Playing the Market
Tuesday’s Career Fair a great first step forward for student-athletes, the Market-Ready Series
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Georgia Tech student-athletes know all about preparation.
They put in hours and hours of practice so that when it’s game time, they’re ready to shine.
On Tuesday afternoon in the Edge Center’s Homer Rice Museum, the collective student-athlete body gauged their readiness to shine in front of a dozen of the most successful businesses in the metro Atlanta area and the nation, including AT&T, the Atlanta Hawks, Cox Communications, CSE, Ernst & Young, General Motors, GTRI, RayBiotech, Southern Company, Ultimate Software, United Distributions and WellStar.
“This is such a great opportunity for the student-athletes. It is a career fair but it’s much more intimate,” said Georgia Tech Assistant AD/Innovation Doug Allvine. “The recruiters love it. They tell me at the end of the day, they don’t get the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with people in a traditional career fair. I really think it’s helping our student-athletes be much better prepared for when they graduate to continue forward in the professional world.”
The athletic department’s Total Person Program took steps to make sure that student-athletes attending the 2017 career fair got even more of a jump on this dress rehearsal for the real world through its Market Ready series.
“We did a business card workshop, we did a resume workshop and then we also did a professional-attire fashion show (student-athletes Michael Kay (tennis), KeShun Freeman (football), Angelica Henderson (track and field), Alex Grady (track and field) and Kerri Reid and Argy Kosmakos from the cheer squad served as models) to get students ready for this,” said Total Person Program Coordinator Maureen Tremblay. “They should be fully prepared if they’ve taken advantage of the programs.”
It appears that the majority were, as the Edge Center was abuzz for nearly the entire two and a half hours of the fair.
The preparation and the dress code, which was strictly enforced, paid off, in the impression it made on the company representatives.
“They were really nicely dressed. I think the emphasis on putting your best foot forward professionally is important,” said Courtney Adler, a partner at Ernst & Young, a Georgia Tech alumnus and former member of the volleyball team. “Part of that is how you initially present yourself when you’re walking up to somebody. First impression is going to be important, particularly for career fairs and interviews. So the stress on looking together and putting your best foot forward is important.
“I think one of the great things about Tech athletics is that they continue to not only develop the athletes in their sport but also put on really great events like this to help them transition those athletes from your sports life into what’s going to be your future career,” she added. “Most athletes don’t end up going pro in their own sport. They go pro in something else, in business or whatever their degree is. What’s special about this is you get to see really hard-working individuals in athletes that are really driven also to be successful in the business world.”
“They’re confident, they’re very well-spoken, outgoing, very well-prepared,” said Chris Baumgartner, senior VP of marketing for Atlanta sports and entertainment consultant CSE, a GT alum and former football team equipment manager. “I thought the business cards were a really nice touch, and the resumes. The majority of the student-athletes that came by here had taken the time to look at the companies that were going to be here and had at least gone to our web site and understood a little bit about what we do. I interview people all the time that haven’t done that for a full-time position! I was really impressed that they took the time and effort to do that. It means a lot to someone who’s interviewing potential candidates or thinking about bringing someone on that they took the time to really find out what the company does as opposed to just saying, ‘Hey, I like sports. I want to work in sports. What’s this?’ They did their homework.”
There were plenty of GT-alumni-turned-business-world success stories present. In addition to Adler and Baumgartner, former Yellow Jacket basketball player Jon Babul represented the Atlanta Hawks, former offensive lineman Trey Braun attended on behalf of AT&T, and alumnus, but non-athlete Hailey Armfield represented the General Motors team.
Tying familiar faces to these high-powered companies helps the student-athletes set their future course. That’s an important aspect of the career fair.
“We’re trying to let them know is that ‘It’s not so much about these four years of your life as it is their next 40 years,’” said Associate Director of the Alexander-Tharpe Fund and Executive Director of Letterwinners Club Lucius Sanford. “First of all, help them in terms of finding their purpose. Finding out, ‘What it is I want to do for the rest of my life to take care of myself and my family.’ One of the ways of doing it is coming in, talking to companies. We’ve got Courtney (Adler) over at Ernst & Young, we’ve got Jon Babul over with the Hawks, Trey Braun with AT&T, especially when you can talk with people that have graduated from Tech and talk to them about, ‘How did they transition from Georgia Tech to where they are now?’ ‘If they had it to do over, how would they go about doing it?’ Also, if there’s anyone else in that business that they need to know to be as successful as they are. So this is huge.”
For the alumni it’s as huge to give back.
“This is why I came to Tech, this is why I love Georgia Tech, these kind of programs,” said Braun, who has worked in AT&T’s Technology Development for the last 15 months. “The student-athletes, not just football, the whole student-athlete body are excited about their life after athletics. They want to get involved and have that sort of career-minded intelligence that says, ‘Your athletics is such a great thing, it’s a really important part of your life, but athletics is also a stepping stone to more important things and a full time career.’”
That sense of perspective was not lost on the students.
“(Today’s) very important, just to get the experience of coming out and talking to these people,” said senior point guard Imani Tilford, who had her eye on landing an internship or fulltime gig with the Hawks. “We really made it a big priority. We know that there’s more than basketball when we graduate but it was never really emphasized as much as it is now because they want us to succeed and excel in life when we do graduate.”
“This was a big priority because everybody knows that there’s not a guaranteed chance you’ll play baseball for the rest of our life,” said sophomore shortstop Austin Wilhite, who was “getting a feel” for all of the companies there. “So we kind of just know that we have to eventually start looking for jobs and getting out there into the real world, figuring out things like that.”
Sophomore offensive lineman Parker Braun was part of a parade of football players to come in. He gave a quick hello to older brother, Trey, then went on exploring.
“It’s a HUGE priority, not just for the football team but for all the student-athletes,” he said. “We all have responsibilities and sometimes our sports get in the way of us attending the campus-wide career fair, so it’s really important that we had something specifically for the student-athletes that we could come to and talk to people.”
The turnout by underclassmen was impressive.
“I’ve met with more freshmen and sophomores this year than previously,” said Adler. “I think that’s great for the young student-athletes to get out and practice and it’s good to connect.”
Connections are being made and the Total Person Program is making a difference as since the advent of the first career fair, summer internships have risen from around 10 to almost 90.
Tremblay expects even bigger things as the Market Ready program and First-Round Draft Pick (another initiative of Athletic Director Todd Stansbury) continues to grow.
“In the spring, our Market Ready series will develop more into newer programs that are specific to each student-athlete’s individual needs,” she said. “What they’re looking for individually and how to tailor programs to their specific needs for what industry they’re interested in as well as what kind of career path they’re looking for. There’s a lot going on but I think the student-athletes are learning the importance of preparing now so they can be successful.”