January Career Tracks helps students explore and network in workplaces and cities
By Stephen Wilson
Entering the urban jungle with only a suit coat and newly constructed LinkedIn profile, undergraduate career explorers, guided by career counselors and supportive alumni and parents, navigate their way through various workplaces and network with some of the choicest employers across major sectors.
These explorers over the course of January conquer Boston, New York, and the Lehigh Valley as part of Career Tracks, an immersive program open to students in all majors who go on three- day tracks in the fields of law and justice, innovation and technology, real estate, finance, and media and communications. Each track gives students the opportunity to visit companies and attend presentations, tour their workplaces, ask questions, experience the culture, and build connections.
Organized jointly by Gateway Career Center, the Office of Alumni Relations, advisory councils, and parents, Career Tracks provides what Mike Summers, assistant vice president of Gateway Career Center, calls “a valuable behind-the-scenes look at specific industries and an opportunity to create valuable and lasting connections with Lafayette alumni, parents, and friends who are passionate about helping our students.”
“It also allows the student to explore and experience what it would be like to work inside a particular field,” he says.
This year 103 students participated. They were supported by over 260 alumni, parents, and friends of the College who volunteered their time and knowledge to the program. Gateway partnered with more than 55 companies, organizations, and individual practitioners, many of whom included presentations from campus recruiters.
The impact is profound. Here are images and quotes from students, speakers, hosts, and track leaders from each city.
Three Tracks: Finance, Innovation and Technology, and Media and Communications
Allison Paglia ’22
Media and Communications Track
Program thought: I went to a specialized high school that focused on communications, so I was excited to have a structured program in NYC on this track in order to see what careers are like in this field. I stayed with a friend and got to learn the subway system as I commuted in so I could more fully experience what living there might be like.
Networking highlight: It was great to meet alumni, parents, and even my peers at Lafayette. I began to create a detailed contact list of people where I had a genuine connection. It’s taken time to build it, but I know it has a level of detail that will help me build a network.
Session highlight: At NBC Universal, I met cool people with interesting jobs, positions that I had never heard of before. After each person would speak, I’d think, “I want to do that!” At the end of those sessions, I was able to speak with specific people and was even invited back in the summer to meet with a team.
Next steps: I know I want a job in this field. When I got back to campus, I immediately met with my career counselor and talked in more detail about what I was interested in professionally and what alumni are out there working in those roles. When I study abroad next year, I plan to take some business and marketing courses that are specific to my interests.
Shaan Shuster ’23
Program thought: It was a great opportunity to meet alumni; it’s rare for a liberal arts college to have such a footprint of talented and successful alumni in New York City. We got to have an inside look into their work and industry. It’s a testament to the alumni. In a few years, members of my class will have the ability to carry that same torch for future students.
Networking highlight: At CitiBank, we had a brief tour and then walked into an open floor filled with alumni. I could talk in groups or one-on-one with people in different roles and learn about jobs, career paths, and opportunities. At Networking Night, I expanded my contacts by speaking with parents and a wider range of alumni. I continue to reach out to people who seem eager to speak with me and willing to maintain a relationship.
Track highlight: I have been to conferences before that require me to wear a suit and learn from professionals, but to look out the windows and see Manhattan, to walk into 30 Rockefeller Center … The place made those moments and this experience so dynamic.
Next steps: This cemented my desire to work in finance, specifically sales and trading or investment banking. Visiting the financial institutions and meeting the professionals who work there was like an audition for my dream job. I continue to build my network and expand my connections in the Lafayette alumni community. Just so happens that I speak with an alum tonight who works at Morgan Stanley.
Jamie Proctor ’96
Speaker and host—Innovation and Technology Track
Why participate: The next generation of top talent will come from schools like Lafayette. It’s important for me to understand what they want out of a career so that we can attract the best employees. It’s also incredibly fun to engage with the students and feed off their energy and enthusiasm.
Advice to students: Pursue a path that motivates you. There will be ups and downs in any role, any company, and any career. But if you are passionate about what you do and enjoy the people you work with, success will follow.
Craig Burel ’10
Speaker on the Innovation and Technology Track
Why participate: I’ve benefited from the support and guidance of generous Lafayette alumnae while as a student and a professional. I believe it’s important to continue this tradition and pay forward what others have done for you.
Advice to students: I would say it’s never too early to start building your professional network, and in many ways a strong network can be your most valuable asset. The Lafayette alumni ecosystem is a powerful resource for kickstarting your own professional network and can help you get to wherever you want to go.
Alison Mooney ’17
Host on the Finance Track
Why participate: I know as a student it is easy to make assumptions about company cultures and, more specifically, the cultures of banks without a first-hand experience. I hope hearing the stories of Lafayette alumni who have navigated the same cultures with positive, successful outcomes will help demystify the process. Hearing first-hand accounts enables students to form their own opinions about what it is like to pursue an internship and full-time positions at a bulge bracket bank.
Advice to students: Career Tracks offers so much information, guidance, and support without the pressure of an interview or job application. Whether the Career Track experience inspires students to simply join a different club, seek out a broader network, or read a new book, I see that as a step in the right direction. We want students to use this experience to reflect on their college journey thus far and better understand what actions they can take to help them achieve their career goals—even if a career feels far from where they are now. Career Tracks are here to inspire students to think bigger and bridge the gap between college and first career.
Benny Crapanzano ’97
Led the Finance Track
Why participate: I want to give back. It’s one of our core values, and, personally, I want to see Lafayette students have even more opportunities than I had, which were many.
