Over winter break, I made my way east for an “externship,” part of a new program called ExternsEverywhere, offered through Denison’s Career Exploration and Development Office (CE&D). The idea is to connect students with Denison alumni for daylong job-shadowing experiences at places like Google, Edelman, Nielsen, and the Food Network. After expressing an interest in soccer and nonprofit work, CE&D helped me connect with Zach Riggle ’09, programs coordinator at the U.S. Soccer Foundation in Washington, D.C.
You wouldn’t think a single day could make such a difference, but it made me feel less anxious and more excited for my post-graduation plans, which kick-off after Commencement this May. I met many staff members at the Foundation. They spent time speaking to me about their responsibilities, and I later had the opportunity to talk with Rob Kaler ’87, the COO and general counsel for the Foundation.
I learned about the services offered by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, which hopes to promote social change for kids living and playing in urban areas through its own programming and by funding promising programs in outside organizations. (So far, the Foundation has given more than $59 million to soccer programs and projects across the United States.) I was impressed by the organization’s ability to spread its resources in a way to help thousands of children across the nation, while also ensuring that those resources were not spread too thin. One example is the Foundation’s largest project, the Soccer for Success program—a program that provides children in underserved areas with a free after-school soccer program in the fall and spring to help fight childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles.
The whole experience gave me a sense of what a “real job” will be like—I learned about the inner-workings of an organization, how the fundraising office depends on the PR office, which in turn depends on the programming office. But more important, it helped me to think about what I want in a job and gave me the opportunity to jump-start my own job search.
But the most beneficial part of my externship experience was the advice that the staff members gave me about the future. We talked about my long-term goals, whether to wait or go directly to graduate school, and the best ways to network while searching for employment. Many of the staff members, especially Riggle and Kaler, were extremely generous in offering their help as I search for jobs in the nonprofit field. Their kind gestures showed me what a great community Denison provides even after students leave campus, and they gave me a huge boost of confidence. I’m inspired now to be persistent in the job search and excited to become a full-time employee, wherever that may be.