University News

JanLab builds undergrad networking

Undergrads connected with alumni from a variety of professional backgrounds

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, January 28, 2013

Students and alums gathered for a weekend of networking and career exploration at the second annual January Career Laboratory, or JanLab. The workshop, hosted by the Center for Careers and Life After Brown, was held on campus Jan. 17-19.

This year, 150 students and 85 alums attended the event, an increase from last year, when 70 alums came to campus, said Andrew Simmons, director of CareerLAB.

Simmons said CareerLAB extended the deadline for the online application due to the large influx of last-minute applications. Unlike most of CareerLAB’s workshops, JanLab had a $150 fee, an increase from last year’s $130.

“The fee increase represented a higher cost of the first program than we anticipated,” Simmons said. He added that the fee helps to ensure students accepted to the program are officially committed to participating.

CareerLAB worked with the Office of Financial Aid to waive the fee for students who demonstrated need for financial assistance, though Simmons said he was uncertain of how many students took advantage of this option.

Though last year’s inaugural JanLab was met with interest from students, CareerLAB made a number of improvements this year, Simmons said.

“The major difference was a focus on networking and giving students and alumni more time to talk to each other,” Simmons said.

Last year, students could hear from 30 alums in over-the-phone sessions, but Simmons said organizers eliminated this component in order to facilitate more personalized contact for this year’s workshop.

Sharon Sun ’14, who attended JanLab two years in a row, said last year’s event was longer and more intensive.

“It was way too much,” she said. “This year they managed to keep the core principles without it being overwhelming.”

Dani Grodsky ’14, a student intern at JanLab, said she was inspired by the selection of speakers, many of whom held prominent jobs in their industries.

“This year it ran more smoothly,” she added. “There was more time in between panels for students and alums to talk.”

Of the student participants, around half were seniors and the other half were mostly juniors, Simmons said. But more underclassmen participated this year than last year, said Chad Buechel ’03, a consultant who participated in a panel discussion on careers in business consulting. “It’s really never too early” to begin the job hunt, he added.

Alums who came to campus said they felt this networking experience delivered solid preparation for undergraduates.

“It’s a place where you can talk about your skills and the real-world application of them,” said Miles Hovis ’08, another alum.

Ileana Wu ’16 said she went to JanLab to get her first experience writing resumes and pursuing internships. “I wanted to see what I have the chance to do with my life,” she said.

Some upperclassmen said they had a more clearly defined idea of which career fields they wanted to explore by talking to alums.

“I came back (this year) because after sophomore year, I had a better idea of what I wanted,” Sun said.

But students still uncertain about their futures also participated in JanLab to explore different post-graduation options. Finance, consulting and entertainment accounted for three of the most well-represented career paths among alums, Simmons said, adding that government, journalism, law, science and technology were also featured at the workshop.

“If you don’t fall easily into a specific category, this is the program for you,” Simmons said.

Alums expressed excitement to help students and said they viewed JanLab as a valuable resource for students trying to bridge the gap between their academic studies and their career options.

Hovis, who was an anthropology concentrator, now works in project development for a solar power firm in Massachusetts. “I didn’t know I would be working in the tech sector,” he said.

“Finding a job and figuring out your path after Brown is stressful,” said Lauren Alexanderson ’06, who helped moderate a panel on public health. “I wanted to see if I could help (students) figure out what the next step is they should be taking.”

JanLab also offered networking opportunities for students to keep in touch with alums after the workshop. Buechel, Hovis and Alexanderson all said a few students have already contacted them for additional advice.

Hovis noted the importance of cultivating personal relationships when exploring potential careers. “That’s the big thing about networking,” he said. “It’s the people you know and they know.”

CareerLAB organizers said they plan to host another JanLab next year, adding that applications will be available in the fall.

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