Like many young professionals in the midst of their career, giving back to my Alma Mater, Ferris State University, didn’t seem like something I was in the position to do quite yet. What could I possibly have to say to a group of students only about 8-10 years younger than me? As it turns out, quite a lot.
While attending Ferris State University I was part of the Collegiate American Marketing Association (AMA) where I gained more of a hands-on experience of the working world and made connections with classmates (and professors!) I am still fortunate enough to have today. When I graduated in 2010, I left the AMA behind and hadn’t thought much about it till this winter, when I was fortunate enough to have been in contact with a current AMA member who set me up to give a presentation to the current AMA group at Ferris State.
As I prepped and racked my brain on what I had to offer this group of students, I realized the best presentation I could provide was my own professional experience and journey. While that seems lame to most, I’ve had a unique career track that has led me to be able to experience different size companies ranging from boutique to mid-size to large corporations and I’ve been part of several industries; property management, design (for air travel), engineering (for roads, bridges, and rail), and now technology. As I was uncovering what I actually had to offer these students, I also uncovered my true passion, culture and workplace relationships.
During my presentation filled with witty banter about work relationships, company sizes, and finding your path on what you actually want to be “when you grow up,” I saw eyes lighting up around the room of about 30 students. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve done. I saw myself connecting dots for some of these students, I saw their wheels turning. When the presentation ended, to my complete surprise, I spent about 40 minutes answering questions. AMAZING! These questions pilled in about how to look for a job, explain different job positions, describe different company relationships, how to interview, etc. I was not only super pumped I got these students excited, I was beyond impressed at their intuitive questions and banter back with me.
Stepping away from that presentation I came to understand that what I did just helped shape some of the future workforce. I put a nugget of information in these minds that could help them find their path in this world, and what a cool thing that is! Imparting my own real-world experience, good and bad, could help sway how these young professionals behave in the workplace and how they integrate themselves into their future employers.
Following that event, I was able to host some of those students and many more, in our office for a tour and Q&A event with myself and several of my colleagues, furthering the integration of experienced professionals and students. This short encounter brought out the same reaction as my presentation, bright eyed questions and so many great discussions with the future workforce. Which also has now led to even more contact with a couple of the students reaching out for advice and even help with some Senior Capstone classes.
I have been honored over the last several months to be part of these students lives, and I cannot wait to see where their careers take them. Even more, I cannot wait to continue to donate my time as a professional to students at Ferris State and make myself a resource to their learning. It’s an important step to helping shape how we, as professionals, can continue to grow in our own paths and find our way to leadership roles, both at a career level and mentoring level. I urge anyone who has the opportunity to partake in activities at their own Alma Maters, to be part of the change and growth in the workforce and have the satisfaction of knowing that you can help, even when you don’t think you can!
PS: Go Bulldogs!!