The following was composed by John Hughes, a second year MIA student studying Political and Economic Risk Analysis.
With the semester winding down and finals looming, most students are looking forward to a nice, long winter break. Though many students will return home for the holidays, many also have big plans. These include trips all over the world, some self-initiated and others as part of the travel component of a workshop. Wherever the break takes students, however, many will come together at the end for a career trip to Washington, D.C. This year’s conference will take place from January 13-15, and is the 34th annual trip. Unlike previous years, which have featured a two-day trip, this year’s conference is packed with three full days of events.
On Wednesday, alumni working in industries including trade, development, energy and security will participate in informational career panels throughout the day, with students able to choose four to attend. The alumni will discuss their positions, how they found them, and give students general insights on the field. It is a great way to gain knowledge on a specific field students are interested in, or to explore a completely new one. On Thursday SIPA has arranged site visits to a range of employers in the D.C. area, including the State Department, Treasury Department and USAID. These visits will give students an additional opportunity to learn about organizations that interest them, while meeting with more SIPA alums at each employer who will be available to answer any student questions.
After going around the city during the day, the conference participants will come together that evening at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown for a cocktail networking reception. More than 150 alumni are expected to attend this swanky event, giving students the perfect opportunity to schmooze with them over a glass of wine. Finally, if students haven’t gone into a networking-induced daze by then, they have the opportunity on Friday to conduct one-on-one or group informational interviews with alumni. The Office of Career Services has provided each participant with a list of willing alumni, who students can then contact to set up meetings. Though ambitious, it’s not unheard of for students to set up as many as five such meetings over the course of the day.
The DC conference gives students a great chance to learn about potential future fields of interest and meet wonderful alumni. More importantly, for many students it provides a crucial first step on their way to gainful employment in Washington. Many students keep in contact with the alumni they meet at the conference as the semester moves forward, with some of these connections leading to internship and job referrals or even offers. Of course, at the end of the day it is up to students to put in the effort to find a job, but the Office of Career Services D.C. career event certainly helps students interested in Washington along this path!