of a direction,” Emma said. “So it was nice on those first couple of calls to talk to people about their careers in the field I thought I wanted to go into, and get a better sense of what they might look like.”
After just a month or two of touching base with mentors, Emma began to really home in on her desired career path—one in cybersecurity law. She began to focus her efforts on figuring out the best law schools to apply to, and on how to best tailor her law school applications.
One of her consultations was with Steve DeWindt ’77, who received a BA in Business Administration at Principia before pursuing his MBA at UCLA. Steve was especially appreciative that Emma was looking not just for job searching tips, but for general career advice as well.
“How nice to have somebody totally outside your own experience,” Steve said, especially when mentees connect with mentors who “can offer you just, ‘here’s what I’ve seen in my career…’, or ‘in the marketplace at the moment…'”
In fact, Steve wishes he’d had this platform when he was a student and picking a career. “It would have been helpful to talk to alums who were in different industries I was thinking about,” Steve said. “I didn’t have a clue, nor any way of reaching out at that point…It would have been nice to have people to talk to about that.”
The connections that students and alumni can make through resources such as CareerConnect are special and powerful, Steve explained. “The connections that people make are very deep, and they can be done so quickly because there is such a shared heritage there,” he said.
With the help of CareerConnect, Emma now has a better sense of what different occupations entail, giving her more realistic expectations about her career interests.
“No matter where I go, I can find support and advice,” Emma said.
Advisor Preston Webb (‘10, ’11) has a lot of experience mentoring students on AGGIEvisors, Texas A&M Mays School of Business’ alumni mentorship platform. A Manager in the Technology practice at Deloitte Consulting, Preston primarily consults with MBA and MIS (Masters of Information Science) students looking to get into the consulting field.
His surprising advice to them? Focus less on technical skills, and more on “soft” skills in your résumé in order to land consulting jobs.
On AGGIEvisors, Preston often mentors international students, who might come from technical roles in India, China, or other nations. Their résumés, he said, tend to look like a string of acronyms and programming languages that the candidates are proficient in. But he tells these students to stop prioritizing these skills when looking for consulting jobs—because it’s even more important to emphasize soft skills, such as communication and leadership abilities. Skilled candidates need to not only be technically proficient, but also be able to communicate technical problems to business leaders.
“You need to highlight skills like your ability to manage and lead individuals, and your ability to interface with business individuals,” Preston explained.
Preston appreciates the ability to connect with students on AGGIEvisors. It’s an opportunity to give back to Texas A&M, and Preston often meets high-quality candidates whom he could refer to his employer.
One of Preston’s advisees is Mohammad Atif Tahir (’17), who graduated from Texas A&M with an MIS degree.
Atif noted that Preston provided feedback on his résumé, and helped him understand the expectations and preferences of recruiters in that industry. In addition, Preston offered valuable insight into the life of a consultant. “It’s very important to know what is going on in the industry and what is expected of you,” Atif said. “It was very helpful in deciding where I needed to go finally.”
Now on a competitive fellowship, Atif says he will continue to use the platform to learn about different industries so that, when he’s ready to job search, he’ll have strong insights into where he needs to focus his efforts. Atif now knows to tailor his résumé and experience to the targeted industry, and that there are advisors in his network who are willing to help.
Mica Kelmachter (’13) isn’t your typical alum: after graduating from the University of Maryland, she pursued a career in international journalism, landing pieces in Forbes, The Times of London, and more. But to reach the next level of her career, Mica turned to the UMD Alumni Advisor Network, connecting with an advisor who happened to be in exactly the kind of position that Mica aspired to.
Mica’s advisor, herself a successful journalist who had worked for the US News and World Report and was a prestigious Knight Wallace fellow, went above and beyond to help Mica. Not only could she relate to Mica’s struggles, but she also made sure to go the extra mile to put Mica in touch with contacts who could help her out. She even asked Mica to make a list of things she could do during the week, helping her figure out how best to allocate her time.
