Sidelined swimmer creates career mentoring program for student athletes

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor

After sustaining a collegiate-career-ending concussion last fall, senior swimmer Carly Whitmer has found a new way to make an impact as a student athlete by creating a tailored career mentoring program.

Updated: Oct. 10, 2016 at 2:40 p.m.

After sustaining a concussion last October, Carly Whitmer wasn’t sure she would ever be able to swim collegiately again.

When she found out the injury would hold her out of her fourth and final year of swimming, the senior accounting major decided to focus her energy elsewhere in the Athletic Department by establishing a career mentoring program for other student athletes to help them pursue their professional goals.

Reflecting on her own experiences as a student athlete, Whitmer said she knows many of her peers’ rigorous practice and competition schedules make it hard to seek career guidance from the Center for Career Services.

“What I’ve noticed through my peers is that a lot of people put their careers on the backburner, especially in the first few years, because of a lack of time,” Whitmer said. “I wanted to create something where mentors like myself could meet student athletes where they work, such as study hall.”

Whitmer, who is a Fowler Student Program coordinator in the F. David Fowler Career Center at the business school, holds career mentoring sessions every other Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. – a time when most students do not have class – in the Colonials Club inside the Smith Center.

Whitmer said she reviews resumes and cover letters and assists student athletes with their applications for internships and jobs. Fowler Student Program Coordinators, who provide similar career mentoring at the Fowler Career Center, have partnered with Whitmer as co-mentors.

Mentors also connect student athletes with industry career coaches, who provide targeted job search advising, interview preparation and networking strategies, Whitmer said.

Before turning her attention to career mentoring, Whitmer found success in the pool: In her first two years, Whitmer broke the 200-yard butterfly program record three times over. She was named the swimming and diving team’s MVP for the 2014–2015 season and has also been named to the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s honor roll in each of her three seasons as a Colonial.

The senior swimmer was recently selected as one of 50 students to participate in an inaugural masters of accounting in data and analytics program sponsored by KPMG, one of the “big four” accounting firms. Once she graduates, Whitmer said she plans to begin working for KPMG full time.

Her experience as both a successful student and athlete give her a unique knowledge of what kind of specific tools and workshops can be most useful to her peers. By bringing career services to athletes directly, Whitmer’s mentoring program makes career advising both more accessible and more customized for athletes, she said.

“There’s a huge void, I think, between some student athletes knowing what they want to do and actually getting there,” Whitmer said. “It’s also something I’m super passionate about – I look forward to helping people, and it’s something that I’ve had a lot of experience with.”

Whitmer added that she found that student athletes weren’t getting started on career coaching early enough, and said she hopes to advise underclassmen.

“We hope to target the freshmen and sophomores, have them understand the career opportunities that are there for them,” she said. “We focus on how to get a great resume, a great cover letter and how to jumpstart the career search process.”

Although all 10 student athletes who have attended Whitmer’s two sessions so far have been from the School of Business, Whitmer hopes to grow her mentoring program by expanding it to student athletes interested in other fields.

Kathleen Duffy, the director of Undergraduate Career Management for the Fowler Career Center at the business school, has worked closely with Whitmer by overseeing the advising sessions and connecting with the University’s Center for Career Services.

“The campus ambassadors from the Center of Career Services have been a huge help because they can advise student athletes in the Columbian College [of Arts and Sciences], School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Elliott School [of International Affairs] and other schools at GW,” Duffy said.

Junior gymnast Jillian Winstanley, who is also a student in the School of Business, sought mentoring from Whitmer during one of the sessions. For her, the meetings are an easier and more comfortable way to get advice.

“When I found out that the career services were going to be at the Colonials Club – a situation and environment that was familiar to me – it was a lot more convenient and less intimidating than going to the Fowler Career Center for the first time and not really knowing what questions to ask,” Winstanley said. “Knowing Carly and having [the services] at my disposal at the Smith Center was a huge reason I went.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet reported that Whitmer is an international business major. She was formerly an international business major but now majors in accounting. We regret this error.

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