During the Concordia University Texas 2021 Alumni Career Panel, six graduates explained how the University helped prepare them for their careers and vocations.
Here are the top six career tips they shared for college students.
6. Learn to lead.
Concordia infuses every degree program with leadership development. Additionally, you have plenty of opportunities to put your leadership skills into practice, whether it's leading a group project, student organization, or volunteer event.
Marjorie Villafranco graduated from Concordia in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology. While earning her degree, Villafranco got involved with the CTX Service-Learning Program, which connects students with volunteer activities within the community.
When she became a Service-Learning leader, Villafranco learned how to lead a team of volunteers, forge partnerships with organizations in the community, and encourage peers to join Service-Learning.
Villagranco and her Service-Learning team launched the CTX Food Pantry, which provides staple food items to students in need. She now leverages the leadership skills she developed at Concordia in her current role as the program manager for Communities In Schools of Central Texas.
"I felt so prepared," she explained. "Leveraging my previous experience, my team and I were able to start a food pantry in East Austin that's been open for about a year. I'm so grateful to Concordia for the opportunities I had through the Service-Learning Program."
5. Gain work experience through extracurriculars.
Work experience on a resume isn't limited to paid roles. You can develop experience for your future career through extracurricular activities at Concordia.
Participate in a collegiate DECA competition, become a member of the Student Government & Leadership Association, help run The Refuge (student-led worship), and more.
Yisel Lopez graduated with her BA in Global Public Health in 2019. She took advantage of the extracurricular opportunities Concordia offered, which helped her identify what she wanted to do with her degree.
Lopez participated in the Mock Organization of American States (MOAS) Program. Acting as a delegate, she learned diplomatic speech and public relations skills. She also joined Moot Court, where she learned about international law and litigation skills.
These experiences, combined with the nonprofit internship that her Global Public Health professor connected her with, led Lopez to choose a career where she impacts public health through legislative policy.
She said: "My best advice is to get involved in as many opportunities as you can. Get experience to find what you're passionate about while in school."
4. Utilize Concordia's career services.
Vocation & Professional Development (VPD) is Concordia's career center that offers students and alumni a full range of free career services.
Sam Stewart, who graduated from CTX with his Bachelor of Business Administration in 2020 and is in the Concordia MBA program, graduated a year earlier than he expected, and he still needed to fulfill his internship requirement.
He talked to Randa Scott, the director of VPD who immediately helped him begin the search process. She helped him fine tune his resume, get on multiple career search sites, and identify his interests and the roles relevant to his interests.
During the VPD-hosted career fair in March 2020, Stewart met a representative from Thrivent, a financial services firm. The connection proved to be fruitful. Stewart completed his internship with the company and continues to serve Thrivent as a financial associate.
"I'm thankful to Concordia and the resources provided by VPD," he said.
3. Use what you learn before you graduate.
Don't wait to apply what you learn in class. You can utilize the knowledge and skills you develop at Concordia straightaway.
Paloma Tsihlas earned her Master of Education (MEd) from Concordia through the Aspiring Leaders Program. In partnership with Leander ISD (LISD), the district in which she was teaching at the time, Concordia launched a special MEd program designed for employees in LISD.
Half of her professors were from LISD, and the other half were professors from Concordia. "It made everything incredibly relevant to the district I was in, and I was amazed at Concordia's ability to teach the statewide structure of education and also zone into my specific school district," she said.
During her undergraduate degree, Tsihlas didn't feel like she could apply the knowledge she gained right away. With the Concordia MEd, she could immediately apply what she was learning.
"I would learn something that night, and then the next day I was implementing it in my classroom," she explained. "Even though I wasn't in a leadership position yet, I leveraged the work I was doing in my classroom with my students and put the knowledge to work every day."
After completing the Aspiring Leaders Program, she advanced into administration within LISD.
2. Get involved in the greater community.
Located in Austin, Texas, one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, you can easily get involved in the community while earning your degree, such as volunteering at a local church or attending a community-wide event.
Jeremy de Alcala earned his BA in 2013 and MBA in 2015 from Concordia. Alcala and his MBA cohorts were continually encouraged throughout the program to get involved in the community and make connections.
During the first year of his MBA, Alcala got involved in his local community of Buda, Texas. He enrolled in Buda Citizens Academy, served on the Buda Parks Commission, and became treasurer and eventually chair of the Buda Chamber of Commerce Board.
"In meeting others and networking with others in the community, it allowed me to start my own business that has prospered over the last few years," he said. "The encouragement of my professors laid the groundwork for some of my volunteerism and activity in the community."
De Alcala and his wife, Melissa, Green Space, TX -- Natural Foods + Juices in 2017. The food truck offers healthy, natural juices, smoothies, and food to Buda and the surrounding area.
1. Use your career to serve others.
Each program at Concordia emphasizes the importance of serving others through meaningful work through your vocation.
Abbie Snow graduated with a BA in Religious Education (DCE) from Concordia in 2017, and she now serves as the associate director of Family Life Ministries at Bethany Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas.
The DCE program prepared Snow to serve others. She went on a school-led mission trip to Cambodia, and as her first trip out of the country, she experienced culture shock. She counts the trip as one of the most impactful experiences she had through Concordia.
"One of the things I love about Concordia is that the heart of it is service and mission," she said. "No matter what career path you decide to take, Concordia wants to prepare you to serve others."
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