Students explore career paths, build professional networks in New York

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa—Become an expert in your skill set. Learn a new language—whether it’s speaking Spanish or programming in Python. Be open to new experiences and unexpected career opportunities. Take every opportunity to build your professional network, starting now.

These were just a few of the valuable pieces of advice Penn State School of International Affairs students heard from professionals from Bloomberg, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the global LGBTIQ+ nonprofit organization OutRight Action International, and multiple agencies of the United Nations over the course of SIA’s annual Career Exposure Trip to potential employers in New York City.

“The fact that we have the opportunity to visit so many places, explore new organizations and career possibilities, and meet alumni who have been where we are before is wonderful,” said first-year SIA student Stella Zhang. “Having read a lot of Bloomberg’s reporting, being able to get an inside look and hear from their current employees was really exciting—I think now I might want to apply for their Hong Kong bureau!”

Students hear from Bloomberg employees at one of the company's NYC offices.

The organizations students visited represent a wide range of potential career paths for students to consider. At Bloomberg, they learned about how to get their foot in the door at a major international company. At FEMA, students discovered how to tailor their resumes to government agencies and how to navigate the federal hiring process. At OutRight Action International, they gained insight into how international NGOs operate and how to develop skillsets that cross organizational boundaries. And at the United Nations, students heard from employees with the U.N. Population Fund, U.N. Secretariat, U.N. Development Porgramme, U.N. Volunteers, and UNICEF. Students were even given advice on how to pursue a career at the United Nations from SIA alumna Jennifer Gibbs—who first made a professional connection at the U.N. and learned how to apply for an internship while on a SIA Career Exposure Trip.

SIA alumna Jennifer Gibbs offers her perspective on pursuing a career at the United Nations with current students.
SIA alumna Jennifer Gibbs offers her perspective on pursuing a career at the United Nations with current students.

“I walked out of the U.N. feeling a lot more confident, as it really demystified the hiring process and showed us in a very tangible way that it’s not an unattainable goal,” said first-year student Kristle Richardson. “We also saw there’s a very diverse range of career opportunities available to us: not just government agencies, but opportunities in the business and nonprofit sectors as well.”

Students also made important professional connections with some of the most valuable resources available to them in their careers: SIA alumni, who offered their own advice and tips for success to students at the annual SIA Alumni Reception.

“Coming to SIA was like joining a family, so after graduation, no matter how many years have passed, you always want to be able to see and support your family,” said alumnus Allen Mo ’15, who works as a business intelligence manager in the private sector. “The community of alumni in the New York area is growing year after year, and we want to be able to give back. I’ve been where our students are, and I want to help them get where they want to go.”

Patrick Kenani ’17, who has found success at an international NGO, said that he always enjoyed SIA’s Career Exposure Trips not only for the visits to potential employers, but also for the chance to gain valuable perspective and advice from alumni. “Being able to learn from our alums helped me explore other options I hadn’t originally considered,” Kenani said, “and helped me realize that the path to success isn’t necessarily a straight line.”

“I learned more about career options I already knew I was interested in, realized I might have an interest in disaster response, which I hadn’t considered before, and got some valuable career advice from our alumni,” said first-year student Matthew Detrick. “Really, every part of this experience was valuable for me.”

Students, alumni, and Dean Hari Osofsky come together at the annual SIA Alumni Reception in New York.