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President Higdon dishes out career advice and dessert

President Leo I. Higdon Jr. answers career questions from students.
President Leo I. Higdon Jr. answers career questions from students.

It's not everyday that college students get career advice from someone whose resume includes 21 years on Wall Street, terms as president at three premier colleges and service in the Peace Corps. But that is exactly the kind of advice Connecticut College students got recently from the college's own President Leo I. Higdon Jr.

At a recent event in one of the college's residence halls, President Higdon discussed everything from the importance of undergraduate GPA to how to know when it is time for a job change. And students - armed with notepads - listened. Higdon's career path, like many others, is not what one would consider "traditional." A history major in college, Higdon joined the Peace Corps immediately after graduating. Then, after working for Salomon Brothers on Wall Street for 21 years, he made the jump to academia when he decided it was time for a career change.

During his career on Wall Street, President Higdon was often responsible for hiring and managing young talent. When hiring, he said he consistently chose those individuals with liberal arts backgrounds over those with business undergraduate experience because of their well-rounded educations.

So what advice did Higdon have for current students?

Experience with a foreign culture is critical, he said. Global experience and understanding a foreign language are the gateways to culture and can bring great advantages in the work force. Volunteer activities are also important because they, "give interviewers a sense of who you are and what distinguishes you" Higdon said. A person's passion needs to come through on his or her resume, Higdon said.

Higdon also shared a lesson that he learned from his father. "You don't learn anything by talking…you get ahead if you listen," he advised.

As for finding jobs and moving on after college, Higdon encouraged the students to take risks.

"Don't be afraid to explore and don't be afraid to start over," he said.

- Amy Falk '11

March 20, 2009