A Syracuse Success Story at Success Academy

By Kate Hansen-Roxas, Class of 2001

Usually when I tell people what I do, I get blank stares.

“I’m the Associate Director of Network Operations at Success Academy Charter Schools!” I say.

“Come again?” they say.

Kate Hansen-Roxas '01. Success Academy

Kate Hansen-Roxas ’01. Success Academy

So then I explain: Success Academy is a network of 22 public charter schools in New York City that serves mostly underprivileged kids in struggling neighborhoods. There are so many unique and wonderful things about the organization, but one of the best things is that teachers and administrators at the schools focus solely on teaching and learning. Everything else — policies and procedures, health and safety, reporting and compliance, implementation of tech systems, enrollment, training (really, everything else) is handled by an operations team at each school. My job, with my department’s support, is to help those operations teams figure out what to do — and how best to do it.

I never imagined that I’d end up here. I started out protesting sweatshops on the ‘Cuse Quad. But, truly, it’s not such a leap from there to here. I was fighting injustice for kids and families then, and that’s what I’m still doing — because that’s another great thing about Success Academy. We don’t just operate high-performing schools; we also advocate for education reform so that all children everywhere will have access to high-quality schooling (we’re in NYC but we share our best practices far and wide). For me, the best part so far has been finding out that just because I didn’t study education, or know when I was 12 that ed reform would be my life’s work, here I am, smack in the middle of the education world, and I love what I do.

How did I get here? Well, it was roundabout, but a common thread runs through my experiences. At Syracuse, I earned my BA in International Relations (I also served on the student government, played ultimate Frisbee, and spent a semester in Italy). Afterward, I spent five years working for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. As a nonprofit working to empower people, the organization was connected to my core interests, and it got me started in program management, a big part of what I do now. I went on to earn a Master of Public Administration from NYU. For a brief interlude, during the worst of the recession, I was front desk manager at a spa. Then I worked for a public health insurance enrollment program. That led me to Success Academy, where I started out focusing on schools’ health and medical-form issues and ended up doing so much more.

Look, I can’t play cool about it — I really love what I do. I want all Syracuse grads to feel this way about the jobs they end up with. Here’s what I can tell you about building a career: Work hard. Lay your foundation; it’s not about moving up the ladder at first. Prove yourself solid and engaged, and opportunities will come. Also, one thing will lead to another. Your experience and knowledge, whatever they are, are transferable — maybe not to every job in every way, but what you have always means something.

As far as how to land a job, here are a couple simple interview tips (I should know, because I’m in the throes of hiring for dozens of positions): Start with a firm handshake, eye contact, and a smile. These are small things, but they mean a lot. Often you’ll find yourself in a round-robin interview situation or facing a panel. Be prepared to ask each person involved a question. If you run out of job-specific questions, ask for personal perspectives: What do you think the culture of the organization is? What’s your favorite part of the job? What are the top three characteristics for success at the organization?

From my experience, it comes down to pursuing what you love; believing that your path will come clear, even if you can’t see it right now; having a sense of humor but being serious too (professionalism requires both humor and seriousness, and learning which is appropriate when); and pushing yourself to improve continually. You can do it, ‘Cusers. And if Success Academy sounds interesting to you, please check out SuccessCareers.org!

Tomorrow, April 10, Kate Hansen-Roxas ’01 will take the helm of @WorkingOrange. Follow her day at Success Academy with us!

The Perks of Working for Nonprofits

By Shannon Feeney Andre, Assistant Director

Before starting at Career Services, I worked for a local branch of a national fundraising nonprofit.  The work I did was rewarding and I feel fortunate to have started my career there as an intern and then a full-time staff member.

Nonprofit and Government Career Fair Flyer

Nonprofit and Government Career Fair Flyer

Students sometimes think that the nonprofit sector isn’t a great place to start a career, but I certainly think otherwise.  As the Nonprofit & Government Career Fair approaches (Friday, February 28), here are some of my thoughts on the advantages of interning or starting your career in the nonprofit sector.

1)      Benefits – Salaries in the nonprofit sector are generally lower, so agencies can often supplement with more-than-average vacation time, comprehensive healthcare and retirement savings packages, and if you happen to work near a college or university, you’ll find opportunities for credit reimbursement due to partnerships the agency develops.

2)      Building a network – Boards, volunteers, and donors are vital to nonprofits.  Without them, most nonprofits would cease to exist.  You can utilize your relationships with these parties to explore other opportunities if you decide the nonprofit sector is not right for you.  In this “business” you’ll meet and interact with LOTS of people working in your community.

3)      Budgeting - One of the most valuable skills I took away from my experience was budgeting.  Budgets for nonprofits are often slim and you are required to do a lot with limited resources.  This experience can help you no matter where you go next.  Additionally, you will learn to be creative with funds and perhaps gain some experience in resource development, fundraising, and grant writing in order to make your programs happen.

4)      Being humble - There is something about working in public service that I think makes people humble.  You’re not above making your own copies, pouring coffee for a board member, or stuffing envelopes.  With budget cuts and staff shortages sometimes you just need to step up, and keeping this mentality will help you get things done in the future.

So if public service is for you, the Nonprofit & Government Career Fair should be on your calendar!  Join us Friday, February 28 from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. in Panasci Lounge (upstairs in Schine Student Center).  More than 50 organizations will be present representing government, education, military, health service, and public service agencies!  We also welcome 23 new employers to this fair.  Some employer attendees include: Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, City Year, New England Center for Children, New York State Department of Taxation & Finance, Peace Corps, WorldTeach, and many more.  To see the full list of opportunities and agencies attending visit OrangeLink.

