Senior Development Conference
The Senior Professional Development Conference on April 4, 2014. (Photo by Jillian Torre)

by Jillian Torre

As the seniors are preparing for graduation in little over a month a lot of questions are surfacing about what comes next after they leave Mount Saint Mary College. How should they conduct a job search? Is grad school a good idea? What is an elevator speech? The Mount Saint Mary College Career Center, along with Enterprise, sponsored a Senior Professional Development Conference on April 4, so students can get answers to their questions.

Kathleen O’Keefe, associate director of the Career Center, said the conference was meant to prepare seniors for the next step after college. “Whether that’s going on to grad school or conducting a job search, they should have a level of confidence and skill set that a student who doesn’t attend probably won’t have,” she said.

Lisa Minuta Gorke, head of talent acquisition at Gerson Lehrman Group, was the conference’s keynote speaker. Her inspirational speech gave seniors useful advice on how to transition into the next chapter of their lives. She talked about how people word things can make all the difference. Instead of saying to a boss, “Can I have a raise?” say, “Can I have more responsibility?” and instead of saying “I don’t know how to do that,” say, “I’ll  try.”

Some of her other words of wisdom included: stay away from drama, meet your deadlines, be willing to relocate, take an improv class, and remember the hardest jobs are the ones where you’ll learn the most.

The keynote address was followed by two concurrent sessions. Multiple workshops were offered for each session and seniors were allowed to choose which to attend. Among these workshops were “Tell me about yourself and other terrifying interview questions demystified,” “How to conduct a job search that gets results,” “Grad School – it’s not college!” and “Salary Negotiation – know what you are worth.”

Students’ seemed to learn a lot from these sessions. According to O’Keefe some students said they could have been a little bit longer or adding a third session would have been helpful.

After the power sessions everyone came back to the atrium for the alumni panel. Director of alumni affairs and advancement events Michelle Iacuessa first talked about the importance of using the college’s alumni network and how students can stay involved after graduation.

Christine DeBenedetto (’13), management assistant at Enterprise; Jonathan Mars (’04), team lead at AppNexus; Mary Ann Raftery (’13), event coordinator with the Gerson Lehrman Group; Jill Robinson (’12), full time graduate student, and Angel Santana (’10), director of community affairs for Office of State Senator Jose M. Serrano, were the alumni in attendance. Students were able to ask the recent alumni questions about their transitions from MSMC to the working world.

Public relations senior Christina SanFelippo thought the presenters were “realistic and honest” about the job search and did a good job keeping their advice relatable to the students.

After the conference Student Activities hosted a 21 Club  where students were able to network with alumni and other presenters. The purpose of the 21 Club was to give students a chance “to interact at an activity where there’s alcohol involved and employers, where there needs to be a level of professionalism and maturity,” said O’Keefe.

Over $1,000 dollars in prizes were raffled off at the end of the event and every student was given a padfolio to use as they begin interviewing for jobs and graduate schools.

The Career Center hopes to bring the program back next year.