How do you transition from student to professional? Or prepare to go from unpaid internship to full-fledged benefits? There may not be a how-to manual on adjusting to corporate life, but there are resources to set recent graduates up for success. Broad College of Business alum Stephen Brieloff (BA Marketing ’13) faced many of these scary adjustments when he left Michigan State University for corporate life in Chicago, which inspired him to create Corporate State University (CSU), a resource targeted at upcoming and recent college graduates about to enter the corporate world.
What struck Brieloff most when he moved into his first full-time role at Discover was not what he anticipated—in fact, he was pleasantly surprised.
“The reason I started it [CSU] was because I noticed a lot of similarities between the working world and what I did as an undergrad. Small things, like the fact at the HQ there’s a cafeteria and IM sports teams,” said Brieloff. “It got me thinking, ‘this isn’t all too different.’ But the perception I had as a student was that it was a huge, daunting shift that changes everything about your life and lifestyle.”
Brieloff started documenting his observations and, before long, had nearly 70 single-spaced pages containing his experiences. His initial idea was to publish a book, but instead he put it in the form of a blog to continue sharing real-time updates, which he has continued doing since March 2016.
Brieloff is filling what he believes to be a gap for emerging professionals. His blog’s philosophy follows a mindset that experience isn’t always measured in terms of age or length of time; rather, the quality of the experience and how it relates to one’s career goals. “I use my age to better educate people that are about to make that transition,” said Brieloff. He asked himself questions and now strives to give honest, straightforward answers: “What is it really like for me? For someone who’s 23 – what do I actually need to do and how do I operate? What do I incorporate from what these older experienced people are doing and how do I be effective at my job?”
CSU has been a one-man show run by Brieloff up until a few months ago, when he welcomed an intern from DePaul University to assist in social media management. On the CSU website, users can find Brieloff’s blog, which features his posts along with others from guest writers on a weekly basis. Brieloff also dives into personal finances on his adulting page, which offers videos that discuss topics like 401Ks, how to tackle student loan debt, and how to select the right credit card.
His next push forward is to increase his speaking engagements to get face-to-face interaction with students. “I touch on are things that students won’t hear in school,” said Brieloff. “What do you do in a networking happy hour? What if my manager adds me on Facebook? [It’s] being a resource for those questions that we have, but don’t feel comfortable asking.”
For Brieloff, being a mentor to students and interns has been a rewarding experience. “My favorite part is helping people cut the learning curve and find success sooner,” he said. “I struggled when I first started out, and if I had something like this [CSU] to ease some of my tensions, relax a little more, and understand that it’s just work and not the most important thing in the world, I think I would have been much more successful, comfortable with myself, and relatable to other people.”