The Class of 2017 graduates have departed on their individual journeys beyond Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) and have thanked many supporters, but one sticks out for aiding Presidents as they seek opportunities beyond campus borders.
The Office of Career Services has helped countless students connect with professional opportunities and alumni mentors. In the Class of 2017 alone, W&J grads have gone on to jobs with BNY Mellon, Schneider Downs, Teach for America, and more. Others are seeking to further their education in prestigious graduate programs around the country.
From the moment students come to W&J, Career Services provides assistance for entering into the work force following their college experience.
“We talk to students about coming [to Career Services] early and often. We want them to come in as early as their first semester,” said Assistant Director of Career Services Jami Klingensmith.
In that first interaction, the office will introduce students to the alumni mentor network, where students can see biographies of more than 260 alumni in various career fields, as well as reach out to those alumni to make connections. The network features alumni at all points of their careers, from recent graduates to CEOs of major corporations.
Access to the network has allowed students to build meaningful connections and get helpful advice. Interactions have ranged from exchanging emails and meeting for coffee to alumni hosting current students in homes and helping them secure internships.
In one case, alumnus Richard Crosbie, the former chief chemist with Nike, took then-junior Ben Cecchini ’13 to a Nike factory in South Korea after Cecchini expressed an interest in footwear production. Cecchini continued to study at W&J with a goal of working in this field and the fall after his senior year, he became a footwear developer with Under Armour. Cecchini is now an alumni member of the network who works with current students looking to make those connections for their future.
“The alumni mentor network is one of our most valuable features. We want students to know that this resource is available to them, and we can show them how to use it,” Director of Career Services Roberta Cross said.
Because of this focus on building relationships, Career Services is better able to serve the students at W&J and get a more accurate idea of outcomes for Presidents following graduation. By the most recent numbers from the class of 2016, 93 percent of reporting students confirmed they were seeking further education or were employed after completing their undergraduate program at W&J. The number of students who share the information with Career Services allows the department to share an accurate portrait of alumni patterns following graduation.
“One of our points of pride, and I give Jami all the credit here, is what is referred to as our ‘knowledge rate,’ or how many students report their after graduation plans. Our knowledge rate on our graduates is well above the national average,” Cross said. “We know about 80 percent of our students’ plans, on average. According to NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers), the suggested minimum knowledge rate should be at least 65 percent; however, many colleges do not reach that number. So you’ve got to be careful when you hear these stats, when you hear a college saying ‘95 percent of our grads,’ as that might be reporting on only 45 percent of grads. At W&J, we are able to back up our claims with the ability to really, really report that we know a lot about our grads.”
Other services offered by the office include resume review, interview practice, and links to career fairs so students can have face-to-face interactions with potential employers.
And their help isn’t just limited to current students.
“We are a resource for alumni, as well,” Cross said. “Happily, most of our alums are all set. I’d say most of our interaction with them is to reengage them in becoming a resource to current students.”
Presidents can get in touch with the career services staff at firstname.lastname@example.org and 724-229-5126 or by stopping by their office in the lower level of Rosin Campus Center.