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The power of connections

By Amy Lohmann '14
September 15, 2011

Rarely is the power of the St. Olaf network better exemplified than in the Career Connections Program housed in the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL).

The program provides students with a wealth of resources for connecting with all types of post-graduate employment. Early fall is the season for larger corporations to recruit students interested in a range of competitive business opportunities, and a network of St. Olaf alumni and parents working in corporate roles often lead the charge. The CEL is constantly updating this network to make it even stronger.

"About seven or eight years ago, we launched a Corporate Partners Program where the CEL identified Ole alumni at key companies based out of the Twin Cities and created relationships," says Kirsten Cahoon '98, senior associate director of the Career Connections Program. The companies involved in the program participate in on-campus recruiting for internships and jobs, but also offer students opportunities such as on-site visits and tours, access to an alias of Ole employees at the given company, and job shadowing.

Serving as an intern for a company gives students a specific skill relevant to the professional world that is very attractive to employers. "Overall, corporate recruiters now see summer internships as a means of testing out candidates for full-time positions," says Cahoon. "Successful interns are first in line for full-time job offers; many come into their senior year with an offer in hand."

A chance at a corporate internship is also a chance to evaluate what kind of a career and lifestyle is best for the student.

"Students get to apply their classroom knowledge to the 'real world,' build skills, and explore different functional roles and work environments to better discern what is a good fit for them," says Cahoon. "It can confirm their interests, or steer them in a new directions. Internships can be used as a tool for making more informed decisions about their future."

The CEL also just released a set of videos to help prepare students for the on-campus interview process that happens during the fall and spring recruitment sessions.

Cahoon knows from experience that the resources offered can make a big difference landing a coveted internship. "The closer students work with the CEL for coaching on their application materials and interviews, the better their chances of success," she says.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or