Students Take Strides toward Success with GW Career Quest

Career Services Enhancement Initiative program connects students with employers in New York.

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GW Career Quest students in New York City with Center for Career Services staff. Photo Credit Danielle Smith
March 16, 2015

By Brittney Dunkins

A group of 39 George Washington University undergraduate and graduate students arrived in New York City last Thursday for a whirlwind two days of networking with prospective employers.

The trip was the final leg of the inaugural GW Career Quest program—a professional development experience launched by the Center for Career Services and the Career Services Council during the fall semester.

The program was developed through the Career Services Enhancement Initiative funded by Board of Trustees member Mark R. Shenkman, M.B.A. ’67, and his wife, Rosalind.

“CareerQuest was created in the spirit of what Mr. Shenkman prioritized for his generous donation—preparing students to excel in the workplace,” said Staci Fowler, managing director of GW’s employer services. “We worked with students during the semester, and the site visits allowed them to see their industry of interest up close, ask questions of employers and hopefully develop a better understanding of where they are headed professionally.”

Center for Career Services staff and GW Alumni Association Career Services Committee members selected student participants from a pool of more than 70 GW juniors, seniors and graduate students. According to Ms. Fowler, CareerQuest helps students develop valuable connections with alumni mentors, gain practical professional skills and see the day-to-day workings of their chosen industry.

Employers in four industries—advertising and design; broadcast, print and digital media; civic engagement and public service; and sustainability—opened their doors to students last week, fielding questions about opportunities, sharing their company goals and providing an overview of what they value in potential candidates.

Company site visits included NBC Universal, Spotify, the American Red Cross, Reclaim NYC, the Clinton Foundation, Ogilvy Public Relations, CohnReznick Capital Market Securities and 18 others.

Students also were assigned an alumni mentor during the program. More than 20 GW alumni participated as mentors or site hosts.

Michelle Fallat Harris, B.B.A. ’89, M.B.A. ’90 is the northeast division disaster director for the American Red Cross and serves on the board of the GWAA.Ms. Harris said she was impressed by the thoughtful preparation that students demonstrated during the Red Cross visit.

“Their confidence and ability to professionally interact with Red Cross senior executives was impressive,” Ms. Harris said. “Our visit included four straight hours of intense presentations and discussion, and they were focused and engaged right through to the end.

“I’m pleased that GW is offering this kind of support for students and excited to be able to help them prepare for life beyond the university,” she said.

George Washington Today writer Brittney Dunkins spoke with five students about their Career Quest experience.

Eujee Ahn
Second-Year M.A., Elliott School of International Affairs
Cohort: Broadcast, Print and Digital Media
Why did you apply to the program? As a master’s level student in the job market for three years, I had good sense of my strengths and my interests. But I did not know how individuals broke into the companies I dreamt of; what the corporate culture was like; or what positions within the company would be the best fit for me. In other words, I needed more information only the employees can provide. Career Quest placed me inside these companies with people who were willing to explain the pros and cons of the day-to-day life, not simply accentuate the good for recruiting purposes.
How do you hope to use what you’ve learned? I plan to follow up with alumni and panelists to hear more about their individual stories and receive recommendations on how I should proceed.

Danielle Noel
Class of 2015, School of Media and Public Affairs
Cohort: Advertising and Design
Most important thing you learned during site visits? Perseverance. At Ogilvy, we heard from a woman who applied to the company four separate times. She knew she wanted to work there and never stopped trying until she was employed at Ogilvy. Really knowing why you are passionate about the work a company does helps. As much as I want to get a job, I want to be strategic in my application, seeking positions where I know I can grow.
Sum up the experience in three words: Insightful, thrilling and fast-paced.

Floyd Jones
Class of 2015, Elliott School of International Affairs
Cohort: Civic Engagement and Public Service
How did you hear about Career Quest? I saw various posters around the school and received emails about the program but still wasn't 100 percent sure. But after I followed up with various advisers in the career center and received the full gamut of information, I completely fell in love. 
Would you recommend this experience to other students? Most definitely! This trip opened my eyes to so much more than just a career. The employers made me understand that where you work is much more than a space to complete tasks, but a space to create a legacy.
Sum up the experience in three words: Expanded my horizons.

Honor Williams
Class of 2015, School of Media and Public Affairs
Cohort: Broadcast, Print and Digital Media
Why did you apply to the program? As a native Washingtonian, I did not know where to begin to understand the entertainment hierarchy in New York City. By participating in Career Quest, I knew I would learn all possible information about beginning a career in broadcast, print and digital media in one of the largest entertainment capitals of the world.
Most important thing you learned during site visits? Take full advantage of the strong GW alumni network. It is all about connections, especially in the entertainment business, and GW has connections at the highest level of all branches of media.

Yury Higuchi
Class of 2016, Elliott School of International Affairs
Cohort: Sustainability
Most important thing you learned during site visits? There are different approaches to sustainability. We should look at particular interests where we can utilize our sustainability knowledge. For example, if renewable energy is specifically what we want to work with, we should gain experience and knowledge in that area.
How do you hope to use what you’ve learned? I hope to find internship opportunities at similar companies. This trip opened my eyes to different methods of entering the sustainability field. I learned that it could be helpful to enter a company with a different position to get a foot in the door and transfer positions if possible.