SIA connects students, employers, alumni at Career Exposure Trip to D.C.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As a professional degree program with a focus on preparing students for lifelong career success and a 97% career success rate for its graduates, the Penn State School of International Affairs recognizes the importance of exploring career options, learning firsthand about what employers seek in job candidates, and building a professional network.

And over two days in Washington D.C. as part of one SIA’s three annual Career Exposure Trips to potential employers in major metropolitan areas, SIA students had the opportunity to do all these things and more as they visited leading non-profits and non-governmental organizations, think-tanks, and private businesses in the U.S. capitol.

SIA students in the atrium of the World Bank offices in Washington, D.C.

“This trip has been helpful in better understanding the job market and the kinds of positions that are open to us after graduation,” said first-year student Tanner Copeland, who plans to pursue a career in economic development. “It’s insightful to hear first-hand from these employers what they’re looking for, which helps me prepare for job searching and for my career.”

Students visited the World Bank, the Korea Economic Institute of America, the National Endowment for Democracy, international development agency Chemonics, and the federal IT consulting company Accenture. They also had the opportunity to hear tips for success in the national security consulting field from several of SIA’s distinguished alumni, and to network with alumni from in and around D.C. at the annual SIA Alumni Reception.

In between stops, our students had the chance to sightsee in the nation's capitol.

Common themes at each of these stops included the importance of building and leveraging one’s professional network, the value of proficiency in multiple languages in an increasingly-interconnected world, the timelessness of strong writing and communication skills, and the importance of the experience and cultural knowledge that comes from working and studying abroad. Students also learned about what different employers look for in a resume and cover letter, tips for making a positive impression in a job interview, and internship opportunities for getting a foot in the door with potential employers.

“A lot of internships that align with my interests are in D.C., so this experience has given me a much better feel for the workforce in this field,” said integrated undergraduate-graduate student Stacy Jarvis. “It’s been valuable for me to get a sense of how non-profits and private companies differ, and how they’re similar, in this missions and what they look for in job candidates.”

SIA alumni Trevor Ammons shares his post-graduation experience and career advice at Accenture, a federal IT consulting company.

Jarvis also said she appreciated the opportunity to meet and network with SIA alumni at the alumni reception, where dozens of alums gathered to share their experience and advice with current students. For Jarvis, this was an opportunity “to learn from people who have been where I am and have gone through this before.”

“When I was at SIA, our alumni where so helpful with advice on what classes to take and tips for starting my career after graduation, so if I can be of any help to our students I want to do all that I can,” said Class of 2016 alumna Kaitlynn Ward, who now works as the coordinator for government affairs at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

“I want to be able to give back what SIA gave me,” Ward said.