A year after graduating with a degree in accounting, Penn State Smeal alum Joe Kennedy found himself at a professional crossroads. Believing his business skills could help organizations tie the importance of employee engagement to the bottom line, he wanted to pivot his career from accounting to human resource management.

He turned to Smeal’s Alumni Career Services team to help with the transition.

Smeal’s career coaches say they routinely offer coaching services to mid-career alumni looking to transition within a current role or to a new field altogether but are beginning to see an uptick in early careerists wanting to make a similar change.

Although the coaching approach may be similar, for early careerists, there can be a much shorter turnaround time given a company’s need to hire entry-level talent quickly and a job seeker not having the hard brand of an established career.

Kennedy, who lives and works in central Pennsylvania, began working with a Smeal career coach in August 2022 and the two quickly developed a plan for how he should proceed with his job search.

All degree-granted Smeal alumni are eligible for up to five one-hour 1:1 coaching sessions, free of charge.

Kennedy started by researching regional job opportunities, including positions at Penn State, focusing on roles that required skills in finance and accounting while also offering potential growth in employee engagement. He also prioritized networking with peers and faculty and staff at Penn State.

He credits Smeal’s Alumni Career Service team with helping him secure a full-time position that utilizes his accounting skills while also offering the opportunity to grow and learn around topics in employee onboarding and engagement.

“Working with the team helped accelerate my search,” Kennedy says. “Within months, I’d accepted a position as financial coordinator for the School of Hospitality Management in Penn State’s College of Health & Human Development. Now, I am focused on upskilling on topics related to human resource management and will start the Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources & Employment Relations program through Penn State this fall.

“I’m so glad to have learned about Smeal’s career coaching program. Everything you experience and everyone you meet in life is a valuable lesson about yourself and your values that will help propel you into the person you are meant to be,” he says.

–Keleigh Asbury