Opinion

Job shadowing worth ‘exploring’

By Scott Milne '14

October 10, 2013

HamiltonExplore changed my life. Well, that might be an overstatement; however, my experience through the program last winter helped lead to my internship last summer, which, it looks like, may lead to a post-graduation job. I say this not at all to brag, especially for my fellow seniors starting to worry about life beyond the Hill. I only want to underscore the huge benefit one can get from this program by putting in a relatively small amount of time and effort.

Upon reflection, I realize that participating in HamiltonExplore was one of the best decisions I have made in concretely preparing for  my future.

HamiltonExplore is easy to ignore, but it really is to your benefit to pay attention. For those who do not know, HamiltonExplore is one of the Career Center’s many programs. Through HamNet, students can apply to shadow an alumnus for a day over one academic break. The application process is not arduous; if anything,  it forces you to finally update your resume. The list of alumni who are volunteering is worth checking out as well. I was worried that the opportunities in Los Angeles—where I live—would be pretty thin compared to D.C. or New York City, where tons of graduates migrate after Hamilton. Truthfully, they were smaller in number, but still very intriguing. The options even went beyond a traditional job shadowing, such as the alumnus I visited who was studying for an MBA at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Instead of attending a dry talk about business school, I learned a ton by actually sitting in on classes and grabbing coffee with the man. Simply looking at the list of available shadowing slots opened my eyes to industries I didn’t even know existed. For example, I knew next to nothing about the alcohol distribution industry when I applied to shadow an alumnus at Southern Wine & Spirits in California, but genuine curiosity drove me to apply anyway.

I was justifiably nervous as I drove to Southern’s California headquarters, as I was nearly an hour late and ten long miles away from their building. The L.A. traffic gods decreed that traffic should cease to move and it was so; I was trapped on the 405 South. Luckily, this episode of vulnerability allowed for my first bonding experience with my Hamilton host, Josh. He put me at ease when I frantically called to update him from the car, and immediately told me to forget about it after I arrived, at which point we finally shook hands. Josh proceeded to give me a tour of Southern’s sprawling facilities, including a warehouse filled with wine and liquor, literally as far as the eye could see. Ironically, seeing this vast quantity of alcohol helped sober me up from my juvenile way of looking at it purely for consumption. As Josh explained, U.S. laws dating back to post-Prohibition days require alcohol suppliers to sell their product through a middleman to retailers, restaurants and bars alike. Consider that nearly every bottle of liquor or wine you have ever seen came through a distributor, and you realize alcohol distribution is one of the biggest industries that few know exists.

After the tour, Josh and I talked candidly about the business operations and culture of Southern. I was fascinated, and asked about internship opportunities there, which I ended up pursuing and thoroughly enjoying the following summer. Talking to Josh and having a sense of Southern as a company undoubtedly gave my internship application an edge, another advantage of the HamiltonExplore shadowing day. Only after physically visiting a company’s offices and talking face to face with employees do you realize that half the battle in hiring is getting the employer’s ear.

The beauty of HamiltonExplore is in the hands-off nature of the program. It basically puts students in contact with willing alumni, and gives them the freedom and responsibility to make their experiences memorable. The ability to have these one-on-one conversations with employers that want to see you is truly unique. Remember that the alumni participants are volunteers; they really want to help current students. As I hope my experience shows, HamiltonExplore can give you a concrete, practical boost in searching for jobs. I am very grateful for my experience and hope that the program continues to benefit others for a long time.

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