SJC Launches Young Alumni Business Network

On Jan. 4, St. John’s Alumni Council and Entrepreneurial Center hosted the inaugural SJC Young Alumni Business Network event for the classes of 2013-2018.

The half-day program provided more than 125 young alumni with a unique opportunity to learn from and network with SJC alumni who are leaders in the business community. Following breakfast, prayer and a brief introduction to the morning, the first of the four half-hour sessions began.
Suzie Kowalewski ’05, assistant director of the SJC Entrepreneurial Center, and Daniella Bilmanis ’05, director of strategic programming at Johnson Controls, led the Personal Branding session. The presenters provided foundational ideas for how to create a personal brand. Kowalewski explained, “You must communicate the essence of who you are and what value you can bring to the company, and then create a message and a strategy to promote the ‘you brand.’” Bilmanis offered advice for how to approach the job interview. She advised that preparing and practicing answers to common interview questions and going on several job interviews – even for positions that might not be the perfect fit – are important ways to become more comfortable and build self-confidence during interactions with potential employers.
The second presentation, Personality Profile, References and the Interview, was led by FBI Deputy Director Matthew DeSarno ’91, Nick DeSarno ’97, principal and owner of Rock Spring Contracting, and Jim Whitty ’93, president at R&R Mechanical, who shared their expertise regarding all aspects of the interview process. Their presentation outlined the general and specific types of interview formats, and they provided examples of interview questions that an applicant should be equipped to answer. Preparation, including knowing the company’s values, and practice are crucial to a successful interview. They stated that the goal of the interview is A.C.T. – be authentic, make a connection and give them (potential employer) a taste of who you are.
Pat Dunn ’03, president at Copper Dunn Company, Chris Love ’03, senior development manager at ZOM Living Mid-Atlantic, and Korey Neal ’08, president at K. Neal Truck and Bus Center, presented on the third topic, Leveraging the St. John’s Alumni Network. Their discussion centered on how to be an impactful networker, citing the more than 10,000 SJC alumni as a valuable resource. The panel emphasized that to be a good networker one must seize every opportunity to engage with people – even with individuals who are not in your profession or line of business. The larger the network, the greater the opportunities. Love advised, “Know your room – who you will be conversing with. Active listening is key to staying in the conversation.”
The final session, Once You Land the Job, was led by current SJC Board Chair and President of Daycon Products John Poole ’71, Dana Bernard, director of human resources at Summit Group, and Jay Long, vice president of human resources at Ruppert Landscape. The presenters focused on the art of negotiating once a job offer has been made. Long highlighted the importance of gathering information about the company prior to negotiating – including learning the company’s culture, reputation, vision and structure. Bernard explained that before entering the negotiating process, it is essential to know your budget, do salary research for the area and assess personal needs vs. wants in order to know your bottom line. Poole emphasized that negotiating, which includes the use of tactics, is a skill everyone can and must learn. He also reminded the alums, “It’s not all about the money. Find a job you love and never work another day in your life.”  
From 10:00 am through 12:30 pm, participants had the opportunity to meet with business representatives from 26 companies in Cassidy Commons, and the afternoon concluded with lunch in the Borger Promenade. “I loved the event,” said Maggie Wood ’15. “I connected with a few people at the career fair with whom I have already had further conversations over the phone, via email and through LinkedIn. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I hope St. John’s continues this program in the future.”