Sep 29, 2017, 9:57 AM EDT
Note: This story appears in the Notre Dame-Miami (Ohio) game day program.
On a crisp evening in early September, a group of Fighting Irish student-athletes ventured to Notre Dame Stadium for an event that could greatly impact their future. This wasn’t a game or even a scrimmage, it was a chance for them to network and connect with individuals who were once in their shoes.
The Monogram Career Network (MCN), Student Welfare & Development and The Career Center teamed up to host an exclusive event just for student-athletes and student support staff following the University’s annual fall career fair. The students were able to meet with Monogram alumni who were on campus recruiting for their respective companies.
“I was asked a lot of questions about what major we’re looking for in our company and that’s probably one of the last things the people hiring are looking for,” says Melissa Lechlitner (’10, basketball), who attended the event on behalf of Anthony Travel. “It’s not always about the major, it’s about the person, their character and time management skills. The things I do now in my job are very similar to what I learned in athletics. Now, instead of preparing myself for game day, it’s preparing myself for a sales presentation or account management meeting.”
Just as with any athletic event, participants can’t just show up and expect to dominate; there needs to be planning and preparation. That is why the week prior to the career fair, the same groups hosted a prep session to go over important information – from elevator pitch to professional dress – to keep in mind when attending the career fair.
These types of events are uniquely crafted to cater to the hectic schedule of a student-athlete, who sometimes cannot attend the career fair or similar opportunities due to athletic requirements.
“The individuals at the career functions know we are busy students and they try very hard to make events specific to career preparation,” says Kari Bellville (’18, golf). “When I attend an event I truly feel supported with resources and other amenities to help me pursue a company that I am interested in, or to just help me build a better resume.”
MCN, Student Welfare & Development and The Career Center also host a series of “Life After Notre Dame” events throughout the academic year. These gatherings also bring together current student-athletes with Monogram alumni who are back on campus. There is a conscious effort to strategically schedule these events in order place students with alumni representing the student’s industry focus, whether it’s finance, healthcare, entertainment or a number of other fields. There is an open dialogue and the students can pepper the alumni with whatever career questions or concerns might be on their mind.
“People think athletes are the ‘alpha dog’ and they stand out, but those athletes realize how talented their peers are at Notre Dame, and it sometimes can be intimidating for them,” says James Bent (’06, football), an E&J Gallo Winery employee and MCN advocate. “Hats off to the Monogram Club and to (Student-Athlete Careers Program Director) Kyle Vierck for what he’s doing in The Career Center. There’s such an amazing collaborative staff of people who care about the development of the student-athletes. The students know that this group of former student-athletes are vested in them, vested in the Monogram Career Network and working with The Career Center.”
In addition to helping current student-athletes, the MCN is a resource – and member benefit – to Monogram Club members. In 2016, the Monogram Club announced a unique partnership with the Stayer Center for Executive Education at the Mendoza College of Business. Monogram Club members qualify for a discounted rate for non-degree professional development programs offered both on-campus and online through the Stayer Center. These courses can assist Monogram Club members seeking valuable professional development opportunities or guidance following a professional playing career or with a job transition.
Maureen Whitaker (’02, lacrosse) is someone taking advantage of this opportunity. Whitaker works for Ralph Lauren in New York City, and she is currently enrolled in the certificate in executive management courses at The Stayer Center.
“I have been at my company for 11 years so the broad range of topics covered is providing me with a new approach to building my leadership, decision-making, and management skills,” says Whitaker, a member of the Monogram Club board of directors. “Gaining an awareness of the concepts that my cross-functional business partners utilize, like finance and accounting, has been helpful in building my relationships with them. I truly believe that I can add more value to my company and expand my career from this program.”
The Monogram Club’s MCN advocates are aware of the opportunities afforded to them during their time at Notre Dame and beyond. That is why once their playing days are over, they are ready to pay it forward.
“The whole 4-for-40 mantra isn’t just a hashtag or a slogan,” says Bent. “It’s really something that’s lived out.”