Alumni Spotlight: Carol Clemmensen at ARAMARK

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WHO:  Carol Clemmensen
WHERE:  ARAMARK, Sports & Entertainment
POSITION: Catering Sales Manager at the Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia, SC
1.      It sounds like networking played a key role in your success in obtaining your current position; this is something we stress to students as well. Could you share your strategies for networking with ARAMARK contacts to land your first full-time position with the company?
My strategies for networking with key ARAMARK contacts were rather easy and straight forward. Anytime there was an opportunity to attend a training or ARAMARK function, I made a point to be seen and introduce myself to as many people as possible. I found no matter how intimidating it felt, I realized how strong of an impression a handshake and a smile can go.  I also took advantage of the line you will hear often “If you have any questions please email me.” I literally clung to business cards and would find questions to email these contacts.  This was just to have a chance to remind them of who I was and to thank them for their time. In this economy there are so many faces and names, anything you can do to separate yourself from the rest, no matter how little, can be crucial.
2.      Can you provide insight into the day in the life of your role (Catering Sales), and how did your JMU program prepare you well for the role?
I cannot say I have a typical day because every day is always different. Sometimes I am in front of the computer or on the phone all day and sometimes I never even get to sit at my desk. No matter what day it might be, I am always interacting with guests and clients. I work with the client from the very beginning to the very end. This includes working on the menu and set-up details until they are completely satisfied. I then attend the events to make sure everything runs smoothly and the client is satisfied. Also, being part of management, I am responsible for finding time to work on my budget, coming up with new marketing ideas and networking with the community.  The HTM program at JMU prepared me through the variety of classes we were required to take. Everything from Finance to Human Resources to Law class helped prepare me for the different aspects of my job. On top of that, my professors treated us like we were already in the working world. They enforced the idea of time management over and over again, and thank goodness they did. Without time management, you can get in over your head very quickly. I felt very prepared for my job thanks to my HTM Program at JMU.
3.      How was the application process for a company the size of ARAMARK, and how can current students prepare for a similar process?
            The application process was long. I interviewed for an internship in February of my junior year and was told hands down I was getting a position. I waited until almost July to finally get sent to a location. This was my first lesson in needing to be persistent when working for a larger company. In a larger company things naturally take more time to progress. Patience is going to be the key, whether it be for an internship or a full time job. Do not, however, be afraid to check in and follow up, in a reasonable manner. Following up shows you are interested and excited about their company. Calling and emailing every day can be a turn off, so it’s important to make a good showing early on but to also find that balance.
4.      It sounds like cultural fit factored into your decision for your first position after college. Can you describe how you went about the process of identifying what seemed like a good fit for you?
            Through my internships and the different courses I took, I was able to narrow down what did and did not interest me. By experiencing positions I did not like, I was able to start requesting other positions I thought I might like until I found the best fit for me.
5.     Students are approaching the end of this academic year, what recommendations do you have for them at this point in the year?  As students prepare to enter the workforce, specifically, how would you recommend they market themselves as JMU graduates?
            I would tell them not to panic and do not go applying for jobs with no real interest. Continue your job search on the jobs you would have applied for if you still had over a year until graduation. With your enthusiasm for these jobs you actually want, you are going to interview better and thus, have a better chance of getting them.  When marketing yourself, you need to have a great resume and be ready to interview. Take advantage of your professors for knowledge and recommendations, Resume Round Up, and Mock Interviews through Career and Academic Planning. With the amount of competition there is out there, you do not want something silly like grammatical errors on your resume or unprepared interview questions to ruin your top choices.  JMU grads have a great reputation so live up to it and use it to your advantage.
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