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May 8, 2013

Junior student-athletes jumpstart their professional development

By: Reyna Gilbert-Lowry

Tech’s student life office sponsors several events to help student-athletes prepare for the outside world, including the “Junior Jumpstart,” which was held last February.

What college student would turn down a four-course meal, an opportunity to network with a room full of professionals and the chance to leave with a free business suit? On Feb. 13, 30 Virginia Tech student-athletes were given the opportunity to try all three at the “Junior Jumpstart.” This annual event, sponsored by the Office of Student Life, is geared toward providing junior student-athletes with the opportunity to connect with professionals on campus and within the larger community to assist with their professional development.

This year, the event was strategically scheduled around the annual Business Horizons Spring Career Fair and Connection Co-Op and Internship Job Fair, which both took place the week following the Junior Jumpstart. A speed networking session was added to this year’s program in an effort to assist student-athletes in enhancing their networking skills with the goal that those in attendance would use the information they learned at the event to help increase their confidence for on-campus career fairs and interviews.

The evening began with an etiquette dinner, facilitated by Johanna Smith, assistant director for Career Services. Many interviews take place over meals because employers may want to see candidates in a more social situation to see how they conduct themselves. Smith’s presentation focused on proper dining techniques and manners, as well as tips to help students feel more relaxed during interviews that take place over meals. Christopher Terry, the senior district marketing manager for Federated Mutual Insurance, then spoke to the student-athletes about ways to become memorable during their career search. Terry has been a staple at this event for several years and brought a lively approach to how Tech student-athletes can market their accomplishments and focus on their strengths, such as time management, strong work ethic and competitiveness. He also encouraged them to find ways to use examples of these in their resumes. Lastly, he provided the group with tips for interviewing and stressed the importance of being prepared and sending thank-you notes immediately following interviews.

While registering for the event, student-athletes were asked to select areas in which they were most interested in gaining networking experience. Responses included athletics administration, business, coaching and marketing. A total of 20 representatives from the Virginia Tech Hokie Club, Frito Lay, Reynolds Architects Inc., First Bank & Trust, Coldwell Banker Townside, the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and Virginia Tech athletics were on hand to take part in one-on-one networking, as well as group networking sessions with the Tech athletes. Not only did the speed networking portion of the evening provide student-athletes with the opportunity to enhance their networking skills, but it also provided the professionals with the chance to interact with potential candidates for internships and full-time positions.

One of the main draws of the event was the suit contest, which was co-sponsored by Federated Mutual Insurance. For the past two years, one male and one female student-athlete in attendance has won a business suit. This year, women’s cross country student-athlete Madalyn Nuckols and whip linebacker Derek DiNardo were the lucky winners.

Tech student-athletes are encouraged to take advantage of professional development opportunities sponsored by the Office of Student Life and other campus departments on a regular basis. The Junior Jumpstart is one of the many ways the Tech athletics department strives to meet one of its personal development goals for student-athletes by providing a positive environment and educational experience that promotes development of the whole person.