UT’s student-athletes display their wares at Longhorn Career Day
The Longhorn Career Day, sponsored by the Student-Athlete Advisory Council at The University of Texas Club, gave UT student-athletes opportunities to meet with local, state and national business professionals in a casual setting, enabling them to develop contacts, distribute their resumes and strengthen those networking skills.
“As a senior you are about to go into real life and experience real things,” said football standout Frank Okam. “One of those things is getting a job. For athletes who are kind of stuck in their world to get a taste of the real world and get exposed to some many different varieties and companies is important.”
Others echoed the sentiment on the importance of Longhorn Career Day as far as turning student-athletes attention away from athletics and academics and having them start to identify what they will do when they leave the Forty Acres.
“It’s really important because so many of we athletes who have played sports all of our lives up until now are going to -- this is cliché, but -- turn pro in something other than our sport,” said UT women’s golfer Angela Akins. “It’s really important to get out there and see what kind there are jobs there are and to get insight from the professionals here as to what we need to do to get those jobs.”
Longhorn Career Day is administered by Dr. Mike Sanders, academic counselor and director of career development in the UT Athletics Student Services office.
“Dr. Sanders does a real good job with this,” said baseball pitcher Drew Bishop who also serves on the Student-Athlete Advisory Council. “He obviously works year-round setting it up and brings in some really good companies. He presents to the student-athlete advisory council way in advance and we’re in charge of letting our teammates know.”
Others echoed their attitude of gratitude to Dr. Sanders and the Student Services office.
“I’m really excited to be here tonight because Dr. Sanders always has a great array of employers that he brings out and it’s a great opportunity to network,” said former rower Catie Medici. “As a graduating senior in December, which is really soon, I’m really hoping to make some good contacts tonight and hopefully find my first job out of college.”
Professionals from 34 businesses and organizations interacted with the UT student-athletes in much the same way that college coaches interact with prospective student-athletes.
“Being in the School of Business, there are some good companies here like Pfizer and some financial institutions here that are very attractive,” said men’s tennis star Bernhard Duessner.
The format allowed student-athletes who have full course loads and hours and hours of practice and games to network and gain exposure with a wealth of companies in one well-structured evening.
“This is my first time to this event and I’m very excited. It is well put together,” said baseball pitcher Keith Shinaberry. “I believe this is a good opportunity for student-athletes to come and meet different companies and really prepare for life out of their sport.”
The event was duplicitous in nature allowing some to hone in on a career path, while allowing others to see whole new avenues.
“A lot of student-athletes don’t know what they want to do in the future. This gives them an opportunity to narrow things down for some people or even open up new ideas for other career paths,” said former Longhorn and NFL wide receiver Sloan Thomas, who will be graduating in December. “This is my first time here. I wish I would’ve taken advantage of it the first time. It’s a great opportunity for us to come out and meet different people.”
“It’s a very good setup for student-athletes,” said Longhorns’ linebacker Nic Redwine. “Not only to explore careers, but it gives you a more keen sense of what you want to do in the future. There is a broad array of fields here, so it brings home a lot of things. Right now we have a lot of pressure of graduating and then not really knowing what you want to do. For me, myself, it’s good because I’m able to come up here on a day when I have practice, but still visit with numerous groups and see what they are all about, which is tough on a daily basis.”
Longhorn Career Day serves as another reminder how the UT Athletics student services department is committed to the total student-athlete experience. Taking care of the student involves more than making academic counselors, tutors and mentors available and conducting study halls; it also entails steering the student-athlete down a path toward a successful career.
“This really completes the cycle for the department by our responsibilities identifying getting them in a major, getting them in something they like to do and then following that up with a career path,” Sanders said. “When I say complete the cycle, there are many student-athletes who find opportunities here. There are two of who were hired last year as a result of this career fair who are back representing their companies. I don’t think there is any higher recognition of what we’re doing than that.”
If anyone needed top see the benefit of the career fair, they just needed to go into the room occupied by Stryker Endoscopy where former UT soccer player Amy Burlingham, who made a job connection at last year’s event, was present.
“Obviously this is an important event, since it got me my job,” Burlingham said. “The Longhorn Career Fair was a great way for me to learn about the various companies that were out there. It enabled me to narrow down what my options were. It let me see the characteristics I had throughout sports and apply those to the job. It’s been an amazing experience. I was lucky enough to interview the next day with Stryker Endoscopy. They flew me out on site within two weeks and offer me the job on the spot. So it worked out really well. It’s great to place UT student-athletes in an environment that’s allowing them to succeed.”
Prospective employers also saw the benefit of attending the career fair. They sighted the fact that the average student-athlete is more disciplined and has a better sense of time management than the average student.
“Annually at this career fair, you come across a lot of outstanding young men and women,” said Dave Fendrick, vice president and general manager of the Round Rock Express. “Any time Mike (Sanders) asks me to come out to this event, I’m more than happy to oblige. Some years we have jobs available and this is a good opportunity to interview outstanding candidates. But some years we don’t have jobs available, but this is still a good way to come out and give these young Longhorns an idea of what they should be doing if they want to position themselves to enter this field.”
Longhorn Career Day is only a small part of the Longhorn PRIDE program that encourages the student-athlete to develop and pursue career and life goals. The PRIDE (Personal Responsibility in Developing Excellence) program has five major components that are designed to identify and meet the needs of student-athletes. Career development is only one of five components that make up the program, with academic excellence, athletic excellence, community service and personal development rounding out the program.