Professionals-in-Residence offer career advice

Seeking to engage alumni and students with similar interests, the Career Center implemented the Professional-in-Residence (PIR) program last fall. The program brings alumni from different fields onto campus to talk to students about their career paths.

“We added the [PIR] program to provide students the opportunity to meet individually and in small groups with alumni from a variety of career fields during a day spent on campus,” Director of Career Services Jean Papalia said in an email. 

Papalia explained that the program aims “to provide students easy access to alumni who can offer them information about their own career path, advice about entering their career field and possibly connect them with other professionals to expand their network.”

According to Assistant Director of Career Services Jim McCarthy, Career Center staff first identified career fields in which students were interested and then selected alumni who worked in those areas. Many of the selected alumni are in the Tufts Career Advisory Network, where alumni register to act as advisers for students and graduates, or knew the Career Center staff from when they were students, McCarthy explained.

Last semester, the Career Center hosted two PIRs: Moises Cohen (LA ’11) in social entrepreneurship and Margot Schwartz (LA ’06) in community health.

Cohen, who works as a development manager at Building Understanding through International Learning and Development (BUILD), held drop-in hours at the Career Center this past November.

“I’m a big fan of [the Career Center],” he said. “I received a lot of help from alumni and staff there. I just wanted to give back as much as I could, and be able to do for students what other alumni had done for me when I was a student.”

He added that he wanted to help students find jobs that focus on having a social impact, which he had difficulty doing, as there is no one common path to do so.

“It’s really hard to learn about that and receive support, so I wanted to be a resource for people,” he said. “I wanted to be encouraging and support students who are looking to do meaningful work and change the world.”

Cohen, who met with about five students, said that he enjoyed connecting with them and was humbled by their work and ideas. He mentioned that one student pitched an idea for a social enterprise he was trying to start, another discussed law school and law-related careers that would have a social impact and another was looking for ways to fund a year abroad after graduation to work on a project.

“It’s not like I’m an expert on all these things … but I was able to at least ask questions and brainstorm with the students about how to do it better and what are potentially some resources that they might use or ways to broaden their perspectives on how to tackle [these issues],” he said.

Student and alumni response to the program has been positive, McCarthy said. “The alumni have been impressed with the student questions and felt they had meaningful conversations,” he told the Daily in an email. “Students reported that they really like the opportunity to meet with the alumni in these informal gatherings and that the [discussions] were informative and answered their questions.”

According to McCarthy, the Career Center will host three more PIRs this spring, including Dana Di Nino (LA ’96), who works in biology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, and Amy Cotter (LA ’95), who will talk about regional planning, sustainability, advocacy and environmental policy.

“We are pleased with the response from students, alumni and faculty during this pilot year and plan to grow the program in the future,” Papalia said. “Our alumni have always been a great resource for our students through networking events and the Career Advisory Network, and this program provides yet another way to connect with [alumni].”

Cohen added that the new initiative is helpful for students, as it allows them to meet alumni in a convenient and informal setting before attending informational interviews or job interviews in the future.

“I think the Career Center is an underutilized, high-impact resource on campus that I’d encourage everyone to use,” he said, adding that as a student he had used it to connect with alumni and resources as well as discuss career plans and life goals. “People think of [the Career Center] as a place to just get your resume done, but there’s so much more to what they can do for you.”