BY PATRICK REAR
BOLOGNA — Career Services put on a special event for students at the SAIS Europe Center in Bologna on Friday, Sept. 26, bringing in four recent SAIS alumni to discuss their experiences in school, on the job hunt, and in their professional lives after graduation. All Class of 2013 graduates from the Bologna Center, the panelists opened with short individual presentations before following up with an open question-and-answer session for students in attendance. Following the formal event, all attendees were invited to enjoy a happy hour at the SAIS Bologna Center.
Composed of Austrians Sigrid Apl and Martin Orthofer, German Hanns König, and American John Cheng, the panel fielded questions from the students regarding summer internships between the first and second years, applications into various career fields, and even the integration process for Bologna students returning to Washington D.C. for their second year.
Of the four, Orthofer and König found opportunities as business consultants after graduating from SAIS with the strategy-through-execution consulting firm Strategy& and with Roland Berger. Apl got a job with the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance working with state guarantees, and Cheng is now working with the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer in the Dominican Republic.
Though all but Cheng were non-U.S. citizens and had returned to Europe for work, they emphasized the point that for international students, the time spent in Washington D.C. can be a valuable opportunity to build business connections in the United States and potentially land a job making use of programs such as Occupational Practical Training.
“During my time at SAIS, I was an ERE concentrator.” said Orthofer, “I never really had a career in mind, so maybe that’s why I ended up doing consulting; it keeps my options open.”
For students interested in consulting work however, König cautioned that it is important to watch out for application deadlines for different firms. “For consulting, it really depends from country to country, but in Europe you generally need to apply at least 3-4 months in advance of when you want to start working.” Firms such as McKinsey & Company even require applications almost a year in advance of the intended start date.
While statistics collected by Career Services surveys show that at the time of graduation, roughly 50% of SAIS students know what they want to do, follow-up polling six months later finds that over 90% have found a job and are setting forth into their career. Each of the alumni panelists had taken different paths but similarly had found themselves a place.
“I wanted to be an Austrian diplomat so badly!” Apl said. “At SAIS, I moved my focus onto the finance and economics role, but I still wanted to do something with government, so I ended up with the Ministry of Finance in Vienna.”
Cheng, on the other hand, had decided during his undergraduate studies that he wanted to pursue a career with the U.S. Foreign Service. During his first year in Bologna, he took the Foreign Service Officer Test and had a job lined up well before graduation, recommending that other students interested in the Foreign Service do the same in order to take the load off their shoulders during the second year that all students in Washington D.C. face during the search for employment after graduation.
For all students however, the panelists encouraged them to try to build new connections between those who spent their first year in Bologna and those who spend both years in Washington D.C.