Java & Jobs
by Amy Lindgren '83
Would you teach yourself to downhill ski with a video from the library? Most of us wouldn't, but Juliann Ross-Madrid '07 did just that — and at the age of 49, no less. "I taught myself to ski the same semester that I went back to school, primarily because my professor at St. Kate's told me I could accomplish anything," says Ross-Madrid, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the Evening/Weekend/Online program.
Skiing is the metaphor that Ross-Madrid is applying now to the challenge of a job search. She expects it to be easier with the help of Java and Job Search, a support group for alumnae sponsored by the offices of Alumnae Relations and Career Development.
When she joined the group, Ross-Madrid was looking for a full-time job after being laid off. But with encouragement from group members and leaders, she decided to launch a consulting business named Image Designs International. Now that her first consulting assignments are trickling in, Ross-Madrid is seeking work that will provide an income while allowing her to concentrate on building her business.
The job club is helping her balance those goals. "It's been a rewarding experience to have the support of other alumnae," says Ross-Madrid, who will complete her Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) at St. Kate's this coming December. "It helps me to know I'm not the only one looking for work."
In addition to Java and Job Search, alumnae can gain networking opportunities through the nearly 1,200 members of theSt. Catherine University alumnae LinkedIn group and other resources on the Career Development site (stkate.edu/alumcareers). Staff members also provide opportunities for two-way mentoring by pairing experienced alumnae with newer graduates.
Support when you need it Java and Job Search meets every Monday from 10 a.m. to noon in Coeur de Catherine on the St. Paul campus. Alumnae from all levels and professions — and of a variety of ages — come together to share coffee and tips for the job search while gathering new ideas from outside speakers and leaders.
The typical meeting attracts 10 or 12 participants, although it's rarely the same group from week to week. Job seekers rotate in and out of the sessions as they need help. Once they find their next job, most eventually stop attending.
"Not long ago, two people got jobs in the same week," recalls Heather Isaacs, a career services professional who led Java and Job Search meetings last fall and winter. "One took a call during the session and stepped outside. Then she came back in and announced, ‘I got a job!' and she left the meeting right then."
Julie Gondringer Devich '01 attended the job club last year, then thought she had a job in hand. When that fell through, she returned to Java and Job Search for more support and ideas. "It was such a positive experience," she says. "I have been to other clubs, and people were so bitter and angry. I don't want to be like that. I like the positive approach."
As an HR and career-services consultant, Phyllis Haugen '76 has led or participated in a number of job clubs over the years, but she finds Java and Job Search to be special.
"St. Kate's alumnae have all kinds of trust for one another, and that makes a much more welcoming environment," explains Haugen, a program manager with Career Partners International who is certified as a senior professional in human resources. "Even as the leader, I felt like I was supported by the group."
Haugen, who helped launch the group, recalls a participant who was struggling in her job search but came back every week with stories of how she had applied the previous week's tips. "I wasn't surprised when she landed her job," Haugen says. "The value of a job club is actually applying the guidance you're getting, but not everyone does that. She did, and she came back with such positive stories that she helped not only herself but the entire group."
That doesn't surprise Juliann Ross-Madrid, who reiterates her skiing metaphor even in the height of spring. Going downhill "at the speed of light" is exhilarating, she says, when you know you're in control. "I'm excited about my job search," she explains. "I can't wait to do the next great thing."