Career Moves: For one young alumna, Elon leads to Apple
Sarah George '13 sought guidance from staff members in the Student Professional Development Center as she applied to a retail management training program for one of the world's leading technology companies.
Sarah George knew before college how she wanted a career that would take her overseas, and her decision to attend Elon was influenced by the university's wide selection of study abroad opportunities designed to enhance her global awareness.
Her first job after graduation offers such potential. With assistance from the Student Professional Development Center, George landed a position in the Apple Store Leader Program, a two-year professional program that takes her to Apple stores far and wide as she learns all elements of running a successful retail location for the maker of iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.
The anthropology and international business double major from South Windsor, Conn., was on the job for less than two weeks when Apple introduced the iPhone 5s and 5c, which she called "an incredible way to start my career at Apple."
George is the latest person to be featured this year in a series of E-net profiles on the successes of students and alumni who use the Student Professional Development Center to find job and internship openings, and to prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from staff.
She answered questions recently from the SPDC about her experience.
Tell me about the company and your role as an employee.
The Apple Store Leader Program is a leadership/management rotational training program. It is a two-year program, and the first year is spent in rotations lasting about a month or so to learn the key roles in an Apple retail store. The second year is spent learning the leadership and management side of the retail store and helping to lead store teams. As an ASLP associate, I am expected to discover, highlight and strengthen areas of opportunity within the store. It is an international program, so I have tools and resources to connect me to a network of other current ASLP associates worldwide, which I think is an invaluable resource in itself.
How did your interest in the Apple position develop?
I’ve always had a passion for travel and trying new things, and Elon’s study abroad program is what drew me to the university. I chose majors that are globally focused, and I wanted to find a career path that would lead me abroad. The international presence that Apple has built led to my interest in the company. My program specifically is an international program, designed to create Apple’s next store leaders, and at the end of the two-year program, participants may be considered for leadership positions internationally. My hope is to be able to use my experiences with this program to become involved in business development abroad.
What have you learned from the experience?
The program kicked off in September, and I have already learned so much in such a short amount of time, from product knowledge, to supply chain and logistics, to processes. I’ve also learned the importance of dealing with ambiguity, and being comfortable with change. The launch of the iPhone 5s and 5c happened a little over a week after my first day, which was an incredible way to start my career at Apple. I’ve never been at a place filled with so much excitement, and I was in the middle of it.
Because of the nature of the technology industry, and especially Apple, there will never be a point at which you can stop learning. One of the things that I’ve learned so far is the importance of challenging yourself and pushing yourself to learn more. But most importantly, it is extremely important to be a part of a team, and to connect with your team, building relationships of trust that you can refer to when you are unsure of something. The next year and a half is going to be a whirlwind, but there is nowhere else that I would rather be.
Who did you work with in Student Professional Development Center to prepare for your career, and what help did you receive?
I worked primarily with Jane Mehringer. She was an incredibly supportive figure during the very high-stress time of applying for jobs. She wasted no time getting to know me on an individual level so that she could help advise me as to which jobs would be a good fit for my personality and skill set. In addition to being emotionally supportive, she went above and beyond to provide me with contacts in the business world that could help me with achieving my goal of an internationally focused career path. Jane was one of the most valuable assets during my job search, and her advice and guidance on everything from writing emails to case-interviewing tips helped to make my job search successful.
Which faculty members did you work with to prepare for your career and what help did you receive?
Many of Elon’s faculty supported me throughout my undergraduate career, which led to my success with finding a job before graduation. Casually chatting with Paula Weller after class my sophomore year about my courses and post-grad ambitions led to my decision to double major. Conducting undergraduate research with Tom Arcaro for two years led to a mentorship relationship in which we constantly discussed career goals and aspirations, and assisting in teaching a course with him that was based upon our research provided me with experience that I am sure drastically helped me during my interviews.
What recommendations would you share with other students about the Student Professional Development Center?
I would recommend that all students take the time to visit the SPDC and to develop a strong partnership with at least one advisor. Having someone on your team working with you to get you where you want to be after graduation is one of the very unique opportunities that being a part of Elon allows. I would also recommend that students not be afraid to seek out this guidance. The resources are there and waiting for you. You just have to call and set up an appointment!