Lander alumni share career wisdom during ‘Senior Lunch & Learn’
Monday, Apr 26, 2021
alumni speakers at lunch and learn
Lander University alumni visited campus on April 20 to share insight and career advice to graduating seniors during a Lunch & Learn panel discussion. Coordinated by Lander's Offices of Student Affairs, Career Services and Alumni Association, the event gave students an opportunity to learn from, and interact with, professionals who shared lessons learned from years of experience.  Alumni panelists, from the left, are Clark McCarthy '09, of Columbia; Danielle Waldt Fields '07, of Greenwood; Sean Mims '05, of Greenwood; Stacia Stewart Fields '09, of Greenwood; and Terrell Turner '07, of Charlotte, N.C.  Photo by Deb Nygro

"Listen to learn, and love to learn; know your strengths and weaknesses; have a bad day? do better tomorrow; don’t underestimate the value of relationships – maintain connections with people you know and network now; find a mentor, and find who’s doing the best job at what you want to do."

These wise words spoken to seniors in the Class of 2021 came during an event simply titled, “Senior Lunch & Learn.” But the discussion from five Lander University alumni, all seasoned career professionals, was a power-packed program worthy of a TED Talk or corporate seminar on how new college graduates can launch successful careers and navigate their individual roads to success.

Lander’s Office of Student Affairs coordinated the inaugural event, part of the 2021 Senior Week, in collaboration with the University’s Alumni Association and Office of Career Services. It brought five alumni to campus to share not only words of wisdom, but to answer students’ individual questions.

The panelists included Danielle Waldt Fields '07, of Greenwood, a Countybank branch manager; Stacia Stewart Fields '09, of Greenwood, a senior industrial recruiter for Human Technologies Inc.; Clark McCarthy '09, of Columbia, a brokerage associate with Wilson Kibler; Sean Mims '05, of Greenwood, a Brewer Middle School social studies teacher and basketball coach, and Terrell Turner '07, of Charlotte, N.C., an accountant and co-founder of the TLTurner Group.

When Suzanne Couts, executive director of alumni engagement at Lander, asked Clark McCarthy how long he had been in his current job, the commercial real estate executive and former Lander soccer player, said he began his current job during the pandemic. His position in commercial real estate is far different than his coaching jobs at Dreher High School and the University of South Carolina.

But, McCarthy said, life brings about opportunities “to pivot … and to change your path forward.” Coaching meant recruiting and being away on nights and weekends. When the opportunity came to move into the business world, McCarthy said he welcomed the chance to have more regular hours with his family. “Pivoting away from what I knew was scary,” he said, noting that the leadership at Wilson Kibler provided him with the “team approach” in his job that was not unlike what he had known in coaching.

Danielle Fields, who studied nursing until “chemistry told me that I was not going to be a nursing major,” found that banking offered her chance to do what she loved. “I like to help people,” she said. “The same thing that made me want to be a nursing major could be done in a different career field.” Her advice: “Finding out what you don’t want to do can be as important as finding out what you do want.”

A former Lander basketball player, Sean Mims was considering a career in exercise science until an accident led a friend to suggest education. Mims found the suggestion worthy of consideration, and he discovered his studies rewarding.  Although he planned to teach only for a short time, Mims said, “This is where I am supposed to be.” An elementary school teacher for seven years, Mims has been a middle school educator for eight. “When you find your purpose, you find it is your heart.”

Terrell Turner said he learned one of the most important lessons for his professional career when he was elected president of Lander’s student body. “I didn’t know anything about what I should do,” he admitted with a laugh. But Randy Bouknight, then Lander’s vice president of Student Affairs, told Turner, “You’ll learn as you go.”

Turner said most of his jobs were intimidating at first. But Bouknight’s words stayed with him. Beginning a job in Brazil, he said, brought with it “a whole new set of responsibilities … I didn’t speak Portuguese, and they didn’t speak English.” He found that “you’ll continue to grow even if you make a mistake.”

For Stacia Fields, being prepared for her career began with her involvement in campus activities. “Being part of an organization, that’s important. You learn how to network. Sometimes, it means getting out of your comfort zone. Just step forward and go.”

She advised students to be prepared for job interviews by researching the companies or organizations to which they are applying and be ready to ask questions of the interviewers. “Be engaged in the interview, ask questions. That is so important to a potential employer. Be able to sell your soft skills, dress professionally, have your resume updated. Be prepared.”

Mass communications major Jasmine McCaroll, a senior from Greenville, asked panelists about the positive aspects of taking an internship offered to her in California. Mims said a willingness to relocate is key. “In certain field, you have to relocate. Who’s more nervous about this? You or your family? Research the opportunities that you’ll have. What can they do for you?”

Chris Williams, of Lexington, a criminology major who hopes to pursue a career in law enforcement, said he has been offered a job with a nonprofit organization. But he wonders if the job is a fit with his long-term goals. Stacia Fields was reassuring. “Stay up to date and current with what is happening in law enforcement. Volunteer with groups that can involve you in activities related to law enforcement.”

McCarthy told Williams that having a job right out of college is a good start for anyone. “You are going to learn a lot in the job that you have. Make connections. Leverage those relationships. Those may open doors for you and help you get the job you want in the future.”

The panel discussion exceeded the expectations of Cindy Dysart, executive director of Student Affairs. “The panelists we selected provided excellent insight and advice to the group of seniors who attended. The seniors themselves were very engaged in asking questions, and the panelists provided excellent responses and fulfilled the purpose for this event.”