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Hands-on experience with professional sports teams in Pittsburgh positioned Josh Giffin ‘12 for a job with the New York Yankees.

Dream Jobs Young alumni find career paths that work


ll the baseball-as-real-life metaphors apply for Josh Giffin ’12. Yes, he knocked his interview out of the park. Yes, his job is a field of dreams. And yes, he really hit a home run with his first work experience in the “real world.” But when your first job is with the New York Yankees, one of the most recognizable franchises in all of sports, it’s no longer metaphorical. This is real life. “It’s going great,” Giffin says of his job as an inside sales associate with the Major League Baseball team. “New York City life is like no other. I’m working with the most prestigious sports brands in the world and the best people in the sales business. To be able to walk into an organization with such a history … is humbling. It’s a great experience every day.”

Working in their fields

Cal U has some impressive statistics about graduates who are working in their fields, says Rhonda Gifford, director of Career Services. The most recent Graduate Survey, which included graduates from Summer 2010 through May 2011, shows that 62 percent of respondents have jobs “related to their majors.” That number has remained consistent — between 60 percent and 70 percent — over the past five years. Career Services provides opportunities such as Senior Career Week, where companies such as PNC, U.S. Steel and


more come to campus to recruit. Students hold mock interviews with employers who match their majors, and the Cal U Career Network connects alumni and employers who volunteer to share their experiences with students. “We offer our students a lot of opportunities for experiential education through our Internship Center,” Gifford says. “Job shadowing, internships or cooperative educational opportunities are all ways our students have of connecting with their dream jobs.”

‘Give yourself an edge’

Margaret “Maggie” Fike ’12, who is finishing her first year as a high school Spanish and French teacher in the North Clarion County (Pa.) School District, went all the way to Chile to get the experience she believes made all the difference in her job search. In 2011 she and five other students visited Chile with Andrea Cencich, a Santiago native and an instructor in the Modern Languages and Cultures Department. They took part in a three-credit internship and served as teachers’ aides at The English Institute in Santiago and at Colegio Villa Aconcagua in Concon. It went so well that Fike returned to Chile last summer to teach fourth-graders at The English Institute. “I think it was a difference-maker in landing my position,” she says. “I know other people who graduated with the same degree as I did (Spanish and education) and didn’t get a job. You need to do something different to give yourself an edge. “I had to be willing to relocate a little to find this job. But I love it here.”

The edge for Nate Wright ’12, a process control engineer at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Works, also came from an internship. As a computer engineering technology student, he worked on a NASA research project that showed how kites could be used to reduce the cost of collecting data from the air. “I was allowed to do a lot of the developing and coding and straight engineering work on the project itself, and that helped a lot, especially during my interview process,” he says. Wright’s work at U.S. Steel involves collecting data and programming computers to improve efficiency at the mill. “My job is kind of geared toward the computer science courses I took. But we also had a lot of hands-on experience with electrical systems at Cal U, and it’s nice to see that out in the field — real people actually using this stuff.” Wright made another connection when he was introduced to Melvin “Bucky” Walkush ’81, who also works at U.S. Steel. “Professor (Dr. Jeff) Sumey said, ‘You should probably interview there.’ So I did, and I was invited back for a second round with Bob Kieffer ’98, who is my boss now, after he came to campus for a recruitment event. “So the way I found out about my job now was really through an unrelated project. It’s very cool how these connections can open doors.”

Sound decisions

These graduates have done many things just right, Gifford says. “Consider the job market and be willing to relocate if necessary. Know how to write a great resume and what should be on it. And get involved on campus to network and develop leadership skills.” Giffin was a sport management major with minors in marketing and leadership at Cal U. His resume breakthrough came when he was charged with organizing a hockey night featuring the University’s club teams and supporting student scholarships. It was held at CONSOL Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Cal U is the team’s official education partner. “It was a long process, with lots of meetings with Cal U hockey and the Penguins’ staff,” he says.

Nate Wright ‘12 says networking was key to securing a job at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Works.

Margaret ‘Maggie’ Fike ‘12 believes her internship in Chile helped her land a teaching job.

“It also was beneficial to have worked on game-day operations for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And the Sport Management Club at Cal U was also important.” All of it prepared him for an intensive interview process with the Yankees. “I went to an interview event in Cleveland, and I had about 15 minutes to tell about my experience and the different ways I was proactive with organizations at school. “It honestly felt like draft day, where you have a limited amount of time to prove yourself. To compete successfully against students from Harvard, Colgate — Ivy League schools — was definitely an awesome experience.”

Room to grow

Giffin, Fike and Wright all say their jobs have, indeed, been a dream so far, with plenty of opportunities to improve and advance. “It’s stressful,” Giffin says. “But it’s also a great platform for me, and there is room to grow in the company.” “U.S. Steel has given me a lot of responsibility in a short amount of time,” Wright says, “and they definitely invest a lot in employee development.” Fike says the first year of managing classes and writing lesson plans is going well, too. “It’s been interesting to learn about the students on my own and figure out what they’re capable of. And to always have a Plan B in case of technical difficulties,” she says with a smile. “I love teaching. I definitely picked the right career path.”

By Wendy Mackall, assistant communications director at Cal U

Graduate survey To see the results of the annual survey of Cal U graduates conducted by Career Services, visit


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