“Lifes Crossroads” by John Matlock
What do you do when you’re ¾ of the way through college and suddenly you’re not sure the major you’ve chosen is the path you want to follow? Starting over and tacking on more years and thousands more dollars of debt is a very costly approach and still provides no guarantee. Ducking into grad school until the picture becomes clear is even more costly. How about another option?
Stephen Uram ’14 found one way.
As a mechanical engineering major, he was well into his degree track when he realized engineering wasn’t for him. “I wanted to be an engineer when I took my first physics class and loved it. I had a great teacher and learned a lot about process, prompting me to join the rocketry club and spend parts of a couple summers attending science seminars at Purdue and UC Berkeley. When I got accepted to Northeastern I was excited to become a mechanical engineer.”
The dream played out nicely for a couple years, as he loved his college courses and really enjoyed his first co-op. After returning to classes and then heading out for second co-op, however, he started to realize maybe this path wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “I was doing more design engineering and really wasn’t seeing the why’s of the projects or using what I learned in classes on the job. When I went back to class I realized I liked the project management side more than the engineering and got worried that I was in the wrong major.”
Fortunately, he kept a level head and researched career options that would allow him to parlay the engineering skills he had developed into a more project management-focused role. After doing some research and speaking with family, friends and career advisors he learned about Leadership Development Programs. LDP’s allow new employees to enter a company and follow several tracks to learn about multiple areas of the organization to develop a well-rounded skill set and experience a more holistic career. Programs last between 18-24 months and are broken into several 6-8 month blocks.
“When I got back to campus for my last semester I looked at which companies were coming to the Career Fair and looked for ones that offered a leadership program, preferably in a growing industry. I didn’t need a foosball table. I wanted to be part of an industry that is growing and with a company I can grow with” For Steve, this turned out to be Optum, a technology company under the United Health Group umbrella.
With healthcare costs on the forefront of the nation’s priorities, technology has become a major driver in mitigating costs and improving a damaged system. As a result, the demand for sharp college grads is very high and technology companies are progressively dotting the healthcare landscape. Through Optum’s Technology Development Program fresh grads are able to delve into several areas of the organization to develop skills and grow their professional network. “I’m exposed to senior leadership quite often and my Navigation Coach has me organizing informational interviews with different people so I know what other parts of the company do and how it all fits together.“
“I was also able to use skills from my engineering background and apply them to the job. Having worked on teams for class projects it allowed me to leverage resources each member of the group brings to a project and get the most out of everyone. I’ve also been able to use the problem solving skills from classes and co-op, along with time management skills, to balance projects and complete projects on time.”
Whether it be healthcare, finance, communication or human services, leadership development programs are available across all industries and can help kick start your career! If you would like to learn more about Steve’s experience and about other leadership development opportunities come to the Cultivating Leadership: Leadership Development Panel and Networking Night, on Tuesday 10/07.
Don’t feel lost at the crossroads – come to the NU Visitor’s Center and get back on track!
Derek Cameron is a member of the Employer Relations team in Career Development and occasionally blogs on the in-ter-nets.