Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Planning your career

Students at SAIS Bologna receive expert counseling as they plan their professional careers, and the assistance kicks in immediately after they arrive in Italy.

Ann Gagliardi
How does the Career Services Office work and what can incoming students expect?

Ann Gagliardi works closely with students to make sure they get the most out of the office's expertise and guidance. Below she discusses the role she plays in Bologna, and how counseling starts as soon as pre-term.

(Does Ann look familiar? You may have met her in this post last year.)

Q: What’s your role at SAIS Bologna?
Gagliardi: I am a Career Counselor in the Office of Career Services. In this role I work with students on issues connected to their professional development.

Q: What does a typical academic year look like for you?
Gagliardi: Over the summer, our office sends out information about Career Services programming and resources to the incoming class. Our welcome email also provides access to SAISWorks, the online career database we share with our colleagues in DC and Nanjing, and instructions for creating a SAIS format resume, which is required for some applications managed through SAIS Career Services.

When students arrive on campus, the first thing our office organizes is an orientation to Career Services at SAIS, followed by the Professional Development Course (PDC), which is a series of required modules on topics including self-assessment, career research, crafting convincing resumes and cover letters and networking.

Students who are here for pre-term do the course during pre-term. We run it again for students who arrive for first semester. Our office developed the course in tandem with our colleagues in Washington. The goal is to provide crucial information to students in a group setting.

We work to make the course as interactive as possible, and in the end it’s a great opportunity for me to start getting to know the members of the class – and for students to get to know each other. I also tend to spend a good deal of time early in the year working with students individually on the content of their resumes and CVs.

Once the PDC is finished, I continue running career workshops on many different topics. The bulk of my work with students, however, takes place in individual counseling sessions, which usually start in early October.

People come to SAIS from varied backgrounds and with different levels of previous work experience. Some SAIS students know exactly what they want to do from day one, while self-assessment – that is, figuring out what you want to do, what you need to do and know how to do to get there – is a crucial piece of the picture for many.

So is research – figuring out which organizations might be a good fit. As the year progresses, I spend time coaching students on long-distance networking tactics, preparing for interviews, discussing ways to respond to multiple offers and a number of other things. One-on-one meetings end up being the best format for much of the careers-related work students do during their year at the Bologna Center, the most effective way to support individual students as they work to define what it is they want to do and why.

Q: What and whom do you deal with the most?
Gagliardi: The student body here in Bologna is made up primarily of first-year MA students, and this is reflected in our programming. My own professional background as an editor and translator serves me well in my support of students as they work to develop a narrative about their professional future and past experiences that makes sense to them and will also make sense to potential employers.

Many students decide to seek a summer internship or employment as part of the path towards long-term employment out of SAIS. A good summer internship can provide an opportunity to employ knowledge and skills gained in the classroom in a practical setting, get hands-on experience in a particular region of the world, learn about how specific organizations function, make useful long-term contacts … the list goes on and on.

Students who are here in Bologna for a single year work with me in the same way – the process is simply more condensed.

Amina Abdiuahab