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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Counseling for career and life: Departing seniors share their thanks to the people who’ve guided them

Published: May 1, 2009
Section: Features

Stephanie Sofer '09 and Director of Hiatt Joseph DuPont meet to discuss career opportunities.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

Stephanie Sofer '09 and Director of Hiatt Joseph DuPont meet to discuss career opportunities.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

There are exactly 16 days until commencement. For many seniors, it couldn’t have come soon enough. For others, it may seem like time–and their future–is closing in on them, and fast.

Maybe some of you have a job lined up. Maybe some of you would like to hide in a hole and avoid the obvious question that’s bound to be asked of you a million times May 17: “What are you doing with the rest of your life?” Or maybe some of you, like the following four students, have formulated a better approach to this dilemma thanks to some members of the Hiatt Career Center.

As cited in a Hoot article earlier this semester (Countdown to commencement: The not-so-bleak future 3/6/09), the number of students who take advantage of the many services Hiatt has to offer has increased this past year.

Many colleges have similar departments to help students prepare for life in the “real world.” And the presence of such a department in the first place sets the tone for the distribution of the very advice students depend on in their transition from the classroom to the workplace.

Director of the Hiatt Career Center, Joe Du Pont explained in an email that Hiatt is present for students throughout their whole career search–pre and post graduation: “We at Hiatt want all of our graduates to know that our policy is to provide career services for life. Career development is an ongoing process for all of us over the course of a lifetime,” he said.

“It is normal for your interests and professional passions to continue to evolve, and we want all graduates to feel comfortable reaching out to us for assistance during the many twists and turns of your careers. We are here to help right now, in five months, two years or 10 years. Whenever you feel the need for career assistance, we will be here for you.”

And, according to the following four members of the class of ‘09, be there they have.

There are of course, many employees who make up Hiatt and keep it running on a daily basis. Here, these departing seniors share their thanks to just a few of them. For these seniors, it was a little counseling from these very people that made all the difference. Hear their stories:

Stephanie Sofer:

In Hiatt’s mind, one counseling method doesn’t fit all

These days I walk into the Hiatt Career Center almost once a week, and am always greeted with the warm smile and witty banter of Diane, the woman who sits at the front desk. Even she expresses a sincere interest in my future.

Recently, as a graduating senior, it has been almost impossible to escape the “How you are…What are you doing next year?” question. Thanks to the help of many Hiatt staff members, I now realize the answer to that question entails more than a simple blasé response. I realize now that career development is just that–development. I have also realized I don’t just have two options: to be a doctor or a lawyer. I can take all that I have learned and loved to do at Brandeis and transform those experiences into a meaningful career.

While Hiatt unabashedly admits that they have a long “way to go” to improve, I have recently heard several students praise their experiences with Hiatt staff; something that during my freshman year would have seemed nearly unbelievable. Individuals such as Nancy Waggner and Joe Du Pont have not only shown the technical skills to help me succeed, but a genuine interest and friendship that have made the process easier, fun and definitely humorous.

I will never forget the time when I was at a rest stop on a Friday afternoon in the middle of nowhere Connecticut, right before a break. I had tried to set up a time to meet in person with Joe Du Pont, however, our schedules would not allow it. So Joe and I arranged to speak over the phone instead. For an hour, amidst a cluster of loud people buying an assortment of fast food, I received invaluable advice about applying to law school. And months later, when deciding that law school was not in line with my future goals, I again spoke to Joe–this time in Usdan at an ungodly hour of the morning, discussing if graduate school in public policy was the next logical step for me.

Instead of telling me what to do or what steps to take, the people at Hiatt have given me a sense of clarity to help make the best decision for me personally. Unlike the experiences of students I have spoken to at other institutions of higher learning, Hiatt doesn’t have a one-solution panacea for every student who walks in the door. Instead, they get to know students as people with varied interests, experiences and perspectives. And while formatting a resume or attempting to make a cover letter catchy can seem tedious, they have the skill to make it straightforward and actually doable.

