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February 13, 2014

Liberal arts alumni give career advice

Panelists outline professional opportunities after graduation from CSU

By Timothy Simko

On Feb. 6, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences organized a panel discussion titled “What Can I Do With a Liberal Arts or Social Sciences Degree?” in the Student Center from noon - 1 p.m.

The panelist consisted of Laura Hardin, manager with Nestle Professional; Karen Kaminski, vice president with Caesars Entertainment; and Codi Keenan, assistant business manager and senior training manager with KeyBank.

Professor Liz Lehfeldt, chair of the department of history, moderated the discussion.
The panelists shared with the audience their educational experience at Cleveland State and how it played a central role in their careers.

The panelists agreed in their assessment that communication and critical thinking skills that they learned in their respective liberal arts and social sciences programs helped them build successful careers.

“The nice thing about a Liberal Arts degree is just that, Liberal Arts, you can go anywhere,” said Hardin, who graduated from Cleveland State in 1999 with a major in communication.

Hardin started with journalism, but later moved to technical writing, which led to her first job with a propane company.

“I sold propane and propane accessories,” she said.

The critical thinking and writing skills are still helpful in her current job with Nestle.

Keenan agreed with Hardin stating that to be successful you have to be a critical thinker. She explained that having critical thinking skills and experience are crucial when entering the working world.

“When I’m interviewing people, I have to ask myself ‘What do you bring to our company to make us better?’” said Keenan.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience because it fit into my work-school life,” said Kaminski, agreeing with her fellow panelist.

Kaminski graduated in 1993 with a major in political science while working full time at the May Company, which later became Kaufmann’s, and is now known as Macy’s.

After some time, Kaminski returned to earn a JD from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. She now works in upper management with Caesars Entertainment, which operates Thistledown Racino and Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland.

Kaminski explained that it was less about the degree and more about the experiences getting the degree.

Hardin agreed with this statement, saying that all employers understand that you can learn how to do the job.

Keenan agreed with the other panelists, stating that with the high demand for jobs and the low demand for employers, it’s important to make yourself stand out.

“You can’t teach personality,” she said.

The panelists did not only tell the students the value of a liberal arts education, but while answering Lehfeldt’s questions, they showed how the education had helped them in advancing their careers.

The panel discussion concluded with a Q & A session.

One of the students asked the panelists for advice on interviewing.

Hardin suggested going on company websites before the interview and learning about the company and the job. She also suggested compiling a list of questions to ask the person who is doing the interviewing.

“I always ask awesome questions about the job I’m applying for,” she said. “And make sure you know the kind of interview questions that might be asked.”

Kaminski suggested preparing an elevator speech. She explained that an elevator speech is preparing a short two to three minute speech saying who you are and what you stand for.

Kaminski also stated that asking no questions in an interview is a turn off and that it may show disinterest in the company.

Keenan suggested dressing to impress for the interview. She said that people are judged immediately on the way they look.

“Bring your portfolio, take notes during the interview, and show interest,” she said.

Keenan agreed with Kaminski that an elevator speech can be crucial and encouraged students to look the part during the interview process.

“Don’t show up wearing a t-shirt and jeans,” she said.

Hardin suggested using the campus career services department to prepare resumes and potential jobs that fit their interests and life choices. She also suggested using social networking websites such as LinkedIn.

Kaminski agreed with this, explaining that she received an email with a job offer based on her LinkedIn account even though she wasn’t looking for a job.

“You never know who’s looking at your LinkedIn account,” she said.

The panel also addressed the use of social media, especially as potential employers look into social media, such as Facebook, Tumblr, etc.

“There is a very fine line,” said Kaminski. “Everything is public.”

Paul Wolansky, director of advancement with CLASS, organized the panel discussion.