Expert Pitch

As September comes to a close, another semester’s Career Fair goes with it. This year, nearly 1,000 Hawks met with 175 prospective employers to answer the big question: How do I break into my field?

“Your reputation and network will be the single most important factor in your career,” says Pam Kokkalis, associate director for employer engagement at Saint Joseph’s Career Development Center. “Now is the time to start cultivating those relationships and being thoughtful about who is in your sphere of influence.” 

Before any networking or one-on-one interviews can take place, Kokkalis recommends taking time to intentionally examine your strengths and weaknesses in order to feel confident about the skills you can offer a prospective employer. Stretch assignments and classes offer those kinds of assessments in structured ways, but you can also look to a faculty member, supervisor or mentor for feedback.

“Breaking into a new field early in your career depends on knowing yourself well and understanding what you’re bringing to the table,” says Kokkalis, who previously worked as a recruiter. “At this career phase, employers are hiring your potential and look for passion, self awareness and resilience. Everything else they can teach you.”  

For older adults trying to make a career change, breaking into a new field has the added stress of adult responsibilities: families to care for, schedules to manage and bills to pay. While recent graduates may explore what career could bring the most fulfilment, Kokkalis recommends that anyone transitioning into a new field, especially parents who have gaps in their employment, to focus on short-term goals. 

“Focus on the gaps you are trying to fill  — skills to cultivate, technology to learn, or new experiences to try out  — and seek short-term opportunities that bridge those gaps, like volunteer work, micro-internships or even through hobbies,” she says. 

Get more career advice from female industry leaders like Kokkalis at the PA Conference for Women, sponsored in part by Saint Joseph’s University on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. 


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