Career Moves: Alum’s patience pays off at STAPLES Center
When his hope of working for the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles wasn’t an option, even after an internship there that saw Harrison Seeler assist with the logistics of a pop superstar’s memorial service, the Elon University alum heeded advice from the Office of Career Services – “be patient” – and he today works for one of the largest entertainment venues in the nation.
Seeler is the final person to be featured this spring in a series of E-net profiles on the recent experiences of students and alumni who use the Career Center to not only find job and internship openings, but to prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from Career Services staff.
As the STAPLES Center’s special events coordinator, Seeler juggles the logistics of more than 100 events a month, which range from small conferences to large corporate receptions. It’s the first step on a career path that he hopes will lead him to directing premiere events at the home of four professional sports teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, and host site for annual extravaganzas such as the GRAMMY Awards.
“Being so young and so new to the industry – I’m by far the youngest person who works at the STAPLES Center – I want to learn everything I can, I want to take in as much of everything as possible,” he said. “In my role I’m getting to see everything from the bottom up. That’s important for when I have the opportunity to interview for an event manager.”
A native of Las Vegas, as it came time to choose a college five years ago, Seeler wanted an escape from his hometown’s neon lights and dry desert heat. When he enrolled at the university for the start of the fall semester, the boy with an interest in business was the only student on campus from the Silver State.
Business administration, however, soon lost its flavor. Seeler discovered the joy of working behind the scenes to host events that entertained others. He declared his major in leisure and sport management – which is now sport and event management – then delved into the Leisure and Sport Management Society. The Society organizes annual events like the “Skillz on Wheelz” wheelchair basketball charity tournament. Seeler also landed an internship with the Office of Athletics where he coordinated promotional contests at Elon Phoenix sporting events.
But it was through the LSM Society, and faculty members in what is now the Department of Sport and Event Management, that Seeler found his internship at the STAPLES Center two years ago. Just a month into the internship, the arena would host the public memorial service for pop sensation Michael Jackson, who died June 25, 2009. Seeler’s performance reviews from his work on the memorial, plus his other day-to-day tasks in the general manager’s office, would bode well more than a year later.
Back on campus for his final year, Seeler turned to Career Services to help update his résumé and cover letter for other jobs to which he would apply. Seeler conducted mock interviews with professional staff. He also held lengthy conversations with Career Services counselors on his vision for a career and the steps he believed were needed to reach that dream.
Pam Brumbaugh, the director of experiential education in Career Services and the staff member with whom Seeler worked closest, emphasizes the need for such conversations. Taking the time to speak with a counselor can point students in the right direction for a career, or graduate studies, that best fits their personality and ambitions. Plus, it helps students to begin thinking of how they can “sell” themselves in interviews with prospective employers.
“It’s a real investigation and conversation about who you are and how you pull all of your experiences and characteristics together to really be articulate about yourself,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s a lot of figuring out who you are and where your talents lie, and how that translates into a particular spot you’re pursuing.”
Seeler knew he wanted a full-time position at the STAPLES Center. The problem, as he saw it, was a lack of openings. Instead of settling for another job elsewhere, he took a gamble and moved to the city, working part-time with the L.A. Sparks women’s professional basketball team and then the L.A. Kings professional hockey team. The paychecks barely paid the rent, and the jobs didn’t come with health insurance, but they kept him with organizations that used the STAPLES Center for their games and, by extension, in touch with the staff members who run the facility.
“I don’t know that everybody would have waited and done interim, seasonal kinds of things like he did,” Brumbaugh said. “And he went in with a wonderful attitude of ‘I’ll do whatever it takes,’ including the grunt work, to get to the STAPLES Center.”
Six months later, an opportunity arrived. The arena needed an entry-level staff member to manage its smaller events, and through networking and keeping in touch, Seeler got the offer. He has no regrets. “Not everybody has the luxury of having a job right when they graduate, especially right now,” he said, “and especially not their dream job.”
What advice does Seeler have for current students and recent alumni?
“It’s important to stay focused on what you want to do. Be patient, but be proactive. I really, really wanted to work at the STAPLES Center. I had no idea how that would happen. They had no job openings,” he said. “I took low-paying jobs and made sacrifices to stay close. I was patient, and eventually I got the call.”
“It feels like I won the lottery, every day. I’m doing exactly what I want to do.”