Interviewed by Kathryn Cambrea
Shannon Thompson is a graduate assistant with the Office of Career Development. She graduated from STAC with her bachelor’s degree in accounting in May 2020 and is currently pursuing her MBA degree at her alma mater. Shannon is even a student-athlete. In this interview, she talks about graduate school, the work that she does for the Office of Career Development and resources that it offers, the value a student-athlete brings to an employer, and more. You can listen to this interview on STAC’s Office of Career Development’s podcast, “After Class.” Click here to listen on Spotify or here to listen on Apple Podcasts.
Shannon, I understand that you are a graduate student. What are you studying?
So, I’m currently getting my master’s in general business administration with the intent to sit for my CPA exam.
That’s awesome, Shannon. What would you say is the biggest difference between being an undergraduate student and a graduate student?
The biggest difference would probably be that you’re kind of more on your own. STAC has a great staff and they’re really helpful, so compared to other graduate programs they do help a lot, and they’re really always there for you, but you only meet with your teachers once a week, so it’s kind of on you during your normal weekdays to get all of your work done, do any of your studying, so it’s just a lot more independence.
Would you say that virtual instruction because of COVID-19 has made it even more independent than it would have been?
Yeah. Definitely a lot more.
I understand that you are also a graduate assistant with the Office of Career Development. What do you do in this position?
So my job in this position is really to just help Maureen with most of her tasks. So, I track all the students that go to any of her events. I’m constantly checking which students have LinkedIn, checking over students’ resumes, so I’m really just mostly her right hand, just helping her with anything she needs.
And what motivated you to become a graduate assistant?
So I actually heard about the graduate assistant position through a member of the staff, and they encouraged me to apply, and I just thought that it would be a great opportunity for me to work while doing my studies and to give back to STAC with everything they’ve taught me and the skills they’ve given me.
And I know from attending a bunch of team meetings with the Office of Career Development that you’ve attended a plethora of events with the department. Do any events come to mind and how were they beneficial to you?
So the two events that I really enjoyed were the KPMG Mentor Program, mostly because KPMG is an accounting firm, so in that program I got to meet with a KPMG employer every month, every two, three weeks. And they just helped me out with anything I really needed, whether it was school and accounting related, or just general. And the second one was the Career Readiness Program. It really helped me get ready as a junior to move on into being an actual professional and getting grad school and stuff done, so they helped me with interviews, resume writing, LinkedIn, and just gave me general tips on how to really act and perform as a professional person in the work world.
Would you say that those skills that you’ve learned from those programs are applicable to when you help students?
Yeah, definitely. One, I can give students that same advice. And two, it really gave me the knowledge I need to kind of direct them where they need to go.
I know that you are studying accounting. What work and internship experiences have you had or currently have in the field?
So, I actually have not had any experience in the accounting field. My experience is mostly small retail jobs and working here in the Office of Career Development.
What resources have you learned about from the Office of Career Development that students should utilize?
I think a really good tool that the Career Development office has is meeting with someone to go over your resume or to practice interviewing with. When I was a freshman and sophomore, I didn’t have much experience in interviewing, so my first few interviews weren’t the best, but once I was a junior, I met with Maureen and she really helped me with learning to interview better, and it helped a lot.
Did the Office of Career Development help with educating you more about LinkedIn and SpartanJobs?
Yeah, definitely. I didn’t have a LinkedIn account until I went to a LinkedIn meeting with Maureen.
And, in addition to your studies, I understand that you have a lot on your plate. Not only are you in graduate school, but you’re also a student-athlete. How do you balance schoolwork, and your career, and any work experiences that you’re having with everything in your schedule?
It is very difficult. I’ve been an athlete most of my life, so that did help growing up having to schedule everything, but most of it is just designating certain times to do certain things, and having really good time management skills. So I try to do any homework or projects a week before the due date, just to give myself that week cushioning in case I do get overwhelmed. And then, I really use my sport and practice time as my time to relax and clear my head.
If you don’t mind me asking, how are sports operating now with the COVID-19 pandemic, and are you still able to get that relaxation and cathartic effect?
Yeah, so currently, we are allowed to practice with our team for six hours a week, so for the cross country and track teams, we meet three days a week and the rest of the days, we just get sent a workout and we do it on our own. Some of us do meet up with one or two other people and run. We are encouraged to stay in small groups, not get close. We have to run with our masks on, so it’s different but it still does work. I’m sure it can be a bit harder for other sports like soccer, lacrosse, football, because they have to do those skill practices. I’m lucky where my sport is just running and I can go out and go for a run any time I really want to.
And you run both cross country and track and field, right?
Yes. I do all three seasons, so cross country, indoor track, and spring outdoor track.
That’s great. And what value does a student-athlete bring an employer?
So one of the main things is time management skills because you’re constantly doing your schoolwork and you have to fit in your practice schedule and trying to work both of those things out. They’re also really good at multitasking. I know personally, sometimes when I run, I am going over what I have to do in my head, and if I have a paper coming up, I will start planning my paper in my head while I run. So, it helps really with multitasking and stuff, too. And a lot of athletes do have leadership experience. They’re good with teams, which is really important to employers now.
And as a graduate student with the Office of Career Development, what advice do you have for undergraduate and graduate students as they explore their careers? And that can be specific to accounting or any career.
The advice that I would give is obviously a lot of students are still very young. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out and your main thing is that you should be doing something that you enjoy and that you will enjoy for your life. I’ve been, through my studies, I’ve learned that some things you’re not going to be happy with, and if you just keep going, being unhappy, it’s just going to make things worse, and you’ll never enjoy what you do and that really is the important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing.