June 02, 2017

Knowing What You Don't Know

Javier Borras thought he had the interview nailed. To start, he was wearing a new suit and tie. Borras forgot one thing though. “The interviewer told me that my shoes should be polished,” says Borras. “One of the most eye-opening moments for me was learning that I need to shine my shoes.”

Fortunately for Borras, a senior majoring in history and Spanish, rather than being an actual job interview, this was a practice session held during one of Bloomsburg University’s Career Intensive Boot Camps.

“I knew you should wear a suit for an interview, but the interviewer reminded me that they notice everything you’re wearing, down to your shoes,” says Borras.

The lesson is clear. Details count. And the Career Intensive Boot Camps are designed to teach students those kind of details as they transition to the professional world.

The boot camp, part of Bloomsburg’s Professional U initiative, began in February 2015, and since then more than 200 students have participated with more than 100 alumni volunteers sharing their time and expertise.

The camps, spanning two and a half days, cover a lot of ground such as interviewing, dress, business socializing, charting career paths and salary negotiation.

“Boot camps are designed for students from all majors, not just business. Afterward, students feel more confident in their skills and abilities and they’ve expanded their network by interacting with alumni and professionals,” says boot camp organizer Lauren Gross Polinski, professional development manager in Alumni Engagement and Professional Development. “The program is not just about finding a job after graduation, but providing students with the resources to get the opportunity that they want.”

“I thought the boot camp was going to be very business-centric and focused on helping business students to get ahead,” says Borras. “But when I got there and saw several of my friends and liberal arts majors that I recognized, my expectations changed completely.”

A lot to learn

Morgan Beard ’16 participated in the inaugural 2015 boot camp after learning she could apply to have a donor sponsor her attendance. Then a senior marketing major, Beard thought she was prepared to search for a job, but surprised at how much she still had to learn.

“The etiquette dinner was the most interesting experience for me. Having the chance to eat with the alumni and connect with them on a personal level while also learning how to handle yourself in that type of setting was eye-opening.”

Beard’s boot camp experience directly opened the door to her current position as a claims professional with Traveler’s Insurance. Inspired by her experience, she has returned to present at each boot camp since she graduated. “I was in their position, and I know exactly how they’re feeling,” adds Beard. “I’m glad to have the opportunity to talk to them and tell them that it’s going to be ok.”
For Crystal A. Skotedis ’03, director, Boyer and Ritter, LLC, coming back to help mentor students in the boot camps is something she is very passionate about because she knows how valuable these types of experiences can be.

“I would have benefited greatly from these types of experiences,” says Skotedis. “Volunteering to help students prepare to become professionals is a great way for alumni to give back while also making a direct investment in a student’s life.”

At the most recent boot camp, Skotedis helped students by conducting mock interviews. “Anytime students can practice interviews before game time it’s a huge advantage,” Skotedis adds. “It gives them the chance to see themselves through someone else’s eyes and helps them reach some of those self-realization moments where they either find out if they are ready or that maybe they don’t quite know how to sell themselves yet.”
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