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    Professional Prep Bootcamp Connects 'Cats to Real World Wisdom

    July 21, 2014

    by Mike Zoller

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- For the last two years, NU For Life has been helping Northwestern student-athletes prepare to make the jump from college to the professional world. From networking events and professional workshops to employer information sessions and alumni mentoring, student-athletes have many opportunities to enhance their skills and prepare for life after their playing days.

    This summer, 21 student-athletes are taking part in a Professional Prep Bootcamp aimed at maximizing their potential in their hunt for an internship and, eventually, a post-graduate career.

    A pilot program, the bootcamp is designed to bridge the gap that exists between a student-athlete's freshman year and junior year.

    "We looked at the programming we were offering through NU for Life and what they (student-athletes) were getting through student development and basically saw that our sophomores were sort of this forgotten class," said Julie Dunn, assistant A.D. for career enhancement and employer relations. "We had this really great programming for freshmen through the Freshman Year Experience (FYE), then we really wouldn't have another step until the Wildcat Professional Excellence program their junior year."

    "I feel like a lot of my friends at other schools have no guidance between freshman and junior year and it's really a great time to take advantage and explore your interests," said rising junior fencer Jen Yamin. "It's great to learn how to network, how to create a resume, utilize LinkedIn and how to really use that professionally."

    Each week, the bootcamp focuses on specific learning objectives and includes at least one in-class speaker discussing their experiences and offering advice. Student-athletes volunteered to enroll in the class for the summer, and each will earn a certificate upon completion.

    "It's an amazing program," said wrestler Jacob Berkowitz, another rising junior. "A lot of us thought we wouldn't have the time to do this but it's been so helpful. They bring in so many people who have been in our shoes and they are giving us amazing opportunities to connect with all of these professionals."

    On July 16, the class traveled to Microsoft's downtown Chicago office in the Aon Center (pictured above) to learn about the company and then participate in mock interviews conducted by professionals in a variety of fields.

    Both the professional panel and the one-on-one interviews offered plenty of teachable lessons for attendees of the event, which was hosted by Northwestern alum and current Microsoft account executive Ken Stolman.

    "For tonight I thought how it would be unique to bring my colleagues together with these student-athletes to learn about our company but also give them a great opportunity to network and practice interviewing," Stolman said. "These are the types of skills students can't learn in the classroom, so here they are getting the experience in a real-world setting."

    Interview skills are a major point of emphasis throughout the entire NU For Life curriculum, but are a particular focal point in this summer's bootcamp.

    "We want to put an emphasis on getting student-athletes practical experience to help them be successful professionally," said Scott Koenning, assistant director of career enhancement and employer relations. "A big piece of that is interview skills and a great way for them to gain experience interviewing is through mock interviews.

    Dunn hopes that the Professional Prep Bootcamp can be offered during the winter, spring and summer quarters and that all student-athletes will have a chance to participate.

    "I got my teammates to do it," said Mihir Kumar of men's tennis, who is entering his junior year at NU. "I recommend it to everyone. There's so much more to life than the sport you are playing right now. This program shows you just how many opportunities there are out there."

    Kumar isn't the only student-athlete actively promoting the bootcamp and the entire NU for Life program to his teammates.

    "I definitely tell the girls that are younger than me to take this stuff seriously," said senior softball player Anna Edwards. "It's not always what you really want to do after a long practice, but it's so helpful. These programs can be so rewarding. Starting that (job) process is scary but NU For Life has been great."

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