Powerful Tips for Kick Starting Your Career
by Monica Calzolari
Two current students and three other panelists shared their thoughts and offered priceless career advice on April 5, 2018 as part of an interactive panel presented by Hartwick College’s offices of Global Education & Service Learning, Career Services, and Intercultural Affairs.
The evening workshop titled “Creating Your Hartwick Story: A Roadmap for Success Beyond Hartwick College” was intended to help current students identify some of the ways in which they can differentiate themselves as unique from other college graduates competing for jobs, internships, or admission to graduate school.
Professor of Psychology and Department Chair Dr. KinHo Chan moderated the discussion. The panelists were:
- Chelsea Jones ’18, anthropology major
- Dakota Morgan ’19, economics/business administration major
- Jarvis McCowin, Hartwick College coordinator of inclusion
- Jenifer Rinehart, senior vice president, human resources, Preferred Mutual
- Donna Lucy, principal, Cooperstown Jr/Sr High School
“You are going to be in the workforce for a long time. Make sure you do what you are passionate about,” was the first piece of advice offered by Rinehart, a seasoned human resource professional who has devoted 30 years of her life working in the insurance industry. “Your first job is not your last job. It is OK if your first job is not a perfect fit.”
Before the 9-11 terrorist attack, Lucy was an international biotechnology professional traveling the world “on an expense account.” She made a dramatic career change when a friend suggested that she’d be great with kids. Lucy devoted her talents to New York City schools as an assistant principal of science security for 12 years, and is now principal at a high school in Cooperstown. Lucy rattled off the four principles by which she lives, found in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:
- Be Impeccable with Your Word
- Don’t Take Anything Personally
- Don’t Make Assumptions
- Always Do Your Best
McCowin, Hartwick’s Coordinator of Inclusion, told the audience that his mother sat him down before she died and gave him advice that has made a profound impact on his life and career choices. She told him, “Know yourself,” or in other words, “To thine own self be true.” He seconded Rinehart’s and Lucy’s advice about being authentic, saying “Do what makes you smile, laugh, and run home and tell your friends about…” McCowin said that he “would have never chosen higher education if making a lot of money was his goal.” Instead, he describes himself as “someone who seeks to promote solidarity movements, dialogue, and community building and healing on college campuses by centering equity, justice, and love.” These values guide his personal and professional life.
“Your Hartwick Story is not just for employers. It is for you,” Morgan said. “I used to be shy and sit in the back of the class. I could never have been in front of the room speaking like this two-three years ago.”
Professor Chan and other staff members affirmed that Hartwick has indeed transformed the freshman they knew. How? Since arriving at Hartwick three years ago, Morgan has interned at four companies. His internship in Dublin, Ireland, funded by the Emerson Scholarship, has been the highlight of his career to date.
“Hartwick taught me to always improve myself and strive a little higher,” Morgan said.
Jones is a senior anthropology major from uptown Manhattan. She said, “I grew up in the projects. Money was tight.” Now, as an avid member of Hartwick’s theatre and art departments, she had this advice for the audience:
“Regardless of where you come from, you get to choose who you are.”
Jones took advantage of many opportunities at Hartwick. She has attended a national ceramic conference and traveled abroad to Italy. One of Jones’ observations from her time abroad is that “In Italy, college students leave their cafeteria trays and uneaten food behind for someone else to clean up. That is not how I was raised,” she said. “At first, I found it disrespectful, but then I realized that that is their culture and it is different than mine. By studying anthropology, I learned that there are many different cultural influences at work.”
When asked what was the single most significant influence is her career, Rinehart responded, “The thing that changed me the most professionally was living and working abroad.” Rinehart worked for Chubb Insurance in London for five years. She said, “It was very humbling. I had to teach employees in Asia sales training.”
Rinehart also shared another defining moment in her career. She said she was recruited to a new company and was climbing the career ladder when her CEO asked her to lie to the Board of Directors. When she refused, she was fired on the spot. She said, “I was a single parent with a young son and a large mortgage.” She shared how uncomfortable it was to be suddenly unemployed under these circumstances, but she said she has used this story in her interviews as a way to establish her credibility and demonstrate her strong ethics and “character.”
Articulate, passionate, and generous with her advice, Lucy recommended, “Travel as much as you can in your twenties, before you have a bunch of kids…” She told the audience that one of her favorite movies is Avatar, because it communicates that “we are all connected regardless of your ethnic strand.” Lucy is African American.
She also shared her definition of leadership: “Being a leader means being of service.” Above all else, her message was to “be authentic.”
All five panelists achieved success by being their authentic selves and leaning on mentors along the way. McCowin’s college advisor was an early mentor who suggested he read the book Acts of Faith. Morgan, on the other hand, never asked anyone to be his mentor. But he offered this suggestion, “If you show ambition and do well in class, some professors are more than willing to mentor you.”