July 4, 2020

Connections Steer Geography Grad Toward New Tech Job

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, 2020 grad James Fendley secured a job – a month before earning his degree – at a D.C.-based data analytics firm owned by Jonathan Steenberg ’14.

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, 2020 grad James Fendley secured a job – a month before earning his degree – at a D.C.-based data analytics firm owned by Jonathan Steenberg ’14.

For his first virtual interview, James Fendley paired a freshly pressed shirt and tie with basketball shorts and asked his family for an hour of quiet. But the best preparation came from UMW’s Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD).

Throughout his final semester, the 2020 University of Mary Washington graduate scheduled regular phone calls with the Center’s career counselors, who are charged with guiding students and recent grads toward employment, even during COVID-19.

“With each appointment, my résumé improved,” Fendley said. “Seeing my progress kept me motivated and helped me stay on track.”

His perseverance paid off. A month before he earned his degree, Fendley secured a job at a D.C.-based data analytics firm owned by 2014 alum Jonathan Steenberg. They’re two in a long line of UMW geography majors hired right out of college, thanks to solid programs, strong connections between faculty and students, and an active alumni network. Often landing employment in D.C.’s tech corridor, graduates of the program are the highest paid in the nation for the field, according to College Factual, which also recently ranked Mary Washington’s geography department No. 1 in the Southeast. Read more.

Paul Binkley: On the Job

Paul Binkley became the inaugural executive director of the Center for Career and Professional Development last summer. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Paul Binkley became the inaugural executive director of the Center for Career and Professional Development last summer. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Job searches can be stressful, but even more so for those entering the workforce in the middle of a pandemic.

It’s important to remind students they have “the strengths necessary to survive and thrive,” said Paul Binkley, who became the UMW Center for Career and Professional Development’s inaugural executive director last summer.

“Throughout my career, I’ve learned that students often already have the answers they’re looking for,” said Binkley, who has spent over 20 years in higher education in the U.S. and abroad, most recently leading the career development team at Johns Hopkins University. “But they need someone to help them ask the right questions.”

While the Mary Washington campus is closed and employees are teleworking due to the coronavirus threat, the career center is very much open for business, Binkley said – at least virtually. In fact, his team has ramped up efforts, holding online one-on-one coaching sessions and sending out opportunities via weekly newsletter and social media. Binkley himself will be presenting a UMW Alumni Relations Mary Talks event on May 6 to discuss job prospects during and after the pandemic.

His team is also rolling out a new service in which students can record answers to thousands of interview questions and get feedback from faculty or career coaches. “The key to interviews, online or in person,” he said, “is practice, practice, practice.”

Many graduating seniors at UMW already secured positions prior to COVID-19, Binkley said. For those who are still searching, plenty of employers are eager to connect and want to know how students are staying active and engaged during the quarantine. But for some, he recognizes that may be a challenge.

“If it’s difficult to feel motivated,” he said, “a great place to start is by doing small things every day to remind ourselves that we are still in control and moving forward.”

 

Though the UMW campus is closed and remote learning is taking place, Binkley said the career center is very much open for business. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Though the UMW campus is closed and remote learning is taking place, Binkley said the career center is very much open for business. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Q: What’s a typical day look like for you these days?
A: I get up later but dressing for work gets me in a professional mindset. I have lots of virtual meetings, and intersperse microbreaks to play with my cats, watch a quick video or throw in a load of laundry.

Q: What was your first job out of college?
A: I was a high school student teacher, but I quit after three months. Following that, I worked as an office manager for a psychologist, which was a great entry into the professional world because I had a boss who wanted me to succeed in whatever field I desired.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Watching my staff and students develop into professionals.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Recognizing that students need to experience the world for themselves at their own pace, without pressuring them to do what I think is right.

Q: What are you doing to keep busy?
A: I bought a house near campus and remodeling it has taken a lot of time. With the spring weather, I’m looking forward to working on the outside.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I HATE Brussels sprouts. I’ve had them cooked every way and still can’t stand them.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Life is a process, not an outcome.

Upcoming Career & Professional Development Events

A message from the Center for Career & Professional Development. 

The second half of October is a busy time for career related events. There is something for every student happening over the next two weeks, not the least of which is the Job and Internship Fair on Thursday, October 24.

The Career Center would greatly appreciate your help encouraging students to attend the fair and all events. Thank you for all your help and support.

October Career Events

  • FRIDAY (10/18): Department of Defense Information Session: Session to provide information about available special employment programs (via roughly 100 positions) and how to connect with opportunities. With Q&A. Pre-registration is required.
  • 10/21: Resume Walk In Day: Come by the Career Center any time between 9am-3pm for a 15 minute resume review session! Work with our great staff, Peer Career Consultants and a guest employer to bring your resume to the next level. Perfect time to prepare for our upcoming Job & Internship Fair on Thursday, October 24!
  • 10/21: Mutual of Omaha Lunch & Learn: Representatives from Mutual of Omaha will provide information and answer any questions about the organization. Lunch provided! Registration required. Register for your chance to network with this great organization! — Only 3 students currently registered for this GREAT chance to learn about opportunities in business administration, finance, insurance, accounting and much more from a great organization. NOT just for Business students too.
  • 10/22: From Here to Career: A Job Fair Prep Event: Representatives from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, GEICO, and other employers and alumni will help students prepare for the fair (resumes, introductions, choosing appropriate dress, and more). Students who visit each table at this event will be allowed into the fair one hour early.
  • 10/23: Resume Walk In Day: Come by the Career Center any time between 9am-3pm for a 15 minute resume review session! Work with our great staff, Peer Career Consultants and a guest employer to bring your resume to the next level. Perfect time to prepare for our upcoming Job & Internship Fair on Thursday, October 24!
  • 10/24: Job & Internship Fair: Over 50 employers are registered (some listed below) for the chance to meet our students. In many cases, they are looking forward to meeting First Years as much as Seniors. This is a good chance for all students to meet employers and learn new things
    • AnaVation
    • AXA Advisors
    • CACI
    • CIA
    • DC Internships
    • CloseUp Foundation
    • FEMA
    • GEICO
    • NCIS
    • New England Center for Children
    • Peace Corps
    • Target
    • Tech Wizards
    • Thriveworks
    • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    • Wegmans
    • 37 MORE!
  • 10/24: CIA Information Session: Representatives will be discussing opportunities within the CIA. Q&A. Pre-registration is required.
  • 10/25: Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond On-Campus Interviews: The FED is hiring! Students can apply for their internship or full-time positions via Handshake and register for a time slot to interview with a recruiter.

 

As always, students can stop by the Career Center (UC 206) Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for resume reviews and other quick career questions with our Peer Career Consultants.

If you have questions about any of these events or need help registering, contact the Career Center at 540-654-5646 or email me or ccpd@umw.edu.