“She made it clear that the struggles never fully end, but this was somebody who had been in my shoes,” Mica explained. Her advisor felt like a friend who both empathized with her, and wanted to help her reach the next level professionally. “It was unbelievable I could be in touch with somebody who from the get-go believed in me and wanted to help me.”
Maryanne Waller (’97), another advisor on the UMD Alumni Advisor Network, also understands just how crucial experience can be when advising an up-and-coming mentee.
After graduating from UMD’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, Maryanne worked in consulting before pursuing her passion for human resources. She especially likes connecting with students pursuing a career path in HR, helping them figure out whether that career is the best fit for them, and sharing her own personal journey of how she ended up in that industry. Like Mica, she feels that the UMD Alumni Advisor Network allows her to connect to students and alumni within her own field.
“I had a great experience going to Maryland, and I truly want to be able to help other students,” Maryanne said.
By talking to people more experienced in their chosen field, mentees not only figure out the right path forward for them, but also make essential connections and expand their network. And sometimes, discovering that one advisor could be that essential extra boost to jumpstart the next phase of your career.
When Yolonde Smith (’17) entered Southern Nazarene University’s MBA program, specializing in Health Care Administration, she hoped that her new degree would catapult her into a successful career as a healthcare administrator. However, with little guidance and information about career paths, Yolonde struggled to figure out the best direction forward.
In this career path, job descriptions require Registered Nurses, not non-clinically degreed personnel. “What I’m finding in school is that there’s not a lot of information they’re giving us on what healthcare administrators should be doing. We know what accountants do, we know what financial officers do, and we need mentors to help guide us,” Yolonde explained.
Then, she received an email about the SNU Alumni Career Network, a platform that could connect her to key advisors in her field. Yolonde connected with Dr. Robert Wood (’02), an advisor who opened her eyes to a new, unconventional way of looking for opportunities.
Robert told Yolonde not just to look on conventional sites like LinkedIn and Careerbuilder, but to get out and network with people in her desired career area. Yolonde began to look at areas where health administrators in her area were meeting and signed up for a mixer. In addition, she began participating in relevant school clubs in order to meet people in her desired career area—a piece of tangible advice not easily found in a standard school program.
Robert knew a lot about unconventional career paths himself: after completing a bachelor’s degree at SNU mid-career, and then a master’s and doctorate degree at other universities, he began managing a family of companies that provides engineering and IT services to the government. To all of his mentees on the SNU Alumni Career Network, he stresses the importance of taking an unconventional approach to job hunting.
“When you apply to a job online, not getting a response is kind of the norm,” Robert explained. “If there’s an ideal role you’re trying to get into, tackle it from the nontraditional methods. Anybody can transmit a résumé over the Internet into somebody’s database and get it rejected.”
Candidates who want to make it to the next steps should also look at their own networks, he explained, by figuring out if they know someone who works there and learning everything they can about the organization.
Helping students learn to navigate these untraditional methods on the SNU Alumni Career Network has allowed Robert to give back to a community that helped him make an important mid-career change—now, he can teach new SNU students that sometimes, the best path to success is the unconventional one.
When Rommel Del Fierro (‘16) returned from his post as a sergeant in Afghanistan, he enrolled at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) to start a new life. But when he found that he didn’t have a community as strong as what he had in the Marines, Rommel took matters into his own hands: he became the founding father of the Kappa Eta Chapter for the Sigma Nu Fraternity at UCSB.
Sigma Nu didn’t just provide brotherhood for Rommel and his classmates. When Rommel was graduating, he leveraged the fraternity’s alumni network, the Sigma Nu Mentor Network, to gain career advice that ultimately landed him a job as an analyst. The key? Learning to tell a story.
Advisor Daniel Kocen, an alumnus of the Lambda Omicron Chapter at UC Irvine, shared this key piece of advice with Rommel. Daniel realized that Rommel was doing all of the right things. “He just needed that extra little push from someone who’s been there in their career,” Daniel said, explaining how he talked with Rommel about how to convert his interest and passion for analytics into action and a shareable story in interviews.
