Where better to go to get an inside look at government and non-profit jobs than Washington D.C.?
Over spring break, students were bused to the capital and for the next two days visited employment hotspots including the United States Capitol and the Federal Reserve Board. Once you graduate, it’s rare to get the chance to get such direct insight from those in the field.
In collaboration with the Alumni Office, our partner career centers, and the local chapter of the Alumni Association, the Fleishman Career Center brought 22 students to Washington D.C. through the CONNECT program. This program consists of ‘Employer Treks’, where students of any academic year and major tour the offices of different companies. Recruiters give a presentation on the work environment and job opportunities, often leading to connections with industry leaders and Binghamton University alumni in the workforce. ‘Networking Night’ is also a fundamental part of the CONNECT program. Trekkers/students and alumni came together to forge connections, share career insights, and sow confidence in students as they move forward in their exploration.
The goal of the CONNECT program is to help students of all backgrounds and financial profiles get insight directly from a wide range of industries. The Office of Alumni Engagement aimed to make the trip financially accessible by sponsoring bus transportation to and from Washington, D.C., as well as two nights in a hotel for all students.
A key component of D.C. CONNECT is also the variety of participating companies. Trekkers got to see Capitol Hill and get the scoop on landing a job in Congress, learn about positions at the Federal Reserve Board, and see how the administration at D.C. Public Schools is working to incorporate career education into their high school curriculum.
In the organizational sphere, students got a tour of Tzedek D.C. and their Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Lawyers, interns and legal fellows talked to students about their work to help cancel medical debt. At the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), an alumnus taught students about the association’s work and types of roles in educational advancement services.
Exposing students to a variety of companies and alumni connections facilitates the exploration of career paths that they may not have considered otherwise. The impact of this can be far-reaching. Nastasia Radulov, a first year grad student pursuing her MPA and a GMAP certificate, found that the Treks helped her be more open to different roles and possibilities.
“Especially with CASE, I’d never really heard of a company like that,” she revealed. “But it seems like they have a great work-life balance, and the pay and benefits seem good. There’s no reason for me not to try going to a company like this—no reason to restrict myself. At the Federal Reserve, it’s more economics-based, but I still found myself having skills that could fit into that type of environment. It definitely made me realize that I can widen my horizon whenever I want”.
Tara Lerman, a grad student pursuing her MBA through the 4+1 program, appreciated the opportunity to forge connections after being unable to participate in CONNECT D.C. during her undergrad due to COVID-19.
“I think there is something about D.C. in particular different from other cities, where everyone goes there with big plans,” she said. “Informational interviews are really common. Pretty much everyone we met was like, ‘Hit me up now, hit me up a year from now, five years from now if you want to get coffee for 15 minutes’. No one has ever said no to me”.
Getting advice from recruiters about industries of interest and how to stand out in the job and internship application process are invaluable elements of career education. Sometimes, you can also get nuggets of wisdom from professionals who are eager to share their personal experiences.
“Getting to actually talk to people who live in the city, hearing from them about how the cost of living is high but you can make it work, or how the job market is really competitive, but there’s so many jobs that you can do if you really just try—It made it a lot less intimidating,” Tara added.
Between the jam-packed days, there was also a little time to see the sights of the city. From funny mishaps on the transit system to late night touring, CONNECT D.C. allowed the motley crew of students to connect with each other as well.
“After the Networking Night, it was around 9:30 p.m. and we were like, ‘Let’s go see the Washington Monument’,” Nastasia recounted. “So we went, we got off the train and we passed these electric scooters. A bunch of us rented them and we were driving around the park, all in our business clothes, and we were all tired. It was a little bonding moment. We drove around with the Washington Monument in the background. It was so fun.”
If you’re interested in the CONNECT programs, D.C. and Boston Connect will continue next year during spring break. The Silicon Valley treks are coming up in May; And keep an eye out for NYC CONNECT during winter break.
by Erin Zipman