Spring 2024 Issue

Top Career Tips

From W&M Professional Development Week 2024

By Catherine Tyson ’20

William & Mary is committed to preparing lifelong learners equipped to navigate rapid change and thrive from their first job to their last. W&M’s annual Professional Development Week is a key part of this commitment. This year, close to 1,000 members of our community came together from Feb. 26-March 1 for a mix of virtual and live events for networking, career development and personal growth. Sessions were designed to provide useful insights to participants at all stages of their careers, from current students to executives. They featured learning objectives based on the National Association of College and Employers (NACE) career competencies.

Professional Development Week was sponsored by W&M’s Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement and the W&M Alumni Association. Thank you to all the alumni who generously volunteered their time to share valuable insights and practical tools gleaned over the course of their careers. Read on for their top career tips.


#1 Create a career you are proud of based on who you are.  

Early in his career, Oz Parvaiz ’99 was told that “Nice guys finish last.” After a few attempts at the tough guy routine, he decided it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t who he was. He embraced being kind and found it built trust in those around him. He now views kindness not as a weakness but as a superpower. So be yourself. Don’t let other people’s ideas of who you should be change who you truly are.

Watch the recording featuring Oz Parvaiz '92, Capital One.


#2 Flourishing in a fast-paced world requires living a life aligned with your values.

Caught up in the rush of daily life, we often lack the time to be thoughtful about our priorities and the direction of our lives. As a result, our wellness can suffer. According to Kelly Crace, vice president for health & wellness at W&M, taking agency over our lives begins with understanding our core values. Defining what is most important to us and actively working to live accordingly is essential to achieving a deeper state of wellness, productivity and fulfillment.

Watch the recording featuring Kelly Crace, William & Mary.


#3 There is only one version of you. Find your unique strengths and channel them.

If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. But how do you find what you love? According to W&M alumna Erin Ewart ’00, a critical part of the process is uncovering where your true strengths lie. These are strengths that go beyond what you are good at — rather, they are found at the intersection of what you do well and what energizes you. Understanding these strengths and using them as a navigational tool can help us find roles in which we thrive.

Watch the recording featuring Erin Ewart ’00, Careers for Social Impact.   


#4 Step out of your comfort zone and embrace productive conflict. 

Conflict, especially in the workplace, is a pain point most people seek to avoid. But delaying confrontation can lead to tension and miscommunication, negatively impacting us and our teams. In a session titled “Tools for Productive Conflict,” Gráinne Sibley ’99 challenged participants to face conflict head-on. Approaching challenging conversations with intentionality and a clear communication plan can ultimately improve our work environment and relationships.

Watch the recording featuring Gráinne Sibley ’99, Alpha Omega Leadership.


#5 Invest time in your team. The returns will be priceless. 

Whether kicking back at a company barbecue or giving feedback on performance, the key requirement for building strong teams is time. As a manager, when you spend time with your team members, you communicate that you care. So be curious. Get to know the people you work with on a personal level. Ask questions and actively listen. This will make your workplace a space of trust built on strong and sincere relationships.

Watch the recording featuring Kristen Vaughan ’00, Accenture Federal Services; AJ Dronkers ’08, Paycom; Andrea Deege ’94, Korn Ferry; and Denis Beausejour ’06, O.C. Tanner.


#6 Finding the profession that’s right for you requires immersive experiences.  

Especially early on in your career, it can be difficult to discover what you want to do and who you want to be. Internships are a great way to help you find the answers. Providing hands-on learning and real-world work experience, they can show you what you love and what you’d prefer to avoid. Regardless of what you take away from an internship, each experience is a step in the right direction.

Watch the recording featuring James Ambrose ’07, Microsoft; Royce McAllister ’07, Ticketmaster; Jane Raleigh ’13, Kennedy Center; Lydia Lee ’24, William & Mary; and Phil Heavilin, William & Mary.


#7 Look at artificial intelligence as a powerful tool, not an all-encompassing solution. 

AI might look like an unbiased guru capable of correctly solving every problem, but this is not the case. AI is created, optimized and ultimately used by human beings. It is, therefore, subject to some of the same mistakes and biases we see in ourselves. To successfully integrate AI in the workplace, we must evaluate it with the same rigor we apply to our own work and approach it as a tool, not a solution.

Watch the recording featuring Kira Allmann ’10, William & Mary; Gabrielle Hibbert ’17, New America; and Catherine Gregory ’09, Ada Lovelace Institute.


#8 The secret ingredient of a thriving career is relationships.

Fundamental to any successful career is a set of strong relationships. Whether with mentors, colleagues, managers or peers, the relationships we form over the course of our careers are invaluable, helping us navigate from one opportunity to the next. Be purposeful about investing in and maintaining relationships, even if it’s only meeting for coffee once a year. You never know what life has in store.

Watch the recording featuring JD Due, William & Mary; Jenay Barbee ’05, Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service; and Brian Jenkins ’16, Armed Services Arts Partnership.