Alumni, Parents and Programs Help Students Forge Ahead
A liberal arts education—with its emphasis on thinking critically, communicating clearly and solving problems effectively—prepares students for a lifetime of learning, working and engaging in the world around them. But today’s job market presents a pressing question: Does a liberal arts education help students land that first job out of college?
The answer: Yes, it does. And it does so with a little help from friends in the broader Franklin & Marshall community. In the past several years an increase in the number of alumni and parents participating in networking events and career forums, coupled with an expanding array of F&M Career Services programs, has helped more students and recent graduates as they set out on their career paths.
The help has come at a crucial time. “It’s definitely a tough job market,” says Tammy Halstead, interim director of Career Services. “Students are competing for jobs with people who have more experience but have been out of work for a year or a two. So even if jobs open up, there is still that pool of unemployed or underemployed who are trying to get back to that level.”
This job market is leading many F&M students to take advantage of relevant services and programs earlier in their education. “Students who are proactive and think about life after college when they are sophomores and juniors are the ones who will develop the skills—knowing your audience, knowing yourself and building relationships—that are absolutely vital in a tough job market,” Halstead says.
Preparing for What’s Next
F&M Career Services has seen a huge uptick in activity among students preparing for post-college life. In 2006-07 the office conducted 450 individual coaching sessions with students; in 2010-11 it held 1,565 sessions with students and alumni. The office has also launched and expanded several programs and events, including the Foundations of Success program, career forums and graduate-school fairs.
The College’s signature career program is Life After College Success (LACS). Founded by Ed Satell P’09, LACS is a two- year program in which students receive intensive training and coaching, participate in networking events and hear from dynamic leaders. The skills students learn have helped dozens of them land internships and jobs in fields such as finance, business, medicine, human resources, nonprofits and government.
In the past four years the program has drawn a who’s who of leaders—many of them F&M graduates—who speak frankly with students about their own mistakes along their paths to success.
“We ask our speakers to not talk about what they are doing now,” Halstead says. “They are encouraged to only talk about the six or eight years from graduation to about age 30. We have had more than a couple speakers say this is refreshing for them.”
Speakers have included Wanda Austin ’75, Ph.D., president and CEO of Aerospace Corp.; Jack Bogle GP’12, founder and retired CEO of The Vanguard Group; Mike Dee ‘85, CEO of the Miami Dolphins; Mary Schapiro ‘77, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and H. Art Taylor ‘80, president and CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
The program is exceeding expectations. In its first year, the program selected 30 from more than 100 applicants in the junior class. Last year the number of participants reached 90 and included juniors and seniors. Going forward, the College hopes to expand the program to keep up with the demand.
The Mosaic of Investing
Alumni and parents have stepped up in other ways to offer career support. The first time Steven Kent P’13 made the connection between the College and his employer, Goldman Sachs, was when he and daughter Gayle were on campus in the spring of 2009 for F&M’s “A Closer Look.” This daylong program provides new students an opportunity to talk with faculty members and learn about campus life from current students.
Kent noticed many students, faculty and administrators made the same point. “They said, ‘What we want at F&M are creative people. We want thoughtful people. We don’t want people who are just looking to get a skill set in order to move on to a job,’” Kent says. “I thought, That’s just the type of people Goldman Sachs is looking to hire.
We often don’t know what we are going to hire someone to do. Or we bring them into a certain area, and over time they have to learn another skill set,” explains Kent, who has a B.A. in economics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an M.B.A. from New York University. He is now a managing director at Goldman Sachs. “The first few weeks are skills that we can teach. The year or two after that is when we ask people to make inferences and think about the impact of one idea on another.”
Kent’s specialty is equity-investment research, with a focus on lodging, gaming and leisure. “Much of what we do is called the mosaic of investing,” he says. “We take little pieces from all different areas and put them together into an investment picture. That seemed very similar to the way students are taught to think at Franklin & Marshall.”
Kent set out to connect the institutions.
In 2010 he came to F&M with a colleague whose sister went to F&M. They presented to 25 students and then interviewed some of them. From that pool Kent chose a few to attend a Goldman Sachs “Super Day,” in which the company interviews top students from all over. It’s an intense process, with students meeting six to 10 people before they are hired.
Bobby Pokora ’11, then a junior, was chosen as a summer intern. He spent the summer working on Kent’s research team. “We liked Bobby so much we offered him a full-time position,” Kent says. Pokora started at Goldman Sachs this past summer.
Kent has since expanded recruiting efforts at F&M. “In January 2011 I brought several F&M alumni who work at Goldman Sachs with me,” he says. “We did a presentation that drew more students than in 2010, and we interviewed many more students. We ended up making three summer-internship offers.”
Companies large and small have had success hiring F&M graduates. In the case of Dave Lehman, Ph.D., ’68, P’01, his company has five employees—three of whom, including him, are F&M alumni. Plus he has two interns who are F&M graduates.
Lehman, a geology major, is founder and CEO of DJ Resources LLC, based in Houston. He previously worked at Exxon as a geologist.
The first F&M graduate he brought on was a business major—and a relative, his daughter Lisa Lehman ‘01. “She did such a fantastic job on several projects for me that I decided to hire her,” Lehman says.
