December 2, the American University of Armenia. A number of AUA alumni, with specialties that ranges from accounting to PR and from programming to marketing, came back to their Alma Mater for a purpose. They were invited to be a part of the final project for the Professional Communication course at AUA in the form of a networking event, titled Pathway to Profession.
Networking is an activity aimed at establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships, with the prospect of mutual benefit in the future. “Celebrating AUA’s 25th anniversary and having the first class of undergraduate students graduating in a few months, we wanted to come up with something new and bring different generations for honoring the past, treasuring the present and shaping the future together,” Nayri Kechichian said, a fourth-year E&C student and one of the organizers of Pathway to Profession. With three specialized discussion sessions (Computational Science, Business, and Communication) during the event, the attendees from all of AUA’s undergraduate student body had the opportunity to communicate and consult with some of the successful representatives of the previous generations of AUA to find their pathways to their professions.
The standard pathway of an Armenian student starts from high school, followed by college, graduate school, and only after all that, search for a job. All of the alumni-speakers came to break this stereotype, encouraging the students to start with small steps as soon as possible and start to chase opportunities rather than wait for them.
A common advice from all of the alumni was that at the start of a career, one should primarily concentrate on being passionate about whatever it is that they are doing rather than merely seeking money. In addition, it is crucial that one has a clear vision, builds up knowledge, and, at the same time, puts that knowledge into practice. As Gnel Khachatrian, an MBA graduate of 1995, said, “You become a professional only and only by practicing.” Hayk Manasyan, a PSIA graduate, continued, “If you stop learning, you will get out of board. If you stop practicing, you will never appear on the board.”
Inexperienced students seeking for the right career choice are often lost in high hopes and big dreams, becoming confused when facing the variety of options available. “I saw students with bright minds, promising potential and fears of failing or not finding a job in future, which limits their creative mind and blocks them in their comfort zone,” Vahe Isahakyan said, an MPSIA graduate of 2000. “There were many discouraged faces among students, who fell into panic from the first sight, but they were able to break the ice,” Arpi Grigoryan said, an MS CIS graduate of 2008. “Do not wait until you graduate, start your career now. Try everything, take the most of what you try, and you will get the skills that no degree can give you, skills that will lead you to your desired career,” added Zaruhi Sargsyan, an MPSIA graduate of 2004.
The reason for fear or disappointment in students usually lies in their great expectations and inaccurate measurements of their needs. They expect paid internships without starting from the unpaid ones first, to get all the knowledge for their profession from the university without self-education, practice, and networking.The alumni-speakers present at the Computational Sciences session, Arpi Grigoryan and Mikayel Vardanyan, MS CIS graduates of 2008 and 2004, respectively, claimed that the 95% of one’s success depends on self-education and practice.
AUA teaches its students how to learn, provides them with the opportunity to keep in touch with the professors out of class, as well as numerous other resources for development. What it takes from the students, then, is to take the chance and start somewhere, through small steps, yet always ready to overcome challenges and accomplish goals; this is the essential skill that they will need as an aide in their fight for a successful career.
After the hour-long discussion sessions, all participants were invited to a large venue for individual networking, where snacks and drinks were served. Although the event was supposed to last for a total of two hours, the students’ curiosity extended it for another half hour. “I thought that the old generation would be doubtful about our capabilities, but their trust and big hopes on us amazed and encouraged me to move forward. It would be great to attend more than one session, and I hope I’ll get that chance during upcoming networking events,” Anna Tantushyan said, a first-year Business student.
Arpine Matevosyan, a third-year E&C student and one of the organizers of the event said that the preparation process for the event posed a formidable challenge for the organizing team, but it eventually succeeded in achieving the desired results. Having received positive feedback from both the alumni and the students, the Alumni and Career Development Office (ACDO) is currently thinking of continuing the initiative and developing a series of networking events at AUA in the future.
Narine Petrosyan, the Manager of ACDO, mentioned that their overriding goal is to help students and graduates with consulting services, internship and job opportunities. Currently, holding networking events at AUA appears to be a very promising addition to the ACDO agenda; creating opportunities for students to build their own professional connections and relationships will serve both as a valuable to contribution to their experience at the university and as solid first steps towards building a successful future career.
Photographer Diana Hakobyan