A Remarkable Learning Experience Through Informational Interviewing

By Jamie Douglass-Espaillat, SCDC Higher Education Intern

An informational interview differs greatly from a formal interview. The purpose behind informational interviewing is to gain knowledge of a certain field while networking and creating industry contacts. I decided to conduct an informational interview in an effort to uncover a direction towards an area of full-time work upon my graduation this May. After reaching my contact and arranging a time and place to meet via email, I created a list of questions for the interview. I did not want to be confined to this list; it was created merely to provide some direction during the interview, in case I found it was needed.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Maziely (Mazi) Crisostomo, Director of the College Now program here at Baruch. I was excited; assisting high school students with navigating their way through higher education choices was my motivation behind pursuing a Master’s degree in the first place. College Now is a program that mentors high school students who attend public institutions within our city. The program provides the opportunity to high school juniors and seniors attending schools in traditionally underserved neighborhoods to partake in college level courses through dual enrollment. College Now also extends its services to home-schooled students and students with disabilities.

Mazi has an extensive history of working in college access. She began as an outreach worker at Queens Community House, assisting students with a history of truancy to navigate accelerated paths to their high schools diplomas. She then moved on to Phipps Community Development Corporation in the Bronx where she helped students apply to college, and later to Good Shepherd Services at West Brooklyn Community High School where she resumed working with truant students. Mazi thoroughly enjoyed her work but wanted more. She eventually transitioned to College Now and is juggling a variety of responsibilities in her new role as Director.

When speaking of her new position and how it fulfills her, Mazi said she finds the most enjoyment in seeing her students succeed and watching them promote the program to their peers. Receiving gratitude from the students she mentors is also fulfilling. When discussing challenges within her role, Mazi’s concern is the ability to sufficiently promote the program and be available to students while handling the administrative duties that come with her position in a short-staffed office. She was also concerned with keeping her students motivated.

The interview concluded with a discussion about the plethora of resources available to students, especially those who are interested in pursuing vocational paths. Mazi’s passion for assisting students in navigating the sometimes blurry high school-to-college pathway is evident through her extensive knowledge and desire to mentor. Speaking with her was not only personally informative, but also reinforced my decision to pursue a career in higher education.

Prior to meeting with Mazi, I was aware that conducting an informational interview would be beneficial; after all, what opportunity to learn isn’t? What I was not aware of was the reassurance I would gain from the experience. Meeting with Mazi not only provided encouragement of my professional choices but was also inspirational. It gave me the motivation I needed to enter my last semester of graduate school here at Baruch with excitement and vigor.

Time to Move on

By Yahya Khan, Peer for Career

As 2014 comes to a close, so does my undergraduate career. I came to Baruch four years ago as a freshman, ready to embark on an exciting and transformative journey. Now, that journey is at an end; I will graduate at the end of this semester, and with it ends an era of my life. I have been lucky enough to land a full time offer with a large financial services firm and I will start my employment shortly after graduating. While I am glad to have obtained meaningful employment and excited to commence a new chapter in my journey, I am also saddened by the end of a significant phase of my life and by the radical change that it heralds. I have had the opportunity to discuss these particular feelings with many of my peers as well as mentors that have already traversed through this particular canyon, and now I want to share a few insights that might be useful.

1. Time is precious. Transitioning from college to a full time work life normally leads to a reduction in disposable time. The ability to have free time and how we choose to spend it becomes increasingly valuable. With work weeks approaching 50-60 hours and sometimes even more, a major change that many entry level professionals go through is prioritizing their relationships, friendships, and who they choose to spend their time with. This can have both positive and negative outcomes: it allows us to curate our lives and allocate time to what we perceive to be the most important or enjoyable endeavors, but it deprives us of those chance encounters and “out of the box” activities that can lead to personal growth.

2. Motivation at work. Once the initial excitement of starting a new job wears off, it is important to deploy mechanisms that keep the initial spark alive. One of the key ways of doing so is to have self- assigned goals and challenges that motivate the desire to work and to improve. For many of us starting careers in large, global organizations, it is sometimes hard to envisage the impact our work creates or its importance to others. Therefore, in order to remain motivated and passionate, it is important to have definite, measurable goals and to understand the larger picture of why our work is important.

3. Charting a life course. Life in college follows a structured path. Students are generally familiar with what they need to do in order to achieve good grades and to be successful in academic life. The transition to a work life disrupts that orderly existence. While responsibilities and activities at work might be structured and assigned by someone else, a person’s own career trajectory is completely defined by their own accomplishments and desires. Therefore, it is important to take a step back from the day to day humdrum of life and think about what our own definition of “success” is, what we want to achieve in life, and how our current employment aids that effort.

The end of my time at Baruch is both nostalgic and exciting. I am delighted by the friendships and relationships I have had in my time here and by the plethora of life experiences that I will take away from this institution. However, I am also saddened by the thought of leaving so many friends and fond memories behind. In conclusion, regardless of how I feel about this change, it will happen, and the best I can do is to equip myself with the right tools and go out in the world ready to take on the next challenge.