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From Maxwell Perspective...

Lookin’ for a Job

The annual student-organized networking trips to Washington and New York accelerate career planning and a student’s understanding of life after Maxwell.

By Dana Cooke

Networking Carpoolers Networking carpoolers Mehta, Rangel, Dyer Cruzado, and Lubelfeld, en route to Washington in March.

It’s the beginning of spring break, but instead of jumping on a plane to the Caribbean, Jason Mehta, Zack Lubelfeld, Sonia Rangel, and Henry Dyer Cruzado Jr. are climbing into a car bound for D.C. They will spend the next eight hours having “conversations only MPA students would find enjoyable,” according to Mehta — national security, city governance, Half-Life 2 (a video game), education and crime, income taxation, or “simply the finer points of Mexican cuisine.”

They aren’t alone. Other cars filled with MPA and MAIR students are headed to Washington — and, later in the week, New York City — to participate in the annual Maxwell Networking Trip. They will meet alumni already well-placed within the sorts of organizations where they aspire to work soon; there will be 29 site visits in all. And there will be career panels and coffee chats and receptions and general sight-seeing.

It’s all organized by the students themselves (with help from Maxwell’s career and alumni relations staff) and draws upon generations of Maxwell alumni working in Washington and New York. In all, 51 students will take part. Nearly 35 alumni offered to host site visits in either Washington or New York. Another 70 or so attended the informal receptions in the two cities.

The most powerful sessions are typically the meet-ups with alumni, who share workplace war stories, a glimpse into career sectors, and occasionally even specific job prospects. Jeffrey Pu, an MPA student with international career interests, spoke with alumni at the Departments of State and Labor. Meeting foreign service officer Manju Sadarangani ’07 MAIR “was definitely a highlight of my trip,” says Pu. “She was incredibly honest about what it is like working for a federal agency, and what it is like to represent the United States while working abroad.”

Lubelfeld, an MPA/IR student interested in national security, met a panel of FBI employees, hosted by Amber Demery ’15 MAIR. Due to a freak mid-March D.C snow storm that closed government offices, a Department of Energy panel, hosted by Jon Gupton ’06 MA (Econ/IR), was achieved by phone. Michael Boito ’83 MPA hosted a session at RAND Corporation; last-minute scheduling prevented Lubelfeld from attending, but others in his group did. Lubelfeld also had coffee chats with Rachel Schultz ’09 MPA, a policy analyst at Homeland Security, and Maureen Russell ’07 MAIR, an analyst at Booz Allen Hamilton.

"I am already beginning to experience the strength of the Maxwell network."
MAIR student Meghan Sullivan

MPA student Joselin Padron-Rasines, interested in education policy and nonprofits, met with Melissa Turner ’10 MPA, a senior manager at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, among others. “Being able to speak with alumni at their respective organizations provides role models to look up to,” she says, “and friendly faces to remind you that you can also achieve your career goals.”

All the students attended a multi-career alumni panel held at Maxwell’s capital headquarters at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and for MPA student Linnea Powell this was a highlight. “I especially appreciated their insight on working with people with different experiences and finding places where you can add value to an organization,” she says. She went on to site visits at the House of Representatives and the Congressional Budget Office, a phone conference with the consulting firm Grant Thornton, and a personal interview at the Department of the Treasury.

And students get a feel for the alumni community. Meghan Sullivan, for example, is an MAIR student whose American Red Cross visit was hosted by staff member Danielle Wohlenberg ’16 MPA. “I am already beginning to experience the strength of the Maxwell network,” says Sullivan, “and was encouraged by how ready alumni are to share their own experiences and help current students.”

“I had to buy a business card book for all the amazing people I met in my short time in the city,” says Mehta. “Would spring break in Florida, California, or even in Syracuse been fun, relaxing, and stress-free? Absolutely. Would it have been more rewarding than the networking trip? Not even close.”

This article appeared in the spring 2017 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2017 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.