By Kathryn Cambrea
*If anyone has insight about jobs, internships, interviews, resumes, and career-worthy resources, it would be STAC Director of Career Development Ms. Maureen Mulhern. In an interview for the STAC Office of Career Development’s podcast, “After Class,” Ms. Mulhern described the power of networking and building connections with alumni, her thoughts on the future of virtual internships, the effects of the Office of Career Development’s programs, tips for STAC students in pursuit of their careers, and so much more. Click here to listen to the interview with Ms. Mulhern on Spotify or here to listen on Apple Podcasts.
“It seems like some of what we do here in just plugging our students into connections, leads to opportunities.”
These are the words of STAC’s Director of Career Development, Ms. Maureen Mulhern. The STAC Office of Career Development has held and continues to provide a variety of programs to assist students as they pursue their careers. A couple examples include the “Real World Tours” program where students get to visit the sites of companies to learn more about them as well as the annual Job and Internship Fair. Mulhern has seen the effects of her programs that have helped students land internships firsthand. It can be and has been achieved from simply attending a trip. It has also been achieved from a number of her events.
Mulhern said that the common question that students tend to ask her is how to find jobs and internships. However, multiple steps have to be taken in order to get to this point.
“Before we can talk about where to find a job or an internship, I first want to understand what the student is looking to do, so if it’s an internship, what’s your goal? What career do you want to try out and test the waters in?” Mulhern said.
From there, Mulhern will direct a student to creating his/her own resume as well as creating a LinkedIn profile. She recommends that students even use SpartanJobs, a resource exclusive to STAC students and alumni to find jobs and internships.
Speaking of a LinkedIn profile, Ms. Mulhern feels that there are multiple components of it that make a student immediately stand out to potential employers, such as what a student puts in his/her headline. She believes that the ability to include recommendations distinguishes one’s LinkedIn profile from others as well. Also, she finds that the “Publications” feature is valuable not only if a student has work that is published, but if a student was ever interviewed or written about by a publication.
“It’s kind of about standing apart from the pack,” Mulhern said, “You don’t want to just do what everybody else is doing. If you have something unique, it’s going to be a great thing to add to that profile to let the employer understand the depth of you.”
She encourages students to treat LinkedIn profiles as online resumes and portfolios as well as a channel to network, especially with alumni. In fact, there are groups on LinkedIn that students can join to do just that. These include the “St. Thomas Aquinas College Career Development” as well as “STAC Alumni Career Advising Network” groups. An extra benefit of joining the group tied to the Office of Career Development in particular is that students can learn about available jobs and internships shared by Mulhern.
Mulhern has described how knowing STAC students is very important to her. After all, she is in contact with multiple recruiters as well as potential employers. Therefore, she has to know students in order to refer them to these people. How does a student become known by Mulhern?
“It’s those students who are coming to my programs, meeting with me, taking advantage of all the services we offer, those are the students that resonate in my mind, and I see them as students who are serious about their career,” Mulhern said.
In addition to meeting with Mulhern, even if done in a virtual capacity, Mulhern recommends that students take the time to get to know and build relationships with alumni. She echoed a term used by STAC alumna, Mary Duffy, to embody STAC students: grit. Mulhern feels that alumni share this same quality, and described this commonality.
“Not all employers know STAC, but our alumni understand the STAC student, and they, a lot of them had grit and still do have grit and worked really hard to get where they are. They want to see other STAC students have those same opportunities, so we amongst STAC, the STAC community I’ll say, have really established that reputation of being motivated enough to work hard when we do get an opportunity and prove ourselves, and then, that’s what it’s all about [be]cause ultimately each student is setting the path for their career journey,” Mulhern said. “They work hard, people will recognize that. Most likely, you will be rewarded in some way, so I think alumni recognize that in our students.”
Mulhern even recalled the story of an alumna who as a student at STAC successfully networked with an alum employed at KPMG. She said that this alum not only opened the door to that student interning for the accounting firm, but earning a full-time position for the same firm as well.
“Alumni a lot of time will go over above and beyond to try to help our students,” Mulhern said.
Despite the Office of Career Development modifying its programming to a virtual format, it is still providing assistance to students. Mulhern described how although the “Real World Tours” are not continuing currently in an on-site capacity, a virtual tour was held for students to learn about Madison Square Garden. Furthermore, the Office of Career Development has helped put together multiple events, such as the “Accounting Mock Interview and Forum,” “Dining Etiquette,” the “Entrepreneur Panel,” an information session about graduate school, and so much more. The Office of Career Development even has offered resume workshops and virtual walk-in hours to assist students with creating their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Students are always welcome to email Mulhern to meet with her directly one-to-one over Google Meet for any assistance.
When it comes to creating resumes, Mulhern feels that there is value in multiple categories beyond jobs and internships, such as leadership roles a student may have as well as any volunteering experiences. Such attributes can be highlighted in an interview as well as an answer to a question that Mulhern said that many employers are asking.
“When a student or candidate is going on interviews, the employers are asking, ‘What did you do with your time during COVID?’” Mulhern said.
“…Were you maybe getting creative in writing a blog, or did you design a website?…Did you participate in some of those community service opportunities? Did you maybe even start writing a book? What did you do? Maybe you did an online internship. What did you do? Did you get a part-time job?”
Mulhern feels that even helping a sick family member during this time has tremendous value. To her, employers tend to see more value in students who not only care about academics, but strive for involvement in extracurricular activities as well as opportunities in volunteering and work, both on and off campus.
These are not only great additions to one’s resume, but important areas of discussion in an interview.
It is evident that multiple internships have shifted from in-person to virtual, but Mulhern feels that after the COVID-19 pandemic, employers will want interns to return to the sites. She also finds that it is easier for employers to see how hardworking an intern is when the student can approach the employer at a desk and ask if any assistance is needed. She feels that aspect is lost in a virtual internship. Nonetheless, Mulhern can envision some aspects of internships remaining virtual, such as meetings or training sessions.
Evidently, many internships have become virtual, and so have interviews. When it comes to interviews, whether they may be in-person or virtual, Mulhern feels that students must take the time to truly research the company and position they are applying for as well as ask questions and follow up with a thank-you note.
However, an opportunity like an interview may start with a connection.
“I always say to students that every connection is a good connection because even though the person you get to know may not do anything that you’re interested in, they may have a next-door neighbor who does or a cousin or a friend, so every connection is a great connection,” Mulhern said.
Connections are not always people of a desired industry. They are professors at STAC.
“All the faculty and administrators at STAC, one of the things that I can say about us, is we all really care about the students, and we all have that same goal: success for our students.”
Mulhern can be that first connection, and she has plenty.