The idea for a video podcast spotlighting alumni was already floating around the Career Services office in Fulton Hall before coronavirus. Amy Donegan, assistant dean for undergraduate management advising, and Andrew Barksdale ’17, assistant director for undergraduate career engagement, envisioned successful BC graduates from across business sectors sharing their career journeys and insights in a casual interview format.
Then campus closed. Career Services transitioned to supporting students online through virtual presentations like Case Interviews 101 and the LinkedIn Advantage, while many seniors braced for fully remote job searches. That’s when Donegan and Barksdale decided to accelerate the timeline for the video podcast, originally slated for the summer, and refined the focus of what would become the “Fulton Career Cast.”
“Once Covid happened,” Barksdale recalls, “the idea evolved into talking with alumni who graduated around the last recession.” Pitched as “career advice in a crisis,” the series highlights alumni whose experiences are most likely to resonate with the Class of 2020: those who entered the workforce during and immediately following the 2008 financial crisis.
Barksdale, who’s been recording the interviews over Zoom from his parents’ home in Ohio with the help of Assistant Director for Undergraduate Career Advising Madeline Cortés, deliberately sought out stories that were not always smooth. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be the straight path of, you know, ‘I did banking, went from this to this, and I was good,’” he said, “but instead, ‘I jumped around’ or ‘I took the opportunity that was out there.’”
The Fulton Career Cast has posted 12 interviews on the Undergraduate Career Services YouTube channel since it launched in early April. Many—though not all—feature alumni who graduated between 2008 and 2011. And each offers pragmatic advice and encouragement for this year’s graduates, as they navigate a climate of unprecedented unemployment and economic uncertainty. Here’s a glimpse of a few.
Other Ways Alums Can Help
New graduates aren’t the only ones worried about how the coronavirus crisis will impact their career potential. Summer internships for many Carroll School undergraduates have also dried up. Career Services is asking BC alumni to share opportunities for virtual short-term projects and “micro-internships,” so driven undergraduates can gain valuable work experience and skills remotely. If you or someone you know needs help with a project and could use the help of one of our eager undergraduates, please fill out this survey. Projects can range from one week to all summer, can cover a wide range of needs, and do not need to be paid. For further details, contact Dean Donegan at email@example.com.
Hannah Beavers ’09, Executive Director, Freedom Communities
“Don’t let somebody else decide what success looks like for you.”
Hannah Beavers ’09, a general management major with a minor in Russian, interned with an investment bank in London as an undergraduate. But when the financial crisis struck during her senior year, she was forced to shift her plan. “Frankly, a lot of the banks weren’t hiring, or didn’t exist, when I graduated,” she said. “To really figure out what I wanted to do, I had to take a couple of turns.”
Those turns included volunteering in Tanzania and spending six years at GE before pivoting toward her real passion: nonprofits. She’s now executive director of Freedom Communities, which combats poverty in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her advice: “Don’t let somebody else decide what success looks like for you.” A high-paying corporate job, especially in an economic downturn, will have its allure, she explained, but it may also mean sacrificing other things that are important to you. “Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Consider it an adventure.”
Terence To ’09, Sales Director, Excalibur
“It’s important to be flexible about adjusting the plan as things change.”
Terence To also graduated from the Carroll School in ’09, with co-concentrations in operations and human resource management. His story may sound familiar to some recent graduates. To had two job offers rescinded in spring of his senior year—including one from Macy’s, where he really wanted to work. “It was tough. I ended up having to restart my job search from scratch a couple of months before graduation.” Like Beavers, To emphasized that while having a plan is key, “when times are crazy like they are right now, it’s important to be flexible about adjusting that plan as things change.”
Now a sales director at clothing manufacturer Excalibur, To never abandoned his aspirations to work in retail. He kept in touch with his Macy’s recruiter even after the job offer vanished, and when their hiring freeze finally lifted, To landed a job there—within the year. His big tip for new grads in a similar position is to build relationships, including with alumni. “BC is a great place to start.” And, To notes, “the best time to start developing relationships is when you don’t need something.” Invest time and energy in building your network early, and don’t let those connections drop.
Caitlin Mahler ’11, M.B.A. ’17, Brand Manager, Sabra Dipping Company
“My job is my dream job. You really have all the time in the world to cultivate what that is.”
Coming out of Boston College in 2011 with a degree in communications and French, Caitlin Mahler thought she wanted to do media relations for a sports team. But as senior year drew to a close, job opportunities were scarce, despite several sports-focused internships on her resume. Mahler also came to see the downsides of a job in athletics, where starting salaries were low and the need to relocate was likely.
So Mahler turned to the “amazing resources at BC.” Her public relations professor put her in touch with a corporate PR firm, who called (during Commencement!) to ask her to interview. “It turned out that the BC network was really there, and there was a job opening for me,” she said.
Nine years (and one M.B.A. from the Carroll School) later, Mahler is brand manager for core innovation at Sabra Dipping Company, a CPG company most known for its hummus. While far from sports PR, Sabra—and the food and beverage industry in general—is a great fit for her. How can 2020 grads feeling adrift find their fit? Think about not only what skills you have, says Mahler, but also what kind of work you’ll feel good doing. For Mahler, it’s representing products she believes in. “I’ve been passionately plant-based since I was five,” she joked. “My job now is my dream job. You really have all of the time in the world to cultivate what that is, and it can absolutely change over the course of your career.”