Get ready Zags! It is almost time for our annual Bay Area Career Trek! In honor of this exciting event, we are interviewing the Director of Alumni & Employer Engagement, Erin Shields! She is giving us all the inside information on the value of signing up for these Treks, and how it can further your future career opportunities.

Portrait of Erin Shields

What is your job at Career and Professional Development?

Erin: I am Director of Alumni & Employer Engagement. I focus on all the areas that our alumni are involved in the career development process for students. Such as hosting students at their organization as part of their trek, mentoring students on students on alumni mentoring programs on ZagsConnect, and hiring students for full time positions and internships.

What is the benefit of being part of a Trek?

Erin: The idea of the Trek is to bring students in contact with employers in various regions across the country and or abroad. Often these are organizations who don’t come to Gonzaga career fairs. It first started in Seattle, with the idea that many students are either from the area or interested in the area, so we can bring them face to face with employers. This way students could get an inside look at organizations, their cultures, opportunities, and hear from alum or recruiters about their roles, their career path, and, most importantly, to network!

Can any class level attend? Can any major attend?

Erin: It’s beneficial to any class level, from first year to graduate. The newer students can use this as a tool for exploration– for example, to find out their major and/or minor. They can also see what an organization will look like, what positions actually look like in the workforce, and compare them to their ideas and goals.

Upper level and grad students can start making connections for those internships, summer jobs, and building connections for full-time opportunities. It is never too late, but the earlier you can start building those connections, practice presenting your skills, and meet with employers, the stronger your outlook close to graduation.

It is a priority here at CPD, to have a variety of companies that are looking for employees in a variety of majors. A Trek helps a student realize all of the things students can do with their degree, and the skill sets that come with studying a specific major. Also, the networking and social aspect of the Trek can be extremely beneficial to students who might not find a company that fits with their career goals, but connect with alum who can help you network later down the road.

When the pandemic started, alumni were in contact with me to give support to students who may be struggling in their career search. They are your advocates, and the Trek is a great way to take advantage.

Erin Shields

Do you have to be from the Bay Area to attend?

Erin: You don’t need to be from the Bay Area to participate! Those who are curious about an organization or the possibility of working in that area should definitely attend. Historically, we tend to get a lot of students from the Bay Area who intend to move back after graduation. The fact that the Treks are now virtual opens the doors significantly to those who may not be from the area, because of the lack of travel costs. Definitely check it out, and learn about the different cultures of the Bay Area and see where you think you see yourself in a future career.

What companies will be at the event?

Erin: For the Bay Area Trek this year, we will be doing virtual visits with Facebook, Google, Salesforce, Square, DocuSign, Inkhouse, Trinity Alps Capital, and Stryker. These companies have a history of hiring Zags, and we will be bringing on panels of other alums to speak about their experiences. Presentations last about 20-30 minutes, and then we open it up to networking and Q&A sessions, so students will get a chance to ask face to face questions and connect with alumni panelists.

What is the schedule for the Trek?

Erin: We break the presentations into a couple of days. On Thursday, we are presenting Facebook, Google, and Square. Later in the afternoon, we will follow with networking socials and programs. That will start with a Welcome from the Bay Area chapter president of the alumni group, then to follow is our keynote speaker, Megan Levin, who is currently working at Salesforce, who will talk about how a liberal arts education is so beneficial in the business world. Afterwards, we will break into small groups for networking. We will mix students up with 5 other students and 5 alums, and you can chat for about 10 minutes, then we will mix you up again, so people can get a chance to ask questions.

How should students prepare for the event?

Erin: The most important thing to start off with is to research companies who will be involved. This will help you go into the event with some prior knowledge as well as some good questions to ask the representatives. The other, almost more important, thing to remember is to know how to introduce yourself. Know how to do your 30-second to 1-minute elevator pitch, talking about your background, skills, major, and interests and what you are hoping to gain from this experience. This will help you engage with alums and employers during the networking portion of the Trek.

What else would you like students to know for the event?

Erin: I would like students to know that this is a fantastic opportunity to be face-to-face with recruiters and alums who are enthusiastic about your success. Our alums are extremely excited about the thought of mentoring you, and getting you on board with their companies, or even a company of your dreams.

When the pandemic started, alumni were in contact with me to give support to students who may be struggling in their career search. They are your advocates, and the Trek is a great way to take advantage.

Doesn’t that sound awesome! Save your seat by heading over to ZagsIgnite, and signing up! You won’t want to miss this. ​Click the link here to check it out. Also, if you have any questions for Erin, don’t be afraid to reach out. You can email her at shieldse@gonzaga.edu​.

Hope to see you there, Zags!