Career Moves: A ‘major’ shift and alumni connections help Elon student land spot in Capital One program
Jessica Womack ’17 leaned upon the resources of the Student Professional Development Center as she fine-tuned her academic and professional goals.
Jessica Womack ’17 knew she wanted a career working with money, but wasn’t sure the best path to take her there. Re-examining her route to graduation at Elon in May 2017, she shifted majors before her senior year to focus on a degree in management and, using the resources of the Student Professional Development Center, connected with alumni and zeroed in on a project management development program with Capital One.
Womack said the experience taught her to trust her “gut feelings,” and to value the expertise of the SPDC staff that Elon students can draw upon as they establish and pursue their career goals. She's featured in the Career Moves series of profiles on the recent experience of students and alumni who work alongside professionals in the Student Professional Development Center to explore career interests, find jobs and internship opportunities, prepare for interviews, improve graduate school application materials and more.
Tell me about your experience landing a career with Capital One.
In my four years at Elon, I switched my major two times. In the spring semester of my sophomore year, I declared my major in accounting and was offered an internship with Time Warner Cable as an income tax accounting intern. Although I had a great internship experience, it made me realize I didn’t want to be an accountant after experiencing it firsthand. When I returned to campus for my junior year, I switched my major to finance.
In the summer before my senior year, I did something you would call “crazy” and changed my major from finance to management. I had a gut feeling during the summer that I wasn’t in the right major, so I decided that it was best for my future career to change. I was in contact all summer with Brooke Buffington, assistant director of career services in the Love School of Business – changing around my resume, deciding what my career options were with this new major and so forth. That work with Brooke allowed me to feel better about my decision in the end.
Brooke mentioned Capital One’s Project Management Development Program that summer and she connected me with Jacob Hammer ’16, who was then in the program. With the help of both Brooke and Jacob, I was able to land a position with Capital One in their Project Management Development Program.
How did your interest in this career path develop?
I’ve always had an interest in working with money, but I didn’t want a major that would limit me to only do one type of job for the rest of my career. That desire is why I changed my major to management with a minor in finance. I can have a major that is broad enough for me to work in different parts of a company while having a background in finance to make me stand out. Capital One interests me because they don’t expect you to have all the answers but they want someone who can show how they got to the answer and can guide the company in the right direction. The main reason I picked Capital One to start my career is that they didn’t want to change the way I think, but wanted to enhance it.
What have you learned from this experience?
Always go with your “gut” — it will never steer you wrong. It is like that little voice in the back of your head that is talking to you. You need to listen to that voice. This decision was terrifying for me because I felt like this decision would either make or break my career. It isn’t common to change your major the summer before your senior year, and some would say that wasn’t smart. But with my faith in God and myself, this turned out to be the best decision I made in my time at Elon.
I also learned to give yourself more credit than you think you deserve. If you told me that I would be working for Capital One straight out of college, I would have thought you were kidding! Going into the interview, I wasn’t expecting to get a call for a job offer. I didn’t have the best grades or the most experience, and I thought that I was going to be turned down. I wasn’t paying attention to the positives from the experience of applying to the program — having an Elon contact to get my resume in the right hands, being offered an in-person interview, being flown in for that interview, receiving an offer two days after the interview. I’ve learned to always go with your gut and look at the positives even when things don’t go the way I wish.
Who did you work with in the Student Professional Development Center to prepare, and what help did you receive?
I have worked with Brooke Buffington since my sophomore year. We initially met when she performed my mid-term business internship checkup. We stayed in contact through my membership in Beta Alpha Psi Fraternity, and she reviewed my resume before the fraternity’s annual meet and greet at the beginning of the school year. Since we met, Brooke has continued to assist with the ongoing review and development of my resume. She was the first person I called when I decided I wanted to change my major to management. Brooke helped with reformatting and revising my resume each time I had a new job or new experience. She prepared me for my interview with Capital One, which helped me become aware of what Capital One was looking for and how to showcase my best skills during the interview. Through the years, Brooke became a career mentor for me.
What recommendations would you share with other students about the Student Professional Development Center?
Every Elon student should visit the Student Professional Development Center. The SPDC wants to see Elon students succeed and make sure they are ready for the workforce by the time they graduate. I used the SPDC for resume reviews, professional pictures, mock interviews and other services. It is such a convenience to have a location on campus with staff who want to see you thrive and will do anything and everything in their power to make sure you have an impact on today’s society.
Which faculty or staff members did you work with to prepare and what help did you receive?
I worked with Brooke Buffington in the Porter Family Professional Development Center in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business. We had phone calls during the summer and multiple one-on-one meetings at the beginning of the academic year to decide what types of jobs I would be applying for. Brooke helped me format my resume to showcase me in the best way and prepared me for Capital One’s interview because of how challenging and untraditional their interview is. I honestly believe I wouldn’t have had such a great interview with Capital One without Brooke’s advice and support.