The college’s new Imagine 2021 professional development program, which began early this month and runs through February, has helped students and recent graduates find solid footing toward their futures.

Junior broadcasting major Michael Jean admitted to feeling “a bit lost” on his career and professional pursuits as he adjusted to the changes forced by the pandemic, but Imagine 2021 helped him find his stride again.

“It really opened my mind to what I can do,” Jean said. “It just opened my eyes to different possibilities, and I felt calmer." 

Kayla Holley, a junior public relations major, has appreciated the work that the offices of Career Services and Alumni Relations have put into the free five-week program.

“I think that they laid out the program really well so all students involved could take something from it,” Holley said.

Open to current students, prospective students and 2020 graduates, the program has gained traction among those looking to boost their futures. Through the first three weeks, hundreds of participants have taken advantage of alumni speakers, networking opportunities, invitations to explore their personal strengths, tips on better using LinkedIn and more.

Jean has appreciated the honesty and encouragement alumni have brought to their sessions. 

“I think that was really helpful for me, hearing them talk about the experiences of what they have gone through and just basically telling me that everything is going to be OK,” Jean said. “Just having a plan and making sure we can be confident in who we are, and continuing to do research and work.”

Jean also has enjoyed how interactive the sessions are, particularly one featuring presentations from representatives of Oswego's Graduate Studies Office, “10 Things You Need to Know About Graduate School but Were Afraid to Ask.”

“They explained to us how it is very different from the high school experience of applying to colleges,” Jean said. “I think that was very helpful for me because I got to know what to do and when I should start and who to connect to when I start the grad school process.”

Holley particularly enjoyed the kickoff workshop with 2012 graduate Anthony DeMario, a trainer and national speaker for Tony Robbins, which explored the value and science behind leaning into curiosity, having a growth mindset, finding your purpose and being yourself.

“It was a really inspirational talk, and it was also interactive and really uplifting,” Holley said. “I walked away feeling like I can conquer anything.”

Leadership opportunities

In addition to gaining experience attending the sessions, Holley and Jean have been among a group of students given leadership opportunities by participating as moderators or presenters. 

Holley moderated an “Unleash Your LinkedIn Superpowers” panel presentation, featuring members of the Oswego alumni network, and was a student panelist for “Creating Your Future Career with SUNY Oswego Alumni.”

“There are so many parts of it that people don't really know are there and that are free for students like LinkedIn Learning,” Holley said. “I’ve been updating my LinkedIn profile and also just learning how to use it in the best ways like finding alumni and creating those connections, and doing LinkedIn Learning, where you can take a short course on just about anything.” 

The president of the college chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, Holley has worked quite a bit with Career Services and taken advantage of the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) program, where her mentor is 2015 alumna Anja Godlewski-Dykes, a senior account growth specialist at Digital Hyve, who is among the alumni giving back for these sessions.

Jean had an opportunity as student host of “Building the Bridge to Your Future” featuring Christine Mosich, the career coach for STEM and healthcare in the Office of Career Services. He also benefits from the ASK program, matched up with 2014 alumnus John Mongiello, who does video production work for WWE.

While connecting with alumni through Imagine 2021 and ASK are beneficial, Holley notes that networking with others at the college can also prove fruitful.

“You create so many connections when you meet so many people even on campus,” Holley said. “It's not only about connecting with alumni, it's also about what you can learn about the resources that we already have access to on campus. So I'm really glad that Career Services is a huge part of this because a lot of students don't know everything they do. I'm hoping this will shine some light on some of their resources and students will take more advantage of it.”

What advice would they have for students wondering about participating in upcoming sessions or going back to watch recordings of previous speakers?

“Do something for your next step. What do you want to do after graduation? Just join and learn about the school and about our alumni network and how to better prepare yourself for after graduation,” Holley said. “If nothing else, what does it hurt to sit in and listen to someone for an hour? People don't recognize the real value of the program until they join and until they watch it and have the conversation so you're going to learn a lot.”

Jean, who said applying to graduate schools is among his top priorities as the semester begins, agreed.

“I  would say absolutely do it if you are curious about anything, whether it is internships or just career options or resumes or LinkedIn,” Jean said. “I think it will be very helpful for you because I think you will get a lot of knowledge, because everybody worked really hard on this program.”

For more information, to view past sessions and to learn about upcoming events, visit the Imagine 2021 website.