Alumni welcome students for career explorations over winter break

All photos by Jesse Winter

When students return to campus next week and begin to ask “How was your break,” many Arts & Sciences students will have pretty interesting stories to share.

Maura Thomas ’17 spent some time exploring the world of book publishing. Yana Kost ’17 gained a whole new perspective on what she might do during her gap year before medical school. Charles Cotton ‘19 attended a panel discussion and industry event that reaffirmed his interest in finance and consulting. And Lauren McBrearty ’19 met alumni in legal fields and talked to them about what a career in law might look like.

All four Arts & Sciences students took advantage of opportunities offered by the A&S Career Connections Committee (ASCCC is a collaboration of the Career Development and Alumni Affairs offices in the College of Arts & Sciences) and Cornell Career Services to use the winter break as a time to consider their next steps.

“In Arts & Sciences, we encourage students to be curious about different career paths and explore options before making a commitment (either in the short or long term),” said Jennifer Maclaughlin, assistant dean and director of the A&S Career Development Center. “The Alumni Connections Program and the ASCCC are wonderful, no commitment, opportunities for students to get a real-world view into an industry, while still keeping their options open.”



Thomas, a comparative literature major, spent an externship day with alum Rosemary Brosnan, vice president and editorial director at HarperCollins Children's Books in New York City. She attended a team meeting, learned about the company’s book acquisition strategy, spent an hour looking at book jackets in progress, heard discussions about sales and marketing and joined members of Brosnan’s team for a lunch to learn about each of their jobs and how they entered book publishing.

“It was clear that everyone really loved their work here, and obviously, I'm looking for any job that will likewise interest and challenge me,” said Thomas, adding that the nature of the office was inspiring. “Rosemary and her editorial team, although they were their own unit, seemed to be in constant contact with other departments like marketing, sales and design, and I really liked the collaborative atmosphere this created.”

Brosnan has been hosting students in externship experiences for almost 20 years as a way to give back to Cornell. The field of book publishing is an extremely tough one to enter, she said.

“I think students need to visit with people in a wide variety of positions, because they need to learn what the job is like at the entry level, where they would start,” she said, “and it’s also good for them to meet people in the company who perform other jobs, to get a wide view of the field in which they are externing.”

One of the staff members Thomas met was Courtney Stevenson, Brosnan’s editorial assistant and also a Cornell alum who majored in English and history. Stevenson said the two freshmen externships she did as a Cornell student led her to her first summer internship, which led her to additional internships and eventually a publishing job. “Not only did I learn a lot during those externships, but from there I was able to make the connections that set me up for my career,” Stevenson said.

While Thomas and others took advantage of externship opportunities, a host of other students signed up for events that helped them connect with alumni and explore careers.

Cotton, Yost and McBrearty all attended winter break “Jumpstart” events hosted by ASCCC. The four winter break events allowed students to hear from alumni in the fields of law, government, healthcare and finance.

“Before the event, I thought that medical school applicants were supposed to fulfill a rigid set of certain expectations and experiences in a gap year job (checking off a box for the admissions committee, if you will),” said Yost, a biological sciences major who attended the healthcare event. “It was very reassuring to hear that if you do something that you are passionate and invested in during your gap year, it will shine through on your application-- and you will enjoy the experience more anyway.”

Yost said she also heard about additional career options. “I was really surprised to learn about the amazing extent of lateral career growth that an MD degree allows for, including jobs such as hospital management, teaching, consulting, and much more,” she said.

Cotton, who’s thinking of a major in economics or government (or both) said the winter break event focused on finance and his experience at Cornell day at Accenture both helped him think about pros and cons of careers in those fields.



He said events like this “can give you a sense of direction when starting your search and, in some cases, they can allow you to eliminate options that really don't seem appealing.”

Along with finance and consulting, Cotton said he’s interested in law, sports business and journalism, so he’s hoping to attend more events like this one to help him narrow down his interests.

Cornell alum Carl Contiguglia, managing director for Morgan Stanley and a member of the ASCCC, was one of the hosts for the finance event.

“Navigating the transition from the academic world to the professional world can be daunting,” Contiguglia said. “I hope that we can guide students on how best to approach an investigation of the professional workplace in finance without any fear of asking open-ended questions or discussing longer-term goals.”

His best advice?

“Do not feel your first job is a lifelong commitment; those days have come and gone. Be flexible, look for opportunities and do not try to over-engineer how to get to where you think you might want to go; by the way, that will change too.”

The law event that McBrearty attended allowed her to network with students as well as alumni and helped reassure her she was on the right path, she said.

“When I signed up for the "Jumpstart Your Careers in Law” panel I was optimistically, and somewhat unrealistically, hoping for an epiphany of sorts, that would allow me to definitively make a decision about whether or not to pursue a career in law,” she said. “Although I did not experience such an epiphany, I think it was for the best. Instead of sugar coating their responses, the panelists offered candid advice and even discussed regrets they had in their careers, which was more helpful than if they had just stuck to the highlights.”

The ASCCC sponsors similar events during the summer break and A&S Career Development hosts numerous alumni visits to campus throughout the semester. For more information, visit the Career Development Center’s website or students can visit and sign up for events on handshake.

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