“I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career when I first came to college, and began taking a variety of classes,” Elizabeth Bodner ‘80 explained when she spoke with students during a Feb. 3 visit to campus as part of a Career Conversations event hosted by the College of Arts & Sciences Career Development Center.
Although she enrolled at Cornell planning to study science, she had to reevaluate after stumbling in chemistry. Bodner loved to read and write, so she decided to become an English major and ended up graduating with a double major in English and anthropology.
As graduation approached, Bodner began applying for jobs through Cornell’s career center, and received an offer from the Student Conservation Association for a job as an archivist for the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.
“I organized the artifacts, catalogued them, sometimes even made sure they were clean and stored well,” she said. “It was a really fun job, but it wasn’t the job I was going to do for the rest of my life.”
So, she began working in New York City as an editorial assistant for the American Kennel Club’s magazine for purebred dog breeders. “It was a great job. The perfect combination of my love of animals and writing,” she said.
After two years there, her parents sat her down and asked her what she really wanted to do with her life. She recalled that she had always wanted to be a veterinarian, and she received their support to follow her dream.
While continuing to do freelance work for the American Kennel Club, she took the necessary classes for vet school admission part time at New York University and shadowed a vet in New York City. She applied to Cornell’s veterinary school and was accepted.
After four years at Cornell, she graduated and began practicing as a small animal vet, first in a clinic in Connecticut and then in New Jersey.
“I highly recommend getting as much clinical experience as possible before deciding to become a vet,” Bodner said. “Often it’s not what people expect.”
Meanwhile, she kept in contact with key players at the AKC magazine. Eventually, she was offered the position of editor in chief and decided to take the opportunity.
“Meet people wherever you go, listen and get to know them,” she said as advice for students. “Stay in touch with them. You never know what that can do for your career.”
Years later, after her husband was offered a position in North Carolina, her family relocated and she took a position at Novartis Animal Health, a veterinary pharmaceutical company.
“I began as a veterinarian who answered calls from clinics and pet owners who had concerns about medication use, extracting information from them and writing reports for the FDA about adverse events,” she said. “But then I began working my way up and became the head of that department ... managing those veterinarians who answered calls.”
When Novartis Animal Health was sold to another company a few years ago, she decided not to relocate to the new company’s headquarters in Indianapolis, but instead used a connection to land her current job at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, working on drugs for humans.
After Bodner’s talk, she answered questions from students and offered advice.
“Find a job that involves something you’re passionate about,” she said “Know yourself and find a job that works for you. However, realize that a career involves many unexpected twists and turns, and be open to considering something new.”
The College of Arts & Sciences Career Development Center holds Career Conversations throughout the year to provide opportunities for students to interact with alumni in small groups to learn about career paths.
Anna Carmichael is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.