Career Moves: Negotiating advice, interview tips help alum land first job 

The Student Professional Development Center and faculty mentors were resources for Heather Harder '14 as she sought professional internships, one of which led to a job offer prior to finishing her degree program.

Elon University's Heather Harder '14 is now working for Capstrat in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Elon University’s Heather Harder ’14 is now working for Capstrat in Raleigh, North Carolina.[/caption]

You can never say Heather Harder didn’t make the most of her time at Elon University.

She was the elected national president of the Public Relations Student Society of America. The Class of 2014 graduate is also a former president of Elon’s PRSSA chapter. The Communications Fellow served on the Dean’s Student Advisory Board and represented the School of Communications on the Student Government Association.

And when the native of Colfax, Washington, started looking for internships in pursuit of a public relations career in the energy sector, she found resources available from faculty mentors and the Student Professional Development Center.

Now with the Raleigh-based strategic communications firm Capstrat, Harder is the latest person to be featured during the 2014-15 academic year in a series of E-net profiles on the successes of students and alumni who have used the Student Professional Development Center to find job and internship openings, help with graduate school placements, or prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from staff. 

She recently answered questions from the SPDC about her experience.

Tell me about your experience landing a career with Capstrat.

I learned of Capstrat while at Elon and discussed the internship program with former Elon interns. I was a public affairs intern during my final semester at Elon and received a job offer midway though that internship, prior to graduation. While interning, my mentor was an Elon alumni and helped me make the decision to accept the job.

How did your interest in the organization, company, or career develop?

I wanted to work in energy public affairs, and Capstrat filled that niche. Capstrat also offers immense experience for entry-level employees. I felt the experience and responsibility I would get at a young age was something I would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

What have you learned from the experience?

I’ve learned the value of having trusted mentors, both as an intern and as a new employee. I’ve learned that an Elon education helps you stand out and advance quickly in the workplace. And I’ve learned that it is important to build a large network while in college and to keep in touch with that network – even after you land a job.

What professionals did you work with in Student Professional Development Center? And what help did you receive?

I made a few visits to the SPDC during my time at Elon. Rayna Anderson (an Elon Career Advising Fellow for the 2013-14 academic year now with the Universtiy of Houston) helped me with Skype interviews. I also received helpful practice questions/tip sheets for interviews and resume critiques. The classroom visits were the most helpful. Ashley Pinney taught my freshman communications class about using LinkedIn. I also learned about negotiating job offers with Marianne Brigola when she came into a senior business class; learning about negotiation was extremely helpful.

How would you mentor and assist Elon students in achieving their career goals?

I just signed up to volunteer as an Elon Career Mentor. I am passionate about helping students discover their career goals and find the right path to achieving them. I accept informational interviews, review resumes, help students get in touch with professionals in other cities, and welcome any opportunity to give presentations or serve on panels. I am most involved with students in the Public Relations Student Society of America.

What recommendations would you share with other students about the Student Professional Development Center?

Visit the SPDC at least once a year to get advice and make sure you are on a good track to finding jobs and internships. However, don’t limit your professional development to visiting the center. Tap into your professors’ networks and join professional organizations like PRSSA and SPJ.

Which faculty members did you work with to prepare and what help did you receive?

Elon’s communications professors were immensely helpful. Professor Hal Vincent helped me discover that public affairs was the right path for me, and Dr. Lucinda Austin provided opportunities for independent study and gave me wonderful advice as I made decisions for where to launch my career. Dr. Kenn Gaither and Dr. Naeemah Clark also provided Communications Fellows opportunities that helped me advance quickly.