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SMC alumnae panel offers career advice

Tara Scannell | Thursday, November 6, 2008

A panel of Saint Mary’s College alumnae answered students’ questions about their future careers and gave valuable advice on their own experiences last night in Vander Vennet Theater.

Many of the panel members stressed the importance of internships in college so students gain experience before graduation. Gaining an in-depth knowledge of a certain field through internships sets an applicant apart from others and makes them more likely to get hired.

“I actually studied journalism in college but the one reason I didn’t really pursue it out of college was because I never interned and didn’t have that experience,” Sara Whitfield, a 2005 graduate who currently works as an assistant manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said.

Even if a student does not plan on applying for a job right after graduation, the panel stressed internships are résumé builders which help when applying to law or graduate school.

The alumnae panel also explained the impact that Saint Mary’s had on how they approached their job searches prior to graduation.

“I think a lot of our professors tried to instill in us that you can do anything and there is no guy out there that can do anything better than you,” Jennifer Urgonski, a 2004 graduate who now works as an investment advisor for the John Hancock Financial Network, said.

Other alumnae spoke of how beneficial the emphasis the College places on writing skills impacted them.

“The writing skills that I learned here were essential. Being able to write well is beneficial in any job setting, and that’s something that Saint Mary’s teaches their students well,” Debbie Higgins, a 1992 alumna, said.

One regret several of the panelist shared about their interviewing experience is they felt they simply did not go on enough interviews.

“I should have just gone to more, if only for the interview experience,” Urgonski said. Emphasizing interviewing is a skill that needs to be practiced just like any other, Urgonski said she wished she had not been so critical about the interviews she chose.

Many of the students present at the discussion were anxious to hear the panel’s opinion on the affect the economy would have on graduating students’ job searches. The general consensus was that it depends on the student’s area of interest.

“Hospitals are always in need, so nursing students definitely have an advantage,” Ellie Ryan, who received her nursing degree from Saint Mary’s College in 1986, said.

Panelists also advised students to set themselves apart from the group in interviews. Sending a thank you note after an interview can often be the deciding factor between two closely qualified applicants.

When students asked panelists how well Saint Mary’s College was actually known on a national level, many turned to each other and laughed.

“There’s no question that Saint Mary’s is known on a national level. There’s a certain amount of prestige that comes with graduating from here,” Whitfield said. “Just wear your ring and people will know where you’re from. They recognize the ring and know we’re well-educated women.”