Week of the W&M professionals:
Around 600 alumni, parents, students and other members of the W&M community registered for the Professionals Week events, which ranged from panel discussions with experts to interactive workshops and networking hours.
by Claire De Lisle, College Marketing
March 21, 2022
The world of work is changing – as the pandemic enters its third year, labor shortages, increasing remote work and new calls for more diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace are transforming businesses of all sizes. For many, this is a time of reflection on how individual and organizational values align. At this year’s Professionals Week, February 28-March 4, attendees were invited to “rethink their relationship with work” and how their professional lives fit into this brave new world.
“COVID-19 has taught us many lessons and changed many perspectives on life – the value of time is a key factor…People are looking for ways to have more flexibility at work, including remote work and other flexible options to limit it.” commuting less and spending more time with family, and some have left their jobs to pursue their dream jobs or to try their hand at entrepreneurship,” said Latoya Asia JD ’09, director of talent acquisition and workforce planning at Dominion Energy, who moderated one of the panel discussions of the week. “It’s about taking control of your work and personal life and making big decisions.”
Around 600 alumni, parents, students and other members of the W&M community registered for the Professionals Week events, which ranged from panel discussions with experts to interactive workshops and networking hours. All programming this year was virtual to allow participation by members of the W&M community worldwide. Do you miss one of the sessions? You can view the recordings on the Professionals Week website.
“Our alumni and friends have so much expertise to share, and I’m thrilled that we were able to assemble such an excellent team of speakers and attendees for our fourth annual Professionals Week,” said Michael Steelman, director of alumni career management and professional networks at William & Mary.
The week kicked off on February 28th with a workshop hosted by Mission Collaborative, which partners with the W&M Alumni Association to offer career design workshops throughout the year. Participants reflected on their core values, strengths, skills and interests, and then defined the criteria they would look for in a new job. Career design expert Ashley Artrip encouraged job seekers to test new career avenues by attending conferences in the new field, speaking to practitioners in their networks, creating their own test projects – like designing a logo for a local brand to explore graphic design – or even take on the work in the new space as a paid side project to see if the new path is right for you.
On March 1, HR leaders in our community shared their insights during the discussion, “The Great Resignation: Competitive for Talents in a Changing World,” moderated by Asia and with panelists Clem Cheng ’86, Comcast Senior Vice President of Human Resources; Christa Hokenson ’93, Chief Human Resources Officer at Strategic Education Inc.; Chris Lee, chief human resources officer at William & Mary; and Holly Tyson ’93, chief people officer at Cushman & Wakefield. The speakers discussed how their industries have been affected by labor shortages and the advent of remote work. They also shared strategies on how to lead with empathy during this time and how to consciously create a workplace culture in a hybrid environment.
“Studies show that there’s one skill that most correlates to what CEOs have that others don’t, and that’s the ability to deal with ambiguity. The last two years have made that clear,” says Tyson. “This has demonstrated the ability of those who can ‘shape the fog’ and create action and certainty out of a vague, uncertain environment. The leadership skills being cultivated now on the battlefield will help us build the next generation of leaders.”
The March 3 panel on “Building Community in the Workplace” was another powerhouse, with panelists Erika Moritsugu ’94 and Rita Sampson ’89, both senior leaders in the federal government; W&M Board of Visitors member Doug Bunch ’02, JD ’06, Partner at Cohen Milstein and Chair of Global Playground; Nina Cavazos ’13, director of corporate relations at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute; and Amandeep Sidhu ’00, Partner at Winston & Strawn and co-founder of the Sikh Coalition. They shared personal stories of what it meant to bring their full and authentic selves into their workplace, including their intersectional identities where race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, family situation and other elements intersect. They also discussed what it means to be an ally to others and how mentoring and simple conversations with others can open new doors.
“Whether in the public or private sector, it’s important that we celebrate the unique stories, cultures, traditions and contributions that communities and individuals bring to the table…that extra time and effort it takes to work through the tensions of educating one another, listening and being aggressively curious about each other is rewarding so we can find our common ground across racial, religious, geographic, generational, and even political and ideological lines,” says Moritsugu. “When private and professional life merge, we show ourselves from our best side.”
Two online networking sessions provided attendees with a place to make new connections and discuss the week’s topics: one specifically for recent graduates, current students and young professionals, and one for the entire W&M community to meet in an informal atmosphere chat.
During their networking session, young professionals had the opportunity to apply what they had learned in a special workshop hosted by Maegan Crews Fallen ’12, Director of the Career Development Center at Randolph College, and Michael Steelman, Director of Alumni Career Management and Professional Networks at William & Mary. Crews and Steelman shared key tips for successful networking, including showing your passion for your interests and following up with the people you meet.
“Career Readiness is one of the four overarching initiatives of the university’s new Vision 2026 roadmap, and programs like Professionals Week fit perfectly with their goal of preparing our students and alumni not just for their first jobs, but for whatever career opportunities they pursue will last a lifetime,” said Marilyn W. Midyette, Chief Executive Officer of the W&M Alumni Association. “This week is just one of many programs and resources we offer throughout the year to strengthen and support the W&M network worldwide.”
You can find all career and further training offers from the W&M Alumni Association at wmalumni.com/career-networking.