April 5, 2010

Taking Comfort in Education

Michelle Ellis ’07 writes about the preparation for her work in corporate planning and strategy at Olympus

Finding a full-time job is nerve racking for any college student, especially those fast approaching graduation. Given the current employment environment, the phrase “job search” has a host of new connotations, most of which our parents and grandparents did not endure. Professional appearance, interview preparation, internship experience — the hypersensitivity surrounding each of these has reached levels that can make any college student lose sleep at night.

So what can you find comfort in? The answer to that is simple — your education. Your education is not affected by the current interest rate, unemployment rate, or reinvestment rate. Your education is something you have for eternity. It is something you can choose to cultivate or build upon, something you can use to help understand and take on new challenges.

Having graduated in 2007, I’m young enough to recall (quite vividly) the excitement, disappointment, and overall emotion related to the job search and post-graduation life. One thing I intensely recall is the reaction from personnel when I said I graduated from Lafayette College with a double major in economics & business and government & law and was a four-year starter and senior captain on the softball team. Your academic profile may not look exactly like mine, but I am willing to bet that you receive a similar reaction when voicing your (eventual) alma mater. My Lafayette experiences (including internships and externships coordinated through Lafayette) eventually landed me a position working for Olympus Corporation of the Americas located in Center Valley, Pa. I was very fortunate to be offered a position within Olympus Fellows, a two-year rotational development program that is project oriented and includes exposure to all of Olympus’ business units.

To date, I have worked on a variety of projects, including developing and managing sales promotions, launching new products, designing new marketing collateral, developing strategic plans, and learning how to accept or reject business opportunities based on their projected future value. My involvement in these projects gave me the confidence and skill set to take on my new position as associate project manager in Olympus’ Corporate Planning & Strategy group. Despite all of the business experiences garnered through the Fellows Program, it was my experiences as an undergrad that allowed me to navigate through adversity, welcome new challenges, and take an analytical approach to problem solving. Lafayette’s academic workload and the lifestyle required to be a successful student-athlete have without a doubt contributed to my career advancements.

Despite the less-than-desirable job market, find comfort in knowing that you’re completing your education at a well respected and valued institution. Use the resources available to you and most importantly expose yourself to as many new experiences as possible.

I’ve learned that it’s not so much what you’ve done that enables you to advance professionally, it’s more how you apply key learnings to create new opportunities.

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