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School of Arts and Sciences

New Career Conference Helps Launch Seniors

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Senior Launch prepares students for success in the workplace

Seniors at Senior Launch Talk

By Molly Keady, A14

SeniorLaunchLinkedIn Higher Education Evangelist John Hill explains ways to most effectively use LinkedIn to Tufts seniors who attended Senior Launch. (Photo: Scott Tingley /Tufts University)

SeniorLaunch Seniors participating in a hypothetical networking situation during John Hill's presentation. (Photo: Scott Tingley/Tufts University)

SeniorLaunch Naxin Nancy Wang (A12), Louis Ellis (A13), and Rachael Wolber (A12) discuss making the transition from college to the workplace with Tufts seniors. (Photo: Scott Tingley/Tufts University)

SeniorLaunch Seniors listen to Wells Fargo financial advisor Stuart Paap discuss personal finance. (Photo: Scott Tingley/Tufts University)

One hundred and twelve Tufts seniors gathered in Cabot International Center this past February to kick off the Tufts Career Center's inaugural Senior Launch: Professional Skills for Career Success. The one-day professional development conference, supported by a donation from alumnus Mathieu Gaulin, A05, featured talks and presentations by experienced professionals that addressed a variety of skills crucial to career success.

Jean Papalia, Director of the Career Center, notes that while the center offers many resources and services designed to help seniors get jobs, "there was no major initiative to address how to be successful in the workplace once you've landed there. Our intent was to address issues that will face all seniors," adds Papalia, "regardless of job, employer, or industry."

Career Center staff identified common professional challenges facing new graduates, such as financial responsibilities and lack of negotiation experience. They then invited experts in financial management, networking, social media, and workplace etiquette to address these concerns. Additionally, a panel of employers representing communications, finance and consulting, non-profits, and startups shared tips on how hiring managers make decisions.

John Hill, Higher Education Evangelist at LinkedIn, delivered the conference keynote address. Hill, who has delivered speeches on the role of social media in the job search process at most of the top 100 U.S. universities, provided insight on the technicalities of LinkedIn. He stressed that students should sharpen their profiles and take advantage of all that LinkedIn has to offer. He encouraged students to explore interviewers' profiles before meeting them and search for shared interests and hobbies. According to Hill, speaking of common interests during the interview can make a candidate memorable and improve his or her chance of being hired.

Hill also advised students to carefully craft their LinkedIn profile's self-summary, stressing that members can most powerfully brand themselves and capture the attention of employers in this section. "Personal branding will be your job search currency in five years," he said.

Many students considered Hill's presentation one of the most valuable parts of the conference. Lia Weintraub, A14, thought Hill provided her with some tangible skills. "I have my LinkedIn profile but I had no idea how to use it," says Weintraub. Ben Weigel, A14, shared Weintraub's sentiment, adding that Hill "taught us about specific search functions that were entirely new to me."

After the keynote address, students dispersed and spent the day rotating among smaller presentations on networking skills, personal finance, interviewing strategies, negotiation skills, along with getting advice from younger Tufts alumni.

Stuart Paap, a financial advisor with Wells Fargo, wove humor into his talk on personal finance and broke down an often daunting topic to make it accessible to students from any academic background. "You're going to be jumping into the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat, and you'll be paddling," Paap told one group. "I want to make sure you don't get flipped over." He explained the basics of a 401(k) plan, a Roth401(k) plan, and employer matching programs. "The first thing you're going to do when you get a new job is ask if they offer a 401(k) and matching," Paap advised. He gave suggestions on how much an employee should contribute to a 401(k) and explained the major forms of investing.

Katie Elkins, A14, appreciated how Paap "tailored his talk to today's college students and taught us how to financially succeed later in life."

The Young Alumni Panel offered seniors valuable advice on how to navigate office life and the professional world after graduation. Louis Ellis, A13, Software Engineer at Brainshark, Inc, encouraged seniors to "communicate with your boss about how you like to managed" to create the most comfortable and effective working environment. Brionna Jimerson, A13, Program Coordinator for Dateline NBC, warned students not to fall into the "helper" role and advised them to carve a space for themselves at their workplaces. "You have to go to the work world," said Jimerson. "The work world won't come to you,"

Katherine Soule, A14, felt more at ease after attending the alumni panel. She described the prospect of graduating and entering the real world as "terrifying". "It's encouraging to hear experiences of other people who have [recently] gone through those transitions," she added.

Soule was not the only senior who valued her experiences at the conference. Eighty-eight percent of the attendees were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the Senior Launch, according to a survey conducted by the Career Center.

The Career Center staff was "delighted with the turnout and enthusiasm," Papalia said. She was thrilled that students found the event enlightening and worthwhile and stressed that seniors need to take charge of their professional development. "Unlike the academic world, where instruction and the expectations are clear, you can't count on that assurance in the workplace," Papalia explained. "Navigating one's path is a self-taught, self-motivated process and is clearly not intuitive. You need coaching from folks who have been there."

(post script: The Career Center acknowledges Donna Milmore, the lead coordinator of Senior Launch, who sadly passed away shortly after this event).