The Benefits of Teamwork

Career Exploration Program expanding to all student-athletes

By Tamara Lytle M’83

Trinity Football Coach Jeff Devanney ’93 teaches teamwork, but in this case, the goal has nothing to do with scoring touchdowns.

Devanney helped pioneer the Career Exploration Program, which leverages his contact list full of football alumni to help current players prepare for life after Trinity. The football program offers mentoring, assistance in looking for internships, and training in job-search skills such as résumé writing. A highlight each year is a February event—think speed dating—where 40 to 50 alumni sit at tables while students circulate and learn about various careers. Panel-discussion topics include finance, law, commercial real estate, and the military.

Current and former Bantam football players are among the attendees at a February 2018 career-networking event.

And this year, the plan is to grow the idea to reach all of the college’s student-athletes.

Karen Shu, assistant director of athletics, will run the Trinity Athletics Four-Year Career Development Plan as the program expands to all of the college’s 30 varsity teams. Events including workshops on personal branding and networking skills will be held in Ferris Athletic Center. While some offerings will be hosted for specific teams, others will be open to all student-athletes. The Center for Student Success and Career Development will partner in the effort, and coaches will tap their rosters of alumni.

Student-athletes also will be able to use a new Trinity-wide career-networking platform run by PeopleGrove, which will connect both students and alumni, according to Joe Catrino, director of career development. The system will have affinity groups based on geography and shared interests, including particular sports.

Shu, herself a former rower at Boston College, says the program is unusual for a Division III institution. “Life beyond Trinity is so important to us—making sure our student-athletes are set up for success,” says Shu, who started at Trinity in June.

Archimede Jerome ’17 and his mother, a nurse, both liked the sound of the Career Exploration Program when they were deciding on which college he should attend. While a student, he got advice from attorney Macey Russell ’80 on how to navigate a job search and carry himself as a professional. “He was brutally honest about what skills you needed to develop,” says Jerome. “The biggest thing I took away is how and when to ask for help.”

Some of that help came from Herman Brito Jr. ’12, a former football player who recommended him for a job at Marsh, an insurance brokerage company. They now work five cubicles away from each other in New York City. These days, Jerome is sitting on the other side of the table at Devanney’s events and telling his manager at work about the 75 individuals back in Hartford who would make great candidates. “She said, ‘Keep sending them over if they work as hard as you and Herman.’ ”

Benefits extend beyond helping football players learn about careers and obtain jobs. The program also helps Trinity attract players and ties alumni closer to the school.

“It’s a huge recruiting tool,” Devanney says. “When you talk to moms and dads and you tell them you’re going to do all these things for their kids if they work hard for four years, it’s reassuring.”

The stronger connection with alumni has worked out a little differently than expected. “The vision was to get the 50- and 60-year-old guys to help the 18-year-olds,” Devanney says. But more and more 20-something alums are taking part as mentors. “What we didn’t foresee is a lot of the younger alums have their jobs because of this program, so they are really excited about giving back.”

Devanney says the large number of mentors helps student athletes grow their professional networks and helps Trinity increase its fundraising base. Of the 2,300 alumni on Devanney’s email list, hundreds are active in the program. Last year, 12 of the team’s 18 seniors landed jobs through the program.

Everyone on the team has the chance to participate, but they have to earn the right to have a mentor by being on time to events, keeping grades up, and demonstrating responsibility.

“It has very little to do with whether you are starting quarterback or third string. It’s about how you handle yourself as a young man,” says Devanney. Most players, starting as sophomores, work with a mentor who can give advice and hook them into professional networks beyond Trinity, Devanney says.

Jim Whitters ’62, a former Trinity football player who started the program nearly 12 years ago, said the connections are especially important to student-athletes who come from modest backgrounds where their families don’t have large, built-in professional networks. And for alumni like Whitters, a retired trial attorney from Boston, advising the young players has been a highlight. “It’s enormously worthwhile, fulfilling, meaningful work.” Of Devanney, he says, “He’s creating winners for life.”