Seniors prepare for ‘Life After Graduation’

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Senior business marketing major Andrew Costello, right, chats with 1994 alum Alex Aquino, founder of Barnabas, over a Chick-fil-a lunch.Photo credit: Annie Z. Yu

Several dozen seniors attended a “Life After Graduation” event late Saturday morning to prepare for post-graduation life, with a light breakfast, three seminars, professional head shots and networking with alumni over a Chick-fil-A lunch.

The event cost $10 per student and was coordinated by Kristi Hawkins, assistant director for the Office of Alumni & Parent Relations, with help from Career Services, the School of Business and Management and the Omega Program. There were 55 seniors on the RSVP list, according to Hawkins.

Senior communication studies major Allessondra Goble said she decided to attend because she “realized how real the real world is.”

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Alum Sarah Lochelt, right, speaks to students about her unexpected post-graduation experiences which led to her current position as administrative assistant for Discipleship Ministries.Photo credit: Annie Z. Yu

“One of the best things about this university is that they are so intentional about equipping students in every way possible,” she said.

The first “Life After Graduation” was hosted last fall, although it was much smaller and included an “etiquette lunch.” The fall event cost $15 per student and listed 17 names on the online attendee list.

“We find that seniors really aren’t thinking about this stuff until they’re closer to graduation,” Hawkins said. “And so for May graduates, second semester works better.”

Hawkins said she hopes Life After Graduation will become a yearly spring event for graduating seniors.

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Kristi Hawkins of the Office of Alumni & Parent Relations speaks to students about post-graduation culture shock and transition.Photo credit: Annie Z. Yu

The event kicked off at 10 a.m. with a continental breakfast before students split up into three groups to rotate among three different sessions on networking, financial success and post-graduation transitions.

Julia Russell Toothacre, marketing and outreach coordinator for Career Services, led the networking session and told attendees that the best opportunity to find job positions is via networking.

“I see a need on our campus for students to understand that their career journey starts earlier than their senior year,” said Toothacre, who also works as a career counselor for Career Services.

The session hosted three alumni who, after describing their career backgrounds, gave advice and tips primarily on interviewing skills.

Whitney Johnson, 2008 alum and a recruiter at AEG, stressed the importance of researching and said her first question in conducting interviews is, “What do you know about my company?” She also warned against having no questions to ask at the end of an interview.

“If you have no questions, that says, ‘Well, are you really interested?'” she told the audience.

Ashley Caldwell-Morris, 2009 alum and human resources business partner at Target, advised students to get involved with Career Services for interview preparation, and 1994 alum Alex Aquino, founder of clothing company Barnabas, suggested students make sure to practice being personal in interviews.

“We really want to know you’re human,” he told the audience.

Toothacre said she hopes students realize Career Services is available to alumni free of charge for their entire lives.

“When they graduate, they don’t have to feel like they’re alone, or that APU isn’t here to support them, because we are here,” she said.

Alums Andrew Price and Justin A. Tyrrell, both financial executives at Trilogy, led the session that focused on financial management. They discussed roadblocks to financial success, which included a failure to account for inflation in financial planning and procrastination on saving for retirement.

“Procrastination is the No. 1 enemy to financial success and meeting your goals,” Tyrrell told the audience.

They also covered other topics like how to make a budget and the importance of diversification in investing. The two gave further sound advice in the Q-and-A on saving (have six months’ worth of your salary in an emergency savings account), credit (make sure to pay it off every month) and different retirement options (a student may want to consider a Roth Individual Retirement Account while they are still young).

Price, who graduated in 2010 with a double degree in marketing and business management, said he didn’t get sound financial advice as a student. Price said they attended the first Life After Graduation last fall but this time around it was better-structured and had more support from the university as a whole.

Tyrrell, who graduated May 2013, said they were there to impart to students the importance and basics of financial literacy. He described a married couple in their late 40s who came to him for financial advice; the husband made a six-figure salary, his wife around half that. But because they had not set aside much money for retirement, Tyrrell informed the husband that he either had to work until 70 to retire or significantly reduce his spending.

Goble, the communication studies major, said she thought the financial session was the most informative.

“I’m definitely not numbers-minded, but it’s something that I surely need to consider, with student loans,” she said. “I learned a lot and I’m actually going to go home and crunch a few numbers.”

Hawkins led the session on transitioning to post-grad life and getting over culture shock. She advised students to be prepared for their built-in social circles and mentors to disappear, and for loan payments, times of solitude and peer pressure on dating and jobs to crop up.

She also encouraged students to continue serving and to manage their emotional and spiritual health wisely.

“I think that was the most beneficial and scary of the sessions,” said attendee Lauren DeBlaey, a senior psychology major graduating in December. “It kind of combined the financial and networking and personal life [changes] that we’ll experience.”

Two alumni, both of whom work for APU, shared their post-graduation stories to encourage students nervous about their future career paths.

‘There will probably be seasons in your life when you start over again, and that’s OK,” said 2008 alum Stephanie Orona, assistant director of the retention office. “God will open opportunities for you.”

The event ended with a networking lunch with the seven alumni who volunteered to speak at the event. Senior business marketing major Andrew Costello spent much of his time chatting with Aquino, the 1994 alum and Barnabas founder.

“I want to start my own clothing company some day,” Costello said. “I feel like that [was] kind of a God thing.”