Daniel suggested Rommel take his extracurricular passions a step further by applying transferrable career skills for a full-time job. For example, Rommel was involved in non-profit organization, and Daniel advised that Rommel apply his analytical skills to his work (such as by analyzing survey data from participants) to stand out to recruiters.
The lesson from Daniel served Rommel well. “He gave me the tools I needed to take it to the next level,” Rommel said. “He told me everyone could look at data, but the really talented people could tell stories through it.” After speaking to Daniel on the Sigma Nu Mentor Network, Rommel was able to take his suggestions and landed a job as a data analyst.
For his part, Daniel believes that utilizing this network is essential – it provides “warm” leads, with a vast majority of Sigma Nu brothers from all chapters willing to respond and help. “I just wish more people would take advantage of services like these.”
When Jeevan Venkata (’16) began searching for a career in information technology, he knew preparation was key. After reaching out to his student communications team at Central Queensland University for a résumé critique, Jeevan was directed to the CQUni Career Connection platform. There, he completed a career consultation and took his new knowledge—and newfound confidence—with him through the application and interview processes at Toll Group, a global logistics solutions company. And—Jeevan didn’t land the job.
But less than a week later, Jeevan heard from another IT manager from the same company, who offered him a job that he didn’t apply for. Jeevan later heard from the HR department that, in fact, they liked him, but filled the first role with a candidate with more years of work experience.
It was Jeevan’s advisor, Lami Perera (’03, ’04), who gave Jeevan the confidence to succeed in his first interview, and the optimism to keep persevering after that initial disappointment. CQUni Career Connection “gave me my career,” Jeevan said, noting that Lami made him much more self-assured during the interview process. The platform “will definitely help everyone, as it helped me a lot,” he added.
How did Lami instill such confidence in Jeevan? In part, through emphasizing the importance of attitude. Lami, who was a graduate student at CQU back in 2003 and 2004, and who is now a PhD student, understands the importance of attitude and character when trying to land a job. Having participated in recruitment panels as a manager, Lami notes that a candidate’s technical background was rarely at the forefront of his decision-making. He always found an abundance of qualified candidates: what he was looking for was the candidate’s match to the team, their attitude, and their character.
“I believe that if your character is good, the career will come to you,” Lami said. “It’s like the house you’re going to build on a good foundation.” While Lami said he can teach team members new skills in technology, he can’t teach them interpersonal skills that define their character.
Lami helped explain to Jeevan that he shouldn’t just be focused on the technology side, but instead build an optimistic attitude that shines through in interviews. The CQUni Career Connection platform has helped Lami develop these important relationships, and not only teach his advisees, but also learn from them as well.
After Amber King (’18) transferred to the University of Delaware in 2016, she planned to pursue a new major and a new career: finance. Amber began studying in the University of Delaware’s finance and business development department, but was still looking for guidance on how she could leverage her new studies into a job after college. That’s when she found the UD Career Advising Network.
“I wanted to see exactly what I wanted to do,” Amber explains. Once on the platform, she set up a career conversation with Steve Dempsey (’90), an advisor who is a partner at a small private equity firm. Steve has extensive experience in banking and finance, and told Amber how to gain exposure to finance-related opportunities both on and off campus. Those recommendations included extracurricular clubs and classes she should take— as a matter of fact, Amber is now considering a minor in Accounting based on Steve’s advice.
Moreover, Amber now feels reassured that she’s at the right university, and that her move—supported by advisors like Steve—will bring her success in her new career goals.
For Steve, giving back via the UD Career Advising Network allows him to connect with the community and show students the range of career opportunities available to them. He emphasizes that the transition from college to career is an essential one, and shouldn’t be underestimated.
“The more you can network with people who are older than you, the better prepared you are to start working in an office environment,” Steve explained. “The adjustment for a lot of people when they come out of school is to realize that they’re going to be communicating with people who are in different stages of life. These are either colleagues, or customers, or suppliers—and the more you have exposure to communicating with people who aren’t in your peer group, the better your transition is going to be.”
Amber’s conversation with Steve helped convince her that her move was the right one—and prepared her for her next big transition.