Friday, September 30, 2016

Careers Services: Helping students succeed

The excellence of the Career Services Office sets SAIS apart.

Throughout their time at SAIS, students receive extensive help and guidance to prepare to achieve their professional goals.

Today, we want to introduce you to Lucia Botindari, Career Counselor at Johns Hopkins SAIS Europe. We asked Lucia some questions on her role and the operations of the Career Services Office.

Q: What is your role at SAIS Europe?
Botindari: I'm a Career Counselor at SAIS Europe. Most students in Bologna are in their first year of study and, as part of my role, I help them identify and learn about the numerous career paths they can pursue after SAIS.

Regardless of whether or not students arrive at SAIS with a plan for their future careers, our Office helps them learn more about what will be available to them.

Lucia Botindari during office hours

Q: How does the Career Services Office help students?
Botindari: Our goal is to help students succeed. We want to make sure students focus on their careers from the day they arrive in Bologna.

We provide support through different channels: one-on-one counselling, training, career trips, and we provide a platform for networking.

Students who wish to benefit from the services of our Office are required to do a Professional Development Course (PDC) shortly after they arrive. The course is the foundation to a successful job search.Through the PDC and various workshops, students learn how to build their CV and compose cover letters. They learn interview and salary negotiation techniques as well as how to use social media to search for internship and employment opportunities.

In addition, we provide several skills courses, such as advanced finance courses, advanced Excel, STATA, and other software. These courses give students the practical skills that aren't necessarily part of the curriculum, but which are important to be more competitive in the job market.

After students complete the PDC, I meet with them individually and we begin the counselling process. The one-on-one meetings are mutually beneficial: students learn more about their goals and the job market, while I learn more about the students, which ultimately helps me, help them.

Each year, we organize career trips to London, Brussels, and Geneva. Each of these trips has a focus on a particular field. For example, one of the London trips -- we organize two trips to the UK capital-- is geared towards those interested in learning more about the Financial Services sector. The second trip to London, is more focused on consulting and political risk, while the trips to Geneva and Brussels focus on primarily, but are not limited to, the multilateral and non-governmental sectors.

Student panel on working at the U.S. State Department

As we plan our activities, we keep an eye on students' needs. In some cases, we've been able to organize courses and trips based on students' suggestions. For example, last year, a considerable number of students was interested in election monitoring and thanks to the help of our expert faculty and our highly motivated students, we were able to set up a workshop called "Election and democracy assistance".

What's more, we help students network. During the career trips, students have the opportunity to talk and meet with alumni. These meetings are highly beneficial for students who are able to hear first-hand what it means to work in a given sector or for a given company.

We also encourage students to network among themselves. Many of our students have several years of work experience under their belt and we invite them to share their knowledge and experiences by organizing student career panels.

During the Alumni Weekend -- a weekend where over 300 alumni return to Bologna -- we organize dozens of career panels and a Happy Hour to enable alumni and current students to meet. We take advantage of the presence of our successful and dedicated alumni who are happy to sit down for a morning with students to talk about careers.

Q: Which aspect of your job do you like the most?
Botindari: There are a number of things I enjoy about my job. However, if I had to pick one, I'd say counselling students is what I enjoy the most. I'm a social psychologist with a PhD in the field and my background allows me to help students in the long and complex process of self-discovery, self-assessment and growth. I find it extremely rewarding to be able to witness their metamorphosis.

Through a number of workshops and one-on-one meetings, I help students understand how their professional, social and personal skills can be applied to the job market. In particular, we look at the students' skills and aspirations to understand how they can reach the goals they've set for themselves.

I also enjoy the diversity there is at SAIS Europe. Our students come from all walks of life and from several countries. Each year, we have students of diverse demographics as well as diverse cultural, professional and educational backgrounds. Being in a such a diverse and multicultural environment is highly motivating as I, too, learn a lot each year.

Amina Abdiuahab

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