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jim connon
Jim Connon and his daughter, Amanda, who graduated from Augustana in 2010

Connon to help students find Chicago-area jobs, internships

As Augustana College's new assistant director of employer relations, Jim Connon is excited to be helping students find good internships and jobs in the Chicago area, where he's based.

He started Aug. 31, and his excitement begins with joining the team at CORE (Careers, Opportunities, Research and Exploration) that has already put together an impressive foundation in Chicagoland, the home area for many of Augustana's students, and perhaps a target home for many others.

There is a long list of businesses in those northeast Illinois area codes that have hired Augustana students as interns. Connon said his first priority is taking it from there.

He plans to build on the work already done by Karen Peterson, Augustana director of employer relations, and Michael Edmondson, associate vice president for careers and professional development, and their CORE team.

"They've done a lot, and the fact that they've done as much as they have from the Quad Cities in the Chicago area is really a testament to the great team that we've got in CORE," he said.

From there, he wants to leverage connections that staff, alumni and parents have to expand internship possibilities, and then add his own considerable network of connections from his long and varied resume of business and community involvement in Chicagoland.

"And so far on all those fronts, I've seen there are some great opportunities for success," he said.

Experiences and contacts

Connon brings a varied background, and many varied contacts, to the position. The Oswego resident has worked in sales, marketing and, for 18 years, religious publishing, among other areas. He's excited to add this position to his resume, helping students add real-time job experience as they're working on their degrees, and good jobs after they graduate.

"I haven't worked just in one field," he said. "I've had the good fortune to work with different organizations in a lot of different fields. I think that's going to help me, having a greater appreciation of the work that organizations do. And a range of contacts, too.

"I've always had a wide range of interests," he added. "When I went to college, I studied speech communications/theater and mathematics, which is not the most common combination." During that North Central College career, he participated in national speech competitions and worked at the campus radio station.

Internships are valuable not only for the real workplace experience, contacts and references, but for helping students learn more about themselves and what they are most interested in pursuing, he said.

As a father of two daughters, he knows the importance of an internship — and of an Augustana education. His daughter Amanda, Augustana Class of 2010, has turned her music education degree into success as a teacher and band leader at Peoria Notre Dame High School, where she has built a strong marching band virtually from scratch, he said.

"I really believe in what Augustana College is doing," Connon said. "They work with students."

This position is a natural next step in his career, he said.

"It's almost as if someone wrote that job description for me," he said. "That's what it felt like. I wanted to apply as soon as I could."

A pent-up demand

The excitement is shared on campus. Peterson said Connon impressed his new teammates when he came to Rock Island.

"All of us in CORE are very excited to have Jim on board," she said. "We all knew that he was the right person for the job from the time that we met him. He is expert at developing long-term relationships with organizations, meeting the needs of the organizations and Augustana.

"It makes perfect sense to have a Chicago presence in career development, as the priority is in establishing increased placements in all academic areas for our students."

Connon's work in establishing relationships with employers is "important to Augustana, as many of our students seek job shadows, internships, and full-time entry level positions in the Chicago area," Peterson said. "This is true whether they grew up in the Chicago area or not.

"Although we do have some established relationships with organizations in the Chicago area, there is a pent-up demand for an increased number of internships and full-time entry-level jobs."

Augustana Provost Dr. Pareena Lawrence also expresses the importance of the Chicagoland presence for establishing relationships with employers.

"As we expand the programming offered by Career Development in CORE for our students and alumni, it is critical that we proactively cultivate meaningful and rewarding employment and internship opportunities," Lawrence said.

"To successfully do this we must develop and foster new relationships and strengthen continuing relationships with employers. As our key geographic concentration of both students and employers are in the Chicagoland region it was important that this position be focused and based out of Augustana's Chicagoland office."

Help for parents

Aside from the great benefit to students in having great options for internships and career connections, Connon sees his role as helping parents feel assured in the choice of Augustana as an institution that looks beyond the college degree.

"I think increasingly, parents are saying, ‘When you get a degree from this institution, what are the odds that my son or my daughter will be able to find work in what they're interested in doing?'" he said. "That's increasingly important. And I think this position can help increase the odds that students will find work that's really meaningful in a field that they studied."

And it benefits successful alumni in Chicagoland who may be in a position to provide internships or full-time jobs, Connon said.

"I think it gives them an opportunity to engage in the work of the college. It gives them an opportunity to give something back," he said.

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