Moreover working on planning an event with Caroline O’Shea, venting to Jessica Paquin over the years and meeting with Andrea Dine to discuss my career goals have proven to be not only constructive and professional, but enjoyable to say the least.

For all of these reasons and more, I feel that Hiatt’s hardworking staff deserves praise. At least now I know that when May 17 rolls around I will have a group of dedicated individuals there to assist me with not only finding a job, but a profession that will allow me to pursue my goals and aspirations.

Hanna Rosenthal-Fuller

Self exploration through example

I had seen the Teach For America signs, met one of their recruiters and briefly researched their website before I found myself in Joe Du Pont’s office this past November. It was 8 a.m., before Hiatt even opened for the day, and Joe had accommodated my busy schedule by agreeing to meet with me before class.

I felt unprepared for his initial question: “So, why do you want to do Teach For America?” I nervously fumbled through my response, citing achievement gap figures and a statement about making a difference. At that point, I had no confidence in my credentials. I downplayed my achievements, felt intimidated by the organization’s low acceptance rate and was only focused on getting in, not on exploring why I wanted to do it.

During our first meeting, his advice was simple, yet critical: I needed to figure out why I wanted to do this. After making it through the first two applicant rounds, I was ready to participate in TFA’s final interview day.

Joe invited me in for an hour-long interview prep session after business hours. Over pretzels and soda, he helped me rehearse my answers, gave me a breakdown of exactly what to expect and continually instilled confidence in me that I had the potential to succeed in this interview.

Joe has succeeded in taking Hiatt to new levels and in giving students the career services they need because he exudes a confidence and professionalism that sets an example for us to follow. I respect him because, if I were an employer, he is exactly the kind of person I would want to hire.

Benjamin Kramer:

When doubt turns into a pleasant surprise

The first time I used Hiatt was during my junior year. I needed help with creating a resume and a cover letter. I met with an interim counselor and got the help I needed, but wasn’t convinced that Hiatt was good for much else.

When senior year began, I began to think about applying to graduate psychology programs. Having no idea where to start the process, I apprehensively booked an appointment with Nancy Waggner, Hiatt’s grad school advisor. We met for about 30 minutes and I explained that I knew what programs I wanted to apply to, but didn’t know where to begin.

She listened to what I had to say and gave me one piece of advice: “I would be glad to help in any way I can, but honestly, this is not my area of expertise. Abigail Crine has a Ph.D. in psychology, and could probably be a much better fit for you.”

I was both impressed and grateful for Nancy’s honesty and her commitment to helping me the best way she could, even if it wasn’t with her.

So, I set up a meeting with Dr. Crine and thus we began what would be a seven-month long mentorship in which she and I strategized about where to apply to, what to write in my personal statement and how to prepare for the interview process.

Though I enlisted the aid of many people during my application process, Dr. Crine was definitely a major help. I really felt that the whole Hiatt team was on my side, starting with Nancy Waggner, centering on Dr. Abigail Crine, and completed by the support of the rest of the staff, from asking various people quick protocol questions to being granted a last minute meeting by Diane Staffier.

I am glad to say the end result of my Hiatt experience came in the form of several admissions to prominent MA programs, including Brandeis University where I will be attending next fall. Though Hiatt is not perfect, I feel that all of my needs were met, and my experience was very positive.

Alex Chase:

Above and beyond: Expressing thanks to Nancy Waggner

Nancy Waggner, the pre-law and graduate school advisor at Hiatt, is as good as they come and is truly dedicated to her students. For example, over the summer, Nancy was available to meet with me to discuss my law school applications. Then, during the fall semester, I relied on her to proofread my applications and advise me once I started hearing back from schools. I know that she does the same and even more for other students.

During the school year, Nancy organizes terrific informational programs on all stages of the law school application process. She covers everything from how to pick an LSAT prep method to how to succeed in your first year of law school. As the president of the Pre-Law Society, I have planned numerous events with Nancy, who also serves as the club’s advisor. Her knowledge of what students want and need to know about law school and her willingness to go the extra mile are two major characteristics that in my opinion make her unique and indispensable to Hiatt.