By Nickie Hayes
This semester, the Career Development Center added a new program called Cardinal Chats to the SUNY Plattsburgh campus. The initiative connects students to alumni. The Career Development center runs and manages the event.
Morgan Pellerin is the host of the chats, and is the assistant director of the career development center. Connecting students to alumni is the primary objective of the initiative, but Cardinal Chats are also supposed to model an informational interview.
Pellerin explains that an informational interview is when students speak with someone in their career field of interest, who is already established within the field to learn what it entails. This may include what it takes to become successful, what steps the alumni took as a college student to get where they are now, or conversely what they wish they had done as an undergraduate.
Informational interviews can be very informative for students, allowing them the opportunity to see if this career path is something they are truly interested in, or if the career path meets their preconceived expectations. This can help the student decide whether this is the right career for them.
The interaction between the student and alumni creates a connection that allows for various networking opportunities. Pellerin recommends every college student do an informational interview during their schooling experience, but he knows not everyone is comfortable doing one.
Thus, the Cardinal Chat initiative was created to model what an informational interview is like. The event is a space where students can come to listen, learn what types of questions to ask and ask the alumni any questions they may have.
One of his goals of the Cardinal Chats is to show students that informational interviews are not as daunting as they might seem, making students feel more at ease in these types of situations and show the value of these types of conversations.
Pellerin said it is important for students to connect with alumni because they have the knowledge of what really happens in the field that they are in. He hopes some of the connections made through the Cardinal Chats can turn into future mentorships.
What occurs in a typical Cardinal Chat includes background information about the alumni, including their major and their current employment. The event delves into what they like about their job, and what makes them excited to keep doing what they do. Pellerin also asks questions like what the challenges are of their job, and if they feel advanced education is necessary for the progression in their field.
The event is completely virtual through zoom, allowing anyone to participate. Pellerin said he is the host of the event with the alumni joining as a co-host. Pellerin will start the conversation by prompting a few introductory questions to the alumni. The student participants can listen like if they were the audience, but the floor is also opened to students if they have questions.
Due to the virtual format, the sessions can be recorded, and the two previous sessions are available for viewing on the Career Development Centers website under the events page. They will also be recording all future Cardinal Chats for those who cannot make the pre-scheduled event date.
“In the long term, we are hoping to make a library of all the events on our website,” Pellerin said.
The first session was with Brin Daley-Keyser, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in finance.
The second session was with Shauna Beni, who is also from the class of 2017 and an editorial assistant at Condé Nast Traveler, a luxury and lifestyle travel magazine. Her undergraduate major was in broadcast journalism.
Querida Sydney, a senior double majoring in TV video production and audio production, said she had a really good experience at the event and said it was helpful to her because it can be difficult to get a job in her field of interest, especially with a major network. One tip she learned was to find the things from her undergraduate experience that will make her resume stick out from her peers, who are now competitors.
Sydney thought the event was very informative, and was definitely worth while to attend. She felt that connection she made was important to her college experience. She said she would highly recommend other students to attend the event.
Angelique Hall, a freshman, with a double major in english writing arts and finance, with a professional writing certification minor, said she wanted to go to the event because she was interested in the topic, even if the alumni’s past major was not similar to hers.
She said the event was very helpful because she got to hear her experience, and thought her persistence in finding an internship and a job was very admirable. She also said she enjoyed the format of the event, how organized it was and how it was like a discussion.
Hall thought the alumni were very attentive when listening to questions to give the best advice to give them. She also said Shawna Beni was very thorough, articulate and detailed when talking about her experience of how she got to where she is now.
Even with COVID-19, Hall said this event gives hope to people who are unsure about college and if it is worthwhile. She said Cardinal Chats can motivate students, having them realize that alumni were in their shoes at some point, and they can achieve as many things as they have, too.
“I feel like it gives hope to people that we’re not alone. We have these people who may not be in our same class, but we are all connected by this one school,” Hall said.
Pellerin said it is especially important to have a program like this during COVID-19 because it can be done virtually, but the concept of the event is important all the time for students.
“I have been trying to develop something like this for a while, and with everyone being so much more comfortable with video catching now, this was the perfect time to do it,” Pellerin said.
Pellerin said that he has seen how powerful informational interviews have been for students in the past, helping students understand their future career, helping students get an internship or get a job, and that is why he feels this program is so important to have on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus.
Students can register for Cardinal Chat events with their SUNY Plattsburgh email address through Handshake. Once the student is registered, they receive a confirmation email with the zoom link and a reminder email 10 minutes before the event.
The next session of Cardinal Chats will be held on Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m. with Rob Hartman, who graduated in the class of 2018 as the next guest. He currently works as a staff consultant of cybersecurity at Ernst & Young Global Limited and his undergraduate major was management information systems and analytics.