This summer, Lisa Famularo ’18 MA and Kristen Soprano ’04 (CLAS) stepped into new roles as career consultants for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences within the Center for Career Development (CCD). They are eager to work with CLAS faculty and staff to help students develop the skills and confidence they need to establish fulfilling careers. We sat down with Famularo and Soprano to find out more about their work.
What are your roles as CLAS Career Consultants?
Lisa Famularo: Our primary role is to work with CLAS faculty and staff to make sure that the career-related needs of CLAS students are being met. We not only carry out the programs that the CCD offers to all students, but we also tailor these resources to the unique needs of CLAS majors. We also plan events centrally and with CLAS departments specifically for liberal arts and sciences majors, including Navigating the Career Fair for CLAS Majors and the CLAS Career Nights, which we coordinate with the CLAS Office of Alumni Relations.
Kristen Soprano: We try to help students really start to think about the transition from college to career. This includes helping with specific tasks, like building a resume, cover letter, or application materials, and helping students explore what they want to do after graduation. I also oversee the CCD’s Practice Interview Program, where we help students build narratives that best paint a picture of their value to a potential employer.
What led you to your current positions at UConn?
LF: I recently completed a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs in the Neag School of Education. During that time, I completed an assistantship with CCD focusing on career coaching and counseling.
KS: Before returning to UConn in 2017, I spent the better part of 10 years working in talent acquisition for a large insurance company, including three years on a university relations recruiting team. I got an in-depth look at the strategies that employers use, not just in the recruiting process as a whole, but specifically for recruiting graduating college students.
Do you consult one-on-one with CLAS students?
LF: CLAS students can meet with any career consultant in the CCD, including both of us. We have 12 full-time staff members on the Storrs campus who meet one-on-one with students, as well part-time coaches, graduate students, and career interns who support students. Students can request a meeting with a consultant on topics like career coaching, resume critiques, or practice interviews. Appointments are available same day if students have an urgent career question.
KS: We also have full-time staff at both the UConn Hartford and Stamford campuses and staff who float between all of the regional campuses.
What are some of the ways that you currently work with CLAS departments? How would you like to see these relationships evolve?
KS: Since we’re relatively new, we’ve been introducing ourselves to CLAS faculty and staff and letting them know how we can work together. For example, I’ll be participating in an internship panel for the Department of Communication October 22. We’re also beginning to brainstorm ideas on future events that we can organize with CLAS departments based on their goals and the needs of their majors.
LF: Our relationship with each department is different, and that’s okay! I am currently working with the Department of Mathematics and Department of Statistics to create a series of alumni profiles that will help students who are questioning what to do with their majors.
How does the CCD measure job placement for recent UConn graduates?
KS: Since 2015, the CCD has sent a first-destination survey to graduating seniors to capture if they’re employed, where they’re employed, and what they’re doing. We send the survey at the time of graduation, as well as three- and six-months post-graduation. It tracks “positive outcomes”—whether alumni are employed or pursuing a graduate degree, volunteer experience, or military service.
LF: For the Class of 2017, we found that 87 percent of UConn students reported a positive post-graduation outcome. That number was 84 percent for CLAS majors. We can break these numbers down further by major, and we’d be happy to provide this information to any faculty and staff interested in learning more. We’d also love if departments encouraged their seniors to take the survey. The more students who respond, the more accurate our data will be overall.
What are some of the common career development challenges that you hear from CLAS students?
KS: I think the biggest challenge CLAS students face is their overall confidence in the value that they bring to the working world. The competencies that CLAS majors possess—things like critical thinking, communication skills, and teamwork— are the core of what every individual needs to be successful in the workplace. Our job is to help CLAS majors build that confidence and recognize that they are just as valuable as that business major sitting next to them.
LF: Another thing I hear from CLAS majors is that they don’t know where to start in planning for a career or reaching a career goal. We want to make sure that students’ hesitation in not knowing how where to start doesn’t prevent them from reaching their goals. The CCD is here for that, but we know that staff and faculty on campus can fill that role as well.
How can CLAS faculty and staff help students navigate their career questions?
LF: We know that conversations about careers are happening everywhere on campus, whether that’s in a classroom, advising appointments, or office hours. Faculty and staff play a critical role in those conversations and in guiding students to the appropriate resources. It’s really important for CLAS faculty and staff members to be ready to have those conversations and to be familiar with resources on campus. We are happy to meet with any CLAS faculty, staff, or administrators to discuss ways to help your students!
KS: We also know that there are unique ways faculty can help students prepare for careers inside the classroom. It could be something simple like taking a group project that’s already on the syllabus and integrating a new technology into the assignment. We hope that infusing messaging about career readiness competencies and transferrable skills into courses will help students feel more confident. This will also in turn help employers see the value of a CLAS degree in relation to their hiring needs.