For Juniors, Building Relationships to Open Doors to the World of Work
by Jennifer Spencer
For upperclassmen coming back to campus this fall, September signals more than the start of their junior year. It marks a perspective shift from "student" to "soon-to-be-job-seeker." And that means it's time to network.
"As students start their junior year, their life inside the classroom is coming together with their life outside the classroom," said Bernie Stratford, director of experiential education.
"Fordham, as a Jesuit university, believes that the student's education is part action and reflection and part putting theory into practice," he said.
Long nights in the library and a great on-campus community can make students forget there's a world outside of Fordham. But it's increasingly important that they look beyond the walls of the University early in their college careers.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 70 percent of jobs are filled by someone the employer knew before posting the opening. In fact, more than 40 percent of jobs are never even advertised.
Stratford said leveraging the expertise of Fordham's faculty is a great place to start building professional relationships.
"It's time to really get your money's worth from the faculty," Stratford said. "Pick their brains and get ideas from them on how great connections are made."
Elizabeth Stone, professor of English and communication and media studies, has become a "hub" for students pursuing careers in her field, journalism. During her 30 years advising student newspaper The Observer, she said she has worked to make connections between her current students at The Observer and its alumni.
"I want a conversation to start, and over the years, a number of alumni have offered internships to or hired other alumni or graduating seniors," Stone said.
Stone tries to give students direct contact with working professionals in and outside of the classroom. In her Introduction to Journalism course this summer, she has featured guest lectures from alumni working at The New York Times, the Financial Times, People.com, US Weekly, and local cable news network NY1.
"In all of these cases, they gave advice to the current students, some of whom are members of the newspaper, invited them to keep in touch, and gave out their e-mails," Stone said.
Stone also stressed the importance of hands-on experience, starting with on-campus opportunities like student media or clubs which prepare students to compete for the most prestigious internships in New York City.
"I don't think living in the real world is at odds with critical thinking," Stone said. "Working on a campus paper, for example, requires exactly the kind of critical thinking skills that a Jesuit education foregrounds."
Students can also begin to mine their friends and family for both information and connections to the world of work. Stratford said that as students begin to think about life after graduation, learning more about the careers of people they have known all their lives can be a great way to explore potential paths.
"No one likes to think they're pestering people, but family members generally want to help. They are just waiting to be asked," Stratford said.
As an alumnus, John Nelson, FCRH '84, GBA '91, and PAR '15, has mentored dozens of Fordham alumni during his career in finance.
Nelson, the former CEO of North America at ABN AMRO, said that now that his son Christopher is at Fordham, he sees opportunities for the parent community to extend the reach of the Fordham family even further.
"In my mind, you're a parent to a particular student at Fordham, but you're also in a unique position to be a mentor and advocate to many students like your child," Nelson said.
"There is clearly an opportunity for parents to help kids be prepared and understand the customs, cultures, and language of what they think would be their chosen field of endeavor, and connect them with people who can provide advice and concrete experience so they can determine whether this is the track they can stay on," he said.
New York City, home to millions of opportunities and a strong Fordham alumni community, provides opportunities for networking and work experience that are hard to match elsewhere.
For example, Fordham's Lincoln Center location is blocks from the national headquarters of CBS, ABC, and Hearst, to name a few, giving communication and media studies students top-notch global work opportunities right in their own neighborhood.
"It's location, location, location," Stone said. "Summer internships are extremely competitive, but being in the middle of Manhattan and having a portfolio of work enhances a student's capacity to get an internship."