April 6, 2016
"I was almost done with my associate degree in liberal arts, so I needed to find a four-year school to begin the next chapter of my life," said Mai-Hong Nguyen '15. She had taken a few online courses at a community college, and found the courses to be efficient and a great match for her learning style.
A Google search for online business administration degrees led Nguyen to enroll at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). "I was happy with the decision I made because SNHU had what I needed," she said. "It turns out this school has given me more opportunities that I never knew I wanted."
Nguyen wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do career-wise, but she did know that online business administration degrees can offer tremendous versatility in the workplace. "I knew business administration would be a good investment because of the job opportunities," she said. "I just didn't know what I wanted to do with it."
When Nguyen initially considered higher education, her focus was on architecture - and she also thought about the various artistic fields that were also of interest, including music and creative writing. Yet, she realized those were not degree programs she wanted to pursue. As she completed her online business administration degree, Nguyen began to see some parallels. "Throughout my courses, I realized some things in business should be treated as art," she said.
Human resources became a captivating focus for her, primarily because of the hiring component. This led her to pursue an internship related to human resources. Nguyen realized that she liked many more aspects of it because of its people-oriented nature. "Many people think of human resources as punishers of policy violations, and it is a part of the job," she said, "but this field also calls for creativity and a caring heart."
Given her interest, it was a natural for Nguyen to consider human resource positions as she neared the end of her online business administration degree program. She turned to SNHU Career for assistance, connecting with career advisor Cathy Montanarella. "I expected that Cathy would help me with my resume, cover letter, the job search and the interviews - she did do all that and more," said Nguyen.
While Nguyen had an interest in human resources, Montanarella also helped her widen her search and consider a full range of possibilities. "She delved into my personality; thinking back on it, it's amazing she able to do that over the phone," Nguyen said. "She connected my interests to jobs that weren't on my mind. Even though I ended up getting an HR position, I am still open to many of the options Cathy showed me."
Montanarella helped build up Nguyen's self-confidence, by giving her the tools to succeed. "She is a big reason why I answered my interview questions with ease," she said. "Cathy told me she used to be in human resources, so she was a great resource for those interviews."
Nguyen felt well prepared to start her job search. Her resume and cover letter had been reviewed and ready to share. Although she had looked on a few employment-related search engines, Montanarella led her to many others. "The interviews came on so suddenly, and I had a few emergency prep sessions with Cathy," said Nguyen. "I'm sure she must have been busy with her other students and duties, but she was always there to support me."
Like many others, she was most apprehensive about the interview process. "Cathy did several mock interviews with me, each one tailored to the different job descriptions," Nguyen said. While it was inevitable that new questions would come up in the real interviews, she was able to stay calm and come up with thoughtful answers as the result of her pre-interview preparation with Montanarella.
"Cathy changed the way I looked at interviews," said Nguyen. "I used to approach them as if they were auditions. I suppose they are in a way, but when she told me they were just meetings to get to know each other and the organization, the whole process became easier for me."
The support didn't end once a job offer came Nguyen's way. Montanarella had her evaluate whether the pay offer was one that was feasible for her financial needs and gave her advice on negotiating a higher salary. "I was taught how to successfully negotiate the offered starting salary, which I didn't even know you could do," said Nguyen. "I was so proud of myself for being brave enough to just go for it. That achievement is right up there with graduating summa cum laude."
She credits her work with Montanarella with helping her procure a job, just a month after finishing her final courses. "It's a position that fits with my degree, my personality and my need to be able to grow in the human resources field," said Nguyen. "I can't promise anyone they can find their dream job in a month or less if they use SNHU Career services, but I can tell people that Cathy is a huge part of why I succeeded."
As for what she'd tell others in the SNHU community about connecting with SNHU Career, Nguyen said, "I would tell people there is nothing to lose, but there is much to gain. This service is available to alumni, so if you need help with another job search 10 years down the line, always remember this resource is available."
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Timothy Woodward grew up in a small town in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in film and writing in California and an MFA in Fiction from SNHU.