Seminar helps students bridge 'college to career' gap

  • Benedictine University's Personal Branding for Business program helps students transition to careers with seminars and events, including a networking reception.

    Benedictine University's Personal Branding for Business program helps students transition to careers with seminars and events, including a networking reception. Courtesy of Benedictine University

 
By Phil Brozynski
Benedictine University
Posted2/1/2017 11:30 AM

There was a time when students would leave college with a degree, a handshake and no idea whatsoever of what awaited them after graduation.

The Daniel L. Goodwin College of Business believes that preparing students for the business world extends beyond the classroom. Bridging the college-to-career gap is the goal of a new Personal Branding for Business initiative pioneered by the college in collaboration with the Office of Alumni Relations and the Academic and Career Enrichment Center at Benedictine University.

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Students who major in business at Benedictine can participate in a five-week, noncredit personal branding seminar that teaches them how to achieve meaningful employment after graduation. Students learn how to dress for an interview, how to write a resume and how to network with professionals in the fields they want to enter.

The seminar is punctuated by an opportunity to practice what they have learned face-to-face with professionals in their field of interest. More than 60 students participated in a professional networking reception in November, where they met with experts in accounting, business law, finance, human resources, insurance, digital marketing and several other fields.

"We are really trying to help students who don't know what to expect," said Trente Arens, director of alumni relations. "I think there's a lot of nervousness when graduates go out into the working world, no matter what profession they choose. They're trying to figure out, 'Am I cut out for the financial world? Should I have gone into something else?'"

The experts who participated in the networking reception included several Benedictine alumni who have gone on to enjoy successful careers or are just embarking on careers and can relate to the trepidation felt by the soon-to-be college graduates.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I have had the benefit of a blessed career where I have had mentors support and direct my professional growth," said Chris Adams, executive director of Value Chain Services for Network Services Company and a Benedictine alumnus.

"I wanted to provide that learning to the exemplary students at Benedictine. I also wanted to collect resumes so that I might fill my internships with some of these terrific students."

Students met with at least three different experts at small-table discussions to learn how to bridge the college-to-career leap. Some of the industry experts also offered the students advice on how to customize their resumes for their highly focused employment networking.

"I was very impressed with the students' preparation, attentiveness and professionalism," Adams said. "They asked some very good questions and were active listeners. My advice to the students centered on career versatility, a strength with their liberal arts education, and that they must start their networking now and use social media judiciously when networking."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The students who participated in the program walked away feeling confident that their future job searches will result in a lasting and rewarding career.

"I feel this event was extremely important because we go through four years in an effort to earn a degree, but many times, after we have that degree, we have a hard time using it," said Faizah F. Bilfagi, a senior business and economics major from Naperville.

"I feel that the college took the extra step to not only give us the tools of education, but to show us how to use such tools in the real world."

Buoyed by the confidence she gained by attending the personal branding seminar, Bilfagi met with six experts at the networking reception and received offers of assistance from several.

"This event was so successful because we had students there who felt prepared," Arens said. "It wasn't one of those scary networking sessions where you're going in with no idea of what you're doing. The students felt prepared by the seminars the Goodwin College of Business offers and they left with a lot of confidence. That's the biggest thing -- building their confidence."

The Personal Branding for Business program continues in spring 2017 with four additional personal branding seminar sessions integrated with an Academic and Career Enrichment Center career fair event, alumni mentoring and another networking reception.

Each of the other colleges at Benedictine University -- liberal arts, science, and education and health services -- also are doing alumni-student networking events to bring this program to all students, regardless of their majors.