The Colgate Scene
May 2007

Try it on

Participating in the Day in the Life career shadowing program, senior geology major Chad Conti' 07 went on a site visit with environmental firm founder Lawrence Lessard '85, where he observed soil drilling, testing, and treatment at an underground gas tank leak. [Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]
Nell Kelleher '07

"You always hear about finance — with big quotation marks around it — but you don't know what these people are really doing every day," mused Nell Kelleher '07 recently. Her sentiment is shared by many undergraduates as they peer from behind the classroom walls into their fields of interest. A senior with a major in history, Kelleher had an idea that she might enjoy a career in money management, but she wanted to be sure it was the right match before investing too much time or energy. So before pursuing even an internship, she decided first to get a far less-committal glimpse into the world of finance.

As a junior, the Maryland native applied for the university's A Day in the Life program, an externship of sorts that allows students to shadow Colgate alumni and parents in a variety of professions including media, medicine, and philanthropy. Kelleher was paired with Jeff Oberg '76, a vice president in the private wealth management division at the Boston office of Goldman Sachs, where she attended Oberg's team meetings and listened in on client calls. "I was able to do everything that I would be doing if I were to work there for a summer," she said, explaining that Goldman Sachs even furnished her with a computer and phone headset for the day. "It allowed me to see what a day was like for a financial expert."

Want to share your day?
The Center for Career Services invites Colgate parents and alumni to volunteer for A Day in the Life. Potential hosts in all career fields and geographic locations are welcome to participate, although Teresa Olsen, assistant director of career services, offers this one caveat: "Despite our best efforts to match students with these opportunities, not all sponsors can be matched, as demand for locations and career fields vary each year." For more information, please call 315-228-7380 or send an e-mail to ccs@mail.colgate.edu .

While Colgate offers and encourages many types of career exploration programs for students, A Day in the Life is unique in that it gives students a chance to try on a career to see how it fits before setting themselves on any particular path. "Students can use it as an exploratory tool," explained Teresa K. Olsen, assistant director of the Center for Career Services (CCS), who administers the program. "Because it's low risk and low commitment, it's a nice opportunity for students to be exposed to fields that interest them. There are few opportunities to get experience like this."

Because A Day in the Life is meant to be something of a reality test for undergraduates, preference is given to sophomores, then to first-years and juniors, and lastly, to seniors. The students need no prior experience or qualifications — just a genuine interest in the career they wish to explore. As part of applying for the program, students peruse a book listing the shadowing opportunities that are available and indicate their career and geographic interests. Olsen works to match the students with appropriate sponsors. The students must also submit a polished resume and attend a seminar explaining professional behavior and how to get the most from their pairing.

In the seven or so years since the program began, hundreds of Colgate friends have hosted students for a day, usually during winter break when students generally are free of other commitments.

This past January, 120 students were matched with 110 sponsors in 20 states. Participating organizations ran the gamut from multinational corporations to museums to governmental bodies. Among the many choices were IBM, Commerce Bank, the National Museum of American History, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Chad Conti, a senior geology major from Northeastern Connecticut, spent a day with Lawrence Lessard '85, president and founder of Lessard Environmental Incorporated, a consulting firm in Danvers, Mass. He participated in a site visit, observing soil drilling, testing, and treatment at a gas station where Lessard's company was remediating an underground tank leak. Conti also got to scout another hazardous spill site with his sponsor, where they discussed strategic locations for test wells. "It was great to get into the field and see everything in action," Conti said. "It really helped me reaffirm my decision to go into environmental testing."

Of course, there are benefits for alumni and parent participants, as well. "I kind of catch up on Colgate," said Jo-Ann Bier '77, a developmental pediatrician and pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School. Bier, who this year took Caitlin Murphy '08 to Children's Hospital in Boston, has invited several students over the years to join her on her rounds. "I like seeing the students, finding out what's going on, hearing about professors," she said. "It's a fun day."

In addition to helping them stay connected, "A Day in the Life" allows sponsors to give back to the university and to their profession in a meaningful way. Michael Lassell '69, features director for Metropolitan Home, a national interior design magazine based in New York, said that he loves not only the teaching aspect of the program, but also that "there's a sense that a lot of people have done things for me, so I want to do things for others."

Students are told in advance that they shouldn't expect anything from their hosts beyond their day together. But every once in a while sponsors will offer to stay in touch and continue to provide career advice and support. And sometimes, a student will make such an impression that he or she is invited to apply for an internship or a job. Kelleher did just that, managing to parlay her shadowing experience into a much-sought-after, 10-week internship with Goldman Sachs last summer — and a full-time job offer upon her graduation in May. She credits A Day in the Life with helping her realize she wanted to pursue private wealth management. Clearly, the face time with key players at Goldman Sachs created possibilities she couldn't have imagined.

"I think because they were able to get to know me personally, that's what helped me to win out over 4.0 GPAs from Amherst," she said. "That's as valuable as realizing what you want to do."

DiFulco, who is based in Cranford, N.J., has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Working Mother, and many other publications.
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