IST Peer Career Assistant program to help students navigate career journey

Courtney Allen
November 12, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Undergraduate students in Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology are required to complete at least one internship before they graduate to gain experience in a professional setting. Roughly half of IST students complete multiple internships and more than two-thirds receive a job offer from one of their internship providers. And while the college’s Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement offers abundant resources to help students to navigate this process, students may find it intimidating to get started.

Enter Ryan Feng.

Feng, a senior majoring in information sciences and technology, is the college’s first Peer Career Assistant. Having completed three internships with UnitedHealth Group, Optum, and JPMorgan, he now serves as a resource for other IST students who are looking to complete the internship requirement and, more importantly, get a head start on their careers.

“Each of my internships has been a phenomenal experience where I got to make a difference in the world, meet awesome people from other universities, and live in exciting cities I got to explore,” said Feng. “I want as many students as possible to experience what I have experienced.”

Ryan Feng peer career assistant

Ryan Feng, a senior majoring in information sciences and technology, has completed three internships and participated in more than two dozen professional interviews. He is sharing his experience with fellow College of IST students as they navigate their career journey through a new Peer Career Assistant program.

IMAGE: Jessica Hallman

The new initiative is designed to help students build on the college’s existing resources by helping students grow their professional networks, prepare for career fairs and interviews, and find opportunities that align with their career aspirations. Specifically, Feng will help students identify their own career interests, review resumes, and conduct mock interviews. He’ll also help the Career Solutions team update various professional development materials.

Though Feng has found success in his internships, he knows that getting to the end result is a process. He has completed more than two dozen interviews with different employers and received nine internship and job offers to date. With those experiences, the college believes he can provide a unique outlook to other students.

“I believe the significance of getting career and internship advice from a peer is that sometimes it is less intimidating,” said Rita Griffith, assistant director of professional development in IST’s Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement. “It allows students to get answers from the student perspective.”

Those perspectives are intended to closely mirror the college’s professional practice of networking initiatives led by Griffith. Students will continue to develop these skills in their professional and personal lives long after graduation, she said.

“Career success is a process that happens over time and not overnight,” said Griffith. “As students learn more about this resource, we will see students actively gaining confidence in their own abilities to become engaged and confident in their own ability to solve problems.”

Regardless of a student’s goals, Feng has a few pieces of advice he shares with anyone he meets. First, he encourages students to attend all of the University's technology-related career fairs, including Penn State's annual career fair at the Bryce Jordan Center, the College of IST's Pro Expo and Future Forum, and career fairs hosted at other colleges on campus.

Next, he suggests that students attend employer-led information sessions held on campus and apply to a variety of opportunities to keep their options open.

Lastly, he advises students to immerse themselves in projects outside the classroom that interest them. He explained that working on a project based on personal interest as opposed to a required assignment is an easy way to get experience and explore passions — and it is something that can be very attractive to potential employers.

Feng credits his experiences as an IST student with advancing his professional opportunities. As he looks toward his post-graduation life, he is excited to share what he’s learned and the resources available at the University with other students.

"The new peer career assistant position is impacting students by showing the level of commitment that the College of IST and other students have made to helping students achieve their career goals,” said Feng. “Showing what is possible with an IST degree makes a huge difference. I hope students will one day enjoy internships and job hunting as much as I do.”

For the remainder of the fall semester, students can meet with a peer career assistant on a walk-in basis on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in E103 Westgate Building. The College of IST also is seeking students to serve as peer career assistants for the spring 2019 semester. Interested students can learn more about the opportunity by reviewing the position description.

Last Updated November 12, 2018