JSC upperclassmen make connections at the 5th annual Dinner with the Boss

Along with spring comes graduation for most JSC seniors and with graduation comes the impending need for employment.

Dozens of well-groomed and well-dressed JSC students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered on March 28 in the Stearns Performance Space to discuss the finer points of networking with potential employers.

The night began with an ice-breaker bingo session intended to engage student in conversation with one another to ease any tensions. The prospect of scoring a bingo forced students to ask each other if they “know how to drive a manual transmission,” or if they were “awake at 5:30” that morning.

JSC President Elaine Collins began the evening’s formal events with a speech and quick anecdote about a JSC alumna she sat with last year who landed her dream job in Morrisville shortly after graduating.
“This can happen to you as well,” she reminded her audience. “I think back to my own career and I recognize how critically important career skills are; one of my most significant realizations is the importance of role models and strong mentors and understanding that I now stand on the shoulders of all the people who helped guide me along the way.”

Ten JSC alums provided career and networking advice to the students seated at their individual tables. Each alum eventually shared their “gems of wisdom” to the entire room.

1994 JSC graduate Andrea Altman encouraged students to keep in mind the skills they are building even with less-than-ideal jobs. “One of the most important things just from having been a student at Johnson and entering into the career field is to be willing to take a job that you might not love, but that could give you knowledge and skills that could get you the job you really want,” she said.

Other alums included Bob Stevens, who graduated JSC in 1969 with a B.A. in history and political science. Stevens, who now works as facilitator for superintendent and principal searches for the Vermont School Board Association, gave his advice on crafting a great resume.

“They had to have one really old person,” Stevens joked. “One of things I would tell you about in your resume and your cover letters – make sure that they’re 100 percent accurate and not misspelled or have the wrong names in there – people will search through your resumes and will eliminate them as they need to. If you’ve got mistakes in your application, they throw it out and start with the ones that are good and you may be wonderful.”

After the alumni shared their wisdom, Sodexo rolled out the appetizer: a sweet and tangy serving of pear and spinach salad glazed with a rich and creamy cranberry dressing.

Dinner consisted of pan-seared pork tenderloin coated with orange marmalade, apple slices and red onions, or chevre-stuffed Portobello mushrooms with tri-color orzo and basil. Dishes were served with caramelized onion mashed potatoes and buttered green beans, followed by chocolate molten cake for dessert.

Around 6:30 p.m., Margo Warden, director of first-year experience, offered her humorous tips on the “social graces of dining” to remind people that napkins aren’t just table decorations. Key advice from Warden included moderating or avoiding alcoholic beverages, maintaining good posture and on which side to place one’s utensils.

Before students and alumni networked over the coffee, Career Development Coordinator Beth Walsh closed out the dinner’s events around 7:30 p.m.

Alumni Eric Page, now a director of territory sales for adaptive communications, and Laraway Youth and Family Service’s Executive Director Greg Stefanski stuck around slightly longer than others to mingle with JSC’s students and staff.

Lauren Philie, director of alumni relations, who says she’d never seen as many students and alumni stay to chat with one another for so long, acknowledges the dinner as a success.

“I think the magic really happens in the informal networking; it can be a little intimidating when you’re first sitting with somebody or trying to eat and have a conversation when you’re trying to listen to someone give a presentation,” said Philie. “But when you’re standing around over a cup of coffee and really getting to the meat of networking and really good advice, that’s great.”