College 2 Corporate: A graduate gives back



Image: Kennedy and WinkelSusan O'Connor believes everyone should have a passion in life, particularly one that "gives back."

"It might be 'save the whales,' 'save the environment,' 'save the forest'... My passion is 'save the college student,'" said the Sherman, Conn., resident who graduated from Fairfield University's master's program in industrial and organizational psychology in 2003.

And that's why she started College 2 Corporate, a free, 8-month mentoring program based at Fairfield University for senior undergraduates and graduate students who are preparing to start their careers. The program teaches students crucial skills they need to compete in a complex job market through monthly group meetings and frequent one-on-one sessions with volunteer mentors from top local corporations, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Gartner, Nestle and Future Steps/Korn Ferry.

"In this difficult economy, experienced job seekers are competing with students entering the job market," O'Connor said. "College 2 Corporate will work with students to create individual portfolios and will help them market themselves to the right audience and companies."

Though the program is based at Fairfield, O'Connor and faculty liaison Paul Maloney, Ed.D., an assistant professor of the practice in Applied Psychology at the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, invite graduating students from nearby colleges to join. It augments the host of resources available to Fairfield students through the University's Career Planning Center.

"Fairfield is fortunate to have an alumna who is so passionate about career topics and students," said Cathleen Borgman, director of Career Planning. "Susan and the team she has assembled offer a wealth of information that the average individual wishes they could tap into."

Jessica Krzeminski, a 2009 University of Rhode Island graduate who will finish her master's degree at Fairfield in January, joined the group during the spring semester. She said she practices the networking and social skills she's learned at her current retail job while she searches for a position in her chosen field. "It's been immensely helpful," she said.

The concept is simple: The students gather each month for about an hour to listen to a guest speaker discuss a timely topic for job seekers. Among this year's programs are "Building Your Profile and Brand," "Behavioral Interviewing," Social Media and Networking" and "Alumni - How Can They Help?"

In addition, College 2 Corporate pairs each student with a volunteer corporate mentor who is willing to meet the student for two to four hours a month to discuss everything from resume writing to job leads.

And O'Connor knows a thing or two about navigating the job market: A longtime vice president of talent development at Thomson/Cengage Learning in Stamford, she was recently laid off and is looking for a job herself. "I'm in the same boat as you and plan to use these same skills! You will all be my mentor group," she told students gathered at the kickoff meeting in November.

O'Connor ran a pilot program during the 2010-11 academic year and College 2 Corporate won rave reviews. "I think it was very successful last year," said Dr. Maloney. "Some very practical and helpful pointers come out of the sessions - and participants appreciate the relaxed atmosphere."

This year's mentors include: Lauren Lee, director of strategy at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Rick Spann, senior vice president at Gateway International; Elaina Campopiano, principal consultant with Future Steps/Korn Ferry; Clement Alvear, human resources professional at Nestle; Scott Ettl, senior director of Enterprise IT Leader Operations at Gartner; Robert Reitknecht, independent human resources consultant; Steve Winkel, director of corporate education at Survey Sampling International, LLC; and Monica Waters, executive director of learning at Cengage Learning.

"The greatest thing about this whole community is you will have this team of support," Winkel told the students at the first meeting. "And it is our objective to get you jobs."

To learn more about College 2 Corporate, contact Susan O'Connor at oconnors724@gmail.com.

 

Image: Holly Kennedy, a recent Lehigh University graduate, meets her College 2 Corporate mentor, Steve Winkel.

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Media Contact: Meredith Guinness, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, mguinness@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 17, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 126