Leveraging the liberal arts

After graduation, Claire Allen (B.A.'14, International Studies and Spanish) landed a great job at Kimberly-Clark. She now returns regularly to campus to recruit fellow Badgers to join the Fortune 500 manufacturer. One key to her success in the business world? The L&S Career Initiative’s career prep course.

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Claire Allen speaks at the opening ceremony of the Career Exploration Center in January. Photo by Bryce Richter, UW-Madison

Getting started: I took the Taking Initiative: InterLS 210 course my junior year. At that point I knew I wanted a more business-focused career, but worried my liberal arts degrees could be a turn-off for companies that “only look at business degrees.” Throughout the semester, I realized how proud I was to be a liberal arts student and how I could use it to my advantage in the job-application process

Practice, practice, practice: I worked with L&S Career Services in practicing interviews, learning how to make the Career Fair productive and networking. Throughout my senior year, I became very comfortable setting up informational interviews to make connections and learn about potential career interests. By the end of the year, I had interviewed with Nielsen, bswift, Brooksource and Primerica, but ultimately settled on the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

Networking pays off: The funny story with Kimberly-Clark is that I did not make my first impression at the Career Fair, but rather through a connection; I knew they were pretty hard-line on only recruiting from the business school. Through my connection’s connection, I emailed the vice president of sales to learn about career opportunities — something I never would have done without practice through the class! 

Finding success: Three years later, I’m still very happy with my career choice. I am stationed at the home city of Kimberly-Clark, in Neenah, Wisconsin, as an export analyst. I work with all of our customers and mills in South America and the Caribbean to send our finished products and materials to make into final products. I get to use my Spanish skills occasionally, which is a pretty awesome part of the job, as I like talking with people from all over the world.  My favorite thing about working at K-C is the culture — it is a company very focused on work-life balance and flexibility. Additionally, the people I work with are great and I have made so many friends.

Keeping at it: The Taking Initiative course taught me the importance of being assertive on the job-hunt and in the workplace. Nobody will know your skills until you tell them — and sometimes it takes a few follow-up emails and phone calls to be able to tell them. Now I frequently set up meetings with other Kimberly-Clark employees who have roles I am interested it. Learning more from others has helped me to narrow my focus in what my next role will be.

Badger pride: I think the most valuable piece of a UW-Madison liberal arts education that is critical in the working world is the ability to creatively solve problems. Companies and organizations of all sizes need energized employees who are excited to fix a problem in an atypical way to drive positive results.