The other F&M graduates are geologists. The first came through Carol de Wet, professor of geosciences and associate dean of the faculty, who asked Lehman if he would take on an intern. “I was starting to do a lot of computer work, because a lot of geology had transitioned to computers,” he explains. “So I thought I could use someone.”
He brought on Jack Rosenthal ’06 for the summer. Rosenthal liked what he was doing and stayed until the end of the year. When Lehman’s funding came in, he hired Rosenthal, who is now a full-time geologist based in Denver. “Jack has more than five years’ experience now, and I’d put him up against any geologist that I come across in his area,” Lehman says.
Lehman has taken on two additional F&M graduates as interns. “When you hire someone from F&M, you know you are getting a good employee. You are getting someone with a great academic background and a good work ethic,” he says. “I do this not out of benevolence. I do it because it helps me and because I am getting good value.”
Getting good value is something Stephen Ehrlich ’87 understands. The president and CEO of Lightspeed Financial, in New York, Ehrlich has four F&M alumni working for him: Sean Oliver ‘10, Andrew Capone ‘10, Rob Moriarty ‘10 and Ben Lurio ‘11. The company is an agency broker/dealer that serves retail and institutional customers by providing direct market access to the equities, options and futures markets through manual and algorithmic platforms. It employs about 90 people, mostly in New York but also in Chicago, Houston and California.
“We began a recruiting relationship with F&M more than two years ago, which stemmed from my connections to the lacrosse team and Chi Phi fraternity,” Ehrlich explains. “We began with the hire of lacrosse player Sean Oliver ’10 as an intern. Following the internship, Sean joined the firm as a sales associate.”
The job market is different today than it was for Ehrlich, an accounting major who had a job secured in the fall of his senior year. “It’s so much harder for kids coming out of college,” he says. “I knew I’d get a job, because everyone who graduated from college back then got a job. Now I see students who are focused on their studies and do really well, and they still might not be able to find a job.”
Like Lehman, Ehrlich understands the business advantage of hiring F&M graduates. “As an alumnus, I understand the value of an F&M education and the necessity of networking in today’s competitive job market,” he says. “Knowing the quality education these students are receiving and the track record of students we’ve hired makes F&M one of the first places we recruit when we have job openings.”
Paying It Forward
New York and Washington boast large numbers of F&M alumni. So it is no surprise the cities have become destinations of choice for F&M students—as places to network with alumni and explore career options.
In 2009 Career Services partnered with the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House for the College’s first Career Exploration Trek. About 20 students went to New York, where they learned about publishing from alumni who participated at the request of Writers House Director Kerry Sherin Wright.
In February of this year, another group of 20 students traveled to the Big Apple, where John Parsley ’01 hosted them at Little, Brown & Co., where he is a senior editor. “The great part of this trip was that John brought in representatives from several departments, including publicity, art and subsidiary rights,” says Debra Faust Saporetti ’91, employer relations coordinator at F&M.
Parsley said that while he and his wife, Allison ’01, try to get back to campus when they can, this trek was a “chance for F&M to come to me.”
He and his colleagues were impressed by the students’ preparation and questions. “It was a nice opportunity for me to connect with current students and do something for them that I wasn’t able to benefit from when I was at school,” says Parsley.
From there the group went to a networking luncheon at P.J. Clarke’s with more than a dozen alumni. “You can sense students’ anxiety about getting a job,” Saporetti says. “Meeting with people who are eager to help and share their stories and making those warm connections gives students hope and makes it easier for them to reach out the next time.”
The trip also covered career opportunities in museums. Jean Mary Bongiorno ‘97, assistant director of visitor services at the Museum of Modern Art, hosted an afternoon session. She told students, “Every day of your life is a job interview. You never know who you are going to meet.”
In 2010 and 2011, the nation’s capital was a trek hot spot. The trips included an added alumni component: the Metro Washington, D.C., Regional Chapter helped Career Services organize both events, which focused on careers in government and careers related to government, such as public policy and lobbying.
Christine Corkran ‘05, the chair of D.C. chapter in 2010, worked with Nate Tipton ‘05 and Andy Duberstein ’09 to help arrange the visit and recruit alumni to participate. Nearly 40 students toured the U.S. Capitol Building and met with 15 F&M alumni at a networking luncheon.
“It’s a great way for students to become introduced to D.C. and to meet F&M alumni in one place. Plus it’s an introduction to the regional chapter,” says Corkran, a lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery. “For alumni, it is a chance to reconnect and also do a little networking of our own.“
The trek was so popular that when Career Services was not sure it had the funds for a return in 2011, the D.C. chapter and F&M’s Alumni Board pulled together to make sure it happened. This past spring 31 students met with 16 alumni at a networking event organized by the D.C. chapter and its co-chairs, Justine Freisleben ’07 and Adrienne Bauer ’93.
The alumni involved in the Career Exploration Treks, as well as others who have helped students, feel they are both giving back to F&M and continuing a tradition.
“The spirit behind the trek to D.C. was that nearly all of the alumni who participated got to where they are—either their first job or a subsequent position—through the help of other F&M alumni,” says Corkran, who was twice helped by Ed Williams ’99 in securing positions in D.C. “It was a way for us to pay it forward. We have all benefitted from the F&M connection.”
If you are interested in expanding the F&M career network by hiring or recruiting F&M students, offering internships, providing career advice or participating in career forums, call Career Services at 717-291-4084 or email email@example.com.