We look forward to seeing you!

Three Ways to Enhance Your Employability for Nonprofit Jobs

By Ben Thomas, Guest Blogger

In preparation for the Nonprofit & Government Career Fair on Wednesday, February 20, The Riley Guide Blogger Ben Thomas shares tips on standing out to nonprofit employers.  Stop by on Wednesday 2/20 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Panasci Lounge, Schine Student Center, to connect with more than 50 agencies searching for interns and entry-level hires.  Some agencies attending include: City Year, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Math for America Foundation, and United States Department of Agriculture.  For a full list of attendees and positions available, visit OrangeLinkCropped

Nonprofit careers are looking more and more promising to Americans who still struggle to find work. A recent report by CNN estimates that the nonprofit sector’s 1.5 million organizations generate almost $1.5 trillion in spending every year – and that the sector has continued to grow robustly throughout the recession. If you’re looking to expand your career options, nonprofit work might be just the right area for you to explore. Even so, you’ll need to tailor your profile pretty differently than you would for the corporate world. Here are three ways you can start improving your shot at a nonprofit job, starting right now.

Hone your talents
Many jobs in the nonprofit sector rely heavily on skills you may have developed elsewhere – for instance, many nonprofit organizations are in need of teachers, translators and event organizers. If your skills fall under a technical heading, you may be in an even better spot. Nonprofits need professional websites, secure networks and knowledgeable tech support staff, just as any company does – but many nonprofit managers report that their organization’s technology is a bit behind the times. Whether you’re talented at upgrading technology or sprucing up an aging public image, a portfolio of projects you’ve completed on time and under budget will serve as a strong recommendation for your ability to contribute. If you freelance at all, seek out some clients – nonprofit or otherwise – whose business model emphasizes ideals like sustainable energy or free education. These projects will do more than just boost your resumé – they’ll also give you glimpses of the nonprofit sector’s look and feel.

Learn the territory
No matter where your talents lie, you’ll want to spend some time investigating the structure and needs of some nonprofit organizations in the field that interests you the most. Nonprofit work comes with its own set of expectations: many nonprofits value compassionate ideals over  competitive spirit; personal relationships over profitable ones. Though many corporations toe lines like this, you may find that a corporate go-getter attitude comes across as excessively intense – even intimidating – to people who’ve spent years in the nonprofit sector. What’s more, nonprofit work comes with its own set of terms and titles. These don’t necessarily refer to different concepts than those used in the corporate world, but they’ll come in handy as you approach nonprofit employers for a pitch or an interview. Speaking their language, in their preferred tone of voice, will take you far in the relationship-driven world of nonprofit work.

Donate your time
When a nonprofit manager looks over your work history, one thing that’s sure to catch his or her eye is volunteer work. This doesn’t have to mean service in the Red Cross or the National Guard (though such experience certainly wouldn’t hurt). What’s important is to emphasize that your volunteer work wasn’t a one-time resumé-booster, but represents a lifelong commitment to generosity with your talents. Time is valuable for all of us, it’s true – but even some after-work hours cleaning up a local park, or a few hours a week offering free tech support to a local school, can help you show your community-oriented side to potential employers. By the same token, make sure your volunteer hours are clearly related to the nonprofit work you aim to do – whether your donated time is in the service of a similar charity, or just devoted to tasks similar to those you’d like to perform for a nonprofit organization. A little open-heartedness now may go a long way in the near future.

Though many organizations in the nonprofit sector emphasize different virtues, structures and expectations than those emphasized in the corporate sector, nonprofits still value many translatable skills and character traits. So as you enter the working world, keep your options open, and give nonprofit work a serious look. You may find that you’re pleasantly surprised by what you discover.

Ben Thomas is an expert on many topics related to the job hunt. He writes about such topics for www.rileyguide.com.

Geared towards the government or NPOs? Our next Career Fair’s for YOU!

By Shannon Feeney, Employer Relations Coordinator

It’s clear students at Syracuse University are committed to public service, so much so, that the Washington Monthly ranked SU the 14th university overall contributing to the public good in social mobility, research, and service.  Because of our students’ continued interest in making a difference, Career Services is hosting the Nonprofit & Government Career Fair on Wednesday, February 22 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Panasci Lounge (Schine Student Center).  This year we’re welcoming 39 organizations from the nonprofit, government, healthcare, and education sectors!

Some agencies you can expect to see at this year’s fair are: Arc of Onondaga County, City Year, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Make-A-Wish, Peace Corps, and Utica College.  These agencies are recruiting undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students for full-time, part-time, internship and volunteer positions.

If you are interested in a career in the nonprofit or government sectors, here are some great resources for searching and applying for jobs!

1)      Idealist.org connects people and organizations that are interested in “building a world where all people can live free and dignified lives.”  The website gives you the chance to search for jobs and internships with nonprofit organizations, find volunteer opportunities, and share events and programs relevant to world issues.

2)      USAJOBS.gov allows you to search for all types of jobs within all departments of government.  The advanced search feature gives you the ability to specifically search within an agency, state, or profession.

3)      MakingtheDifference.org provides resources to understanding and searching for federal jobs and internships.  Their federal jobs page offers some great tips to finding and applying to federal positions like Financial Management Specialist for the Department of Labor or Contract Specialist at an Air Force Base.

Know of other great resources for nonprofit and government jobs?  Share them here!  And don’t forget to check out the Nonprofit & Government Career Fair on Wednesday, February 22!