Advice to students: Understand that a career in finance doesn’t require a specific degree type, and regardless of your background, there could be a rewarding career for anyone. Career Tracks offer a unique opportunity to broaden your network with alumni whom you share a special connection with.
Chris McCumber ’89
NBC Universal, Entertainment Networks, USA Network, and SYFY
Host on the Media and Communications Track
Why participate: As an alumnus and a Board of Trustees member, I feel it is important to give our students the opportunity to experience what a career in the media is like. I remember how hard it was for me to get into this business, so anything I can do to help our students get a leg up is time well spent.
Advice to students: Don’t let precious opportunities pass you by. It is never too early to begin your career search, and if you can get access to leaders in whatever field you are interested in, don’t hesitate to jump at that chance.
Two Tracks: Finance & Innovation and Technology
Nick Tufano ’23
Finance tracks in both Boston and New York City
Program thought: It was amazing as a first-year student to sit at headquarters with leaders of global companies like CitiGroup and Cambridge who live and breathe finance. I have a lot to learn, but I wasn’t scared away from this field. Having visited two cities, I was better able to weigh the pros and cons of each and see where I would have the best opportunity for growth.
Networking highlight: I learned the power of LinkedIn. I found a few really distinguished connections, focusing on quality, not quantity. I’m interested in finding mentors who can help me navigate through this career field.
Session highlight: To stand in the lobby of Goldman Sachs or Bank of America—to be in places I have seen on Fox Business News and know all that is happening in an industry is right here in front of you.
Next steps: It’s easy to sit in a classroom day in and day out, but now I can fathom a career outside college. I can see more clearly the role I want and the skill sets I need. Employers made clear the importance of a liberal arts education. They are looking for someone you can be stuck in a car with on a 12-hour ride, someone willing to learn, build a team, communicate, and lead.
Basit Balogun ’21
Innovation and Technology tracks in both Boston and New York City
Program thought: It was great to see the difference between the two cities. It felt like workers in NYC had more competition and pressure to achieve something whereas Boston workers were more down to earth and had the ability to define their projects and roles.
Networking highlight: At first I would look for computer science people but learned that I could talk to people in other fields about how computer science was fundamental in their companies. Those conversations were less about programming and more about the interesting ways to apply thinking and models to problems. I learned how important it is to be strong at being customer-facing and not just talking shop.
Session highlight: We had a mini-hackathon at Klaviyo, a software company in Boston, where we developed an idea with a group and pitched it. Our team proposed a software platform that would congregate summer and winter course options from different schools and allow students to search for classes by location and discipline rather than visiting every school’s separate site.
Next steps: This was my second year on Career Tracks. Whereas last year was about exploring, this year was more focused on growing our network. I have been actively revamping my LinkedIn profile and reaching out to alumni. While I have already secured a summer internship, I want to be a better candidate as I begin to explore different career opportunities.
Amit Mohindra ’88
Host on the Innovation and Technology Track
Why participate: As a student at Lafayette I had the opportunity to do an externship one winter with Pfizer in New York City. It was my first exposure to the world of work outside the Lafayette campus, and it was eye opening. I realized that there’s a gulf between classroom learning and on-the-job learning. I think the Career Tracks program benefits both students and companies so that there is a convergence between what is taught in school and what is needed in organizations. I wanted to expose Wayfair’s campus recruiting team to Lafayette and showcase the students’ caliber so that a new recruiting channel is opened up, offering Lafayette graduates opportunities at an amazing company.
Advice to students: I want students to get exposure to the corporate environment, no matter what industry, so they have at least one reference point as they consider majors and careers. I want them to get a glimpse of the internal workings of organizations and have a sense of what kinds of jobs are out there. I want them to exercise their curiosity and get comfortable asking questions and engaging directly with executives and employees. In short, I want them to have exposure, insight, and confidence so they can make informed choices about majors, organizations, and careers.
Three Tracks: Law and Justice, Innovation and Technology, and Real Estate
Don Bosco ’23
Real Estate Track
Program thought: Career Tracks changed the way I look at my college life. I would recommend that first-year students take advantage of this program because it helped me better understand what learning I should pursue and how to get started.
Networking highlight: I met many professionals who discussed their experiences in college and on career paths. Their advice was refreshing. One highlight was meeting the construction manager who works at City Center in Allentown and was a history major at Lafayette. I never thought I could do something so different from what I studied. When I returned to campus, I changed my class schedule in order to take a class in an area that interests me and am excited about how it will help me do so much more in the world after I graduate.
Session highlight: I visited City Center in downtown Allentown and the Hearst project in downtown Easton. It is amazing how these projects have and will transform these cities. Seeing how J.B. Reilly ’86 has advanced Allentown with large-scale projects in just a few years truly inspired me to consider what I could do in my home country of Namibia, how it just takes one idea to develop a city and alter the lives of so many people in need.
Next steps: I have decided to apply to an internship in South Africa for the summer which will focus on real estate, specifically a project to construct an apartment building. It would both challenge me to develop new skills and extend the engineering skills I have learned at Lafayette so far.
John Fistner ’00
Led the Innovation and Technology Track
Why participate: Without the significant financial support I received, I would have never been in a position to attend Lafayette. And without the time and energy from my coaches, teachers, and alumni, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today. As a result I feel it’s important to pay it forward and provide my time, my energy, and my resources—financial, connections, and otherwise—to support the next generation.
Advice to students: The program is typically the student’s first step in the transition from the classroom to the “real world.” You can see their eyes light up when they come across a field they never thought of or a profession they can see themselves in. This program is not meant to drill down in a specific area of expertise, but meant to open possibilities and explore what it takes to have a successful career in whatever path you choose.