Fairfield University’s Career Center is set to kick off its 2022 Alumni Job Shadow Program. This program invites junior and senior students to register to get matched with Fairfield alumni, and even parents of students, so they can network with and learn from Fairfield graduates and community members. Registration for the program closes on Oct. 25.
During the registration process, one must complete a few brief questions that will help ensure each student gets matched with a fitting alumni mentor based on industry, location and other interests.
According to Deirdre Bennett, associate director of Employer Development in the University Career Center, the program has been running for about eight years.
Throughout the course of the program’s history, immense growth has been seen. Just last year, there were 225 students matched with almost 190 alumni, Bennett shared.
The program aims to connect junior and senior students with alumni and parents in the field to explore industries, organizations and potential jobs.
Bennett told The Mirror, “The best moments are when a student and alumni connect and develop a true mentorship, and when the Job Shadow experience leads to an internship or job offer,” adding that “it can truly be a life-changing experience.”
For Marketing major and accounting minor Sara Fitzsimmons ‘23, it was exactly that.
She shadowed Michael Gabrielli, a 2015 graduate who works at Inspira Marketing Group as a Regional Field Manager and described her experience as “amazing.” Fitzsimmons added that everyone was “enthusiastic to participate in it and super helpful.”
“My biggest takeaway from the job shadowing program was the valuable lessons it taught me,” Fitzsimmons said. “I was super nervous about applying to internships and jobs as well as networking and I gained great advice from alumni who have been in my position.”
She added that “they taught me lessons on how to be confident when networking” and “to always be enthusiastic and apply to a job even if I am nervous there is no chance I will get it.”
Junior Marketing and Finance double-major Taeo Johnston-Manby was able to participate early in the program as a second-semester sophomore last fall when he shadowed Eric Ryan, a sales director at Pegasystems and Fairfield University parent, according to a press release from the University’s news page.
He shared similar sentiments as Fitzsimmons.
“This has been the best networking and professional experience thus far of my Dolan career, and any students considering should sign up,” Johnston-Manby said. “The Career Center has firms and alumni that fit everyone’s interests and you may discover something new about yourself and interests through the program.”
For Johnston-Manby, he was able to discover his interest in tech sales and the management that corresponds. He also expresses “the feeling that alumni were willing and able to help us find what we are passionate about and help us explore the program.”
Students of all majors are able to participate in this program.
Senior Hannah Sencaj participated last year and was paired with Amy Neenan ‘19, a nurse on a Medical Surgical floor at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, Mass.
Sencaj is a nursing major in the Accelerated Second Degree Program. Since she participated in the program last year, when hospitals were not allowed shadowing at the time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she chatted over Zoom with Neenan.
“While being able to watch her perform clinical skills would have been interesting, a lot of what I hoped to get out of the job shadow was what to expect as I transition into the field, which I was still able to get through a Zoom call,” Sencaj stated.
Through the shadow program, Sencaj found it incredibly interesting to be able to “hear Amy’s unique path and what she found to be most helpful in her own transition.”
She added, “I feel that it is very important to talk to as many new graduates in many different areas of the field to help gauge what might be the best direction for me to take. That is why I will be participating in the program again this year!”
Sencaj hopes this year she might be able to go in person to shadow in a hospital.
Fitzsimmons and Johnston-Manby will also be participating in the program again, and are eagerly anticipating it.
Though the job shadow program is geared towards the students, alumni who act as mentors also find a lot of value in the program.
McKenzie Armington ‘19, ‘20, who studied mechanical engineering at Fairfield, is a mentor to the University’s students through the job shadow program.
For Armington, being a mentor is an opportunity for her to “give advice that [she] wishes [she] had received when [she] was going through the transition from college to the workforce.”
“My goal is always to ensure the students have a better understanding of what the transition of being a college kid to becoming a work[ing] professional is like and trying to provide advice to make the process less stressful,” Armington said. “It can be scary starting a new chapter in your life, and I want to be able to provide advice that will help their transition be as smooth as possible.”
While Armington was a student at Fairfield, she too participated in the shadowing program during her senior year and visited Medtronic, a medical device company.
The reason why Armington became a mentor for the program was because of how highly she regards the opportunity for students to shadow people working in their desired fields.
“I found the most helpful pieces to determining where I wanted to work post-graduation were to both visit and engage in discussions with those who were actually working at the companies I was looking into,” she said. “This allowed me to get a better understanding of the company environment and the day-to-day life I would experience.”
Armington hopes she can “provide this to future graduates who may not know which direction they want to pursue after college.”
When it comes down to deciding whether or not to participate, Fitzsimmons, Johnston-Manby and Sencaj cannot recommend it enough.
“There is literally no reason not to do it!” Johnston-Manby said. “Getting to take time out of your week to take a step into the professional world is something that a lot of students would give up anything to do.”
He added, “That’s what being a Stag is all about, embracing new opportunities, having fun and learning something new in the process about how to become a better and more well-rounded person.”
Fitzsimmons wants students interested in the program to know they should “do it.”
“I made so many connections not only with Fairfield alumni but with other people in the company as well that I am still in contact with today,” she said. “Even if I don’t work at the company I shadowed for, they were a great resource to lean on for advice and they have connections as well that have helped me when applying for jobs.”
Participants will be notified of their match(es) in November. Due to the fact that matches are created based on student interest in industries and locations, not all alumni or parents may be matched, however, the Career Center will notify those who are not.
Students will then connect with their match during November and December to schedule an in-person or virtual meeting, and the January Job Shadow will take place during Jan. 3-13. Although there is flexibility if the Jan. 3-13 time frame does not work for students and their alumni/parent match.
Bennett wants everyone to know that “the University Career Center encourages all juniors and seniors to sign up for the program!” Registration closes Oct. 25 and can be found here: https://bit.ly/3CLTsxi