Career Strategy

Three Strayer University alumni share how they have built on their education to achieve career goals and create lasting change.

A champion for his community

Delegate Carl Jackson (BBA ’08, MBA ’18) is hard at work making a difference in his own backyard. The oldest of four children in a single parent home, Carl grew up seeing economic and social struggles in his Baltimore, Md. neighborhood. Today, he is in a position to bring positive change to Baltimore County, as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates for District 8.

After experiencing local issues firsthand, Carl resolved to volunteer and participate in politics wherever possible. To extend his impact, Carl took a full-time position after high school, working long days while attending Strayer University in the evening. He completed his bachelor’s degree in three years and returned to earn his MBA.

“Strayer made me a well-rounded person,” he says, “I learned how to communicate effectively. I gained confidence as a public speaker. I started recognizing my own potential.”

The persistence required to earn a college degree while working full time would continue to serve him as he entered his first run for office, only to then lose by 570 votes. Yet, he remained focused on the future: “After the election, I was still involved with my community and identifying initiatives that I felt were important for our community to thrive.”

Less than a year later, a retiring delegate wanted Carl to fill his seat, and this time, he succeeded in winning the election. Carl became the first black man to represent the diverse District 8. “I wasn’t seeing a lot of resources and investments coming to my community, so I was prepared to hit the ground running on how to make a difference.”

Carl recently celebrated his first piece of legislation to be passed unanimously by both the Maryland House and Senate, and then sent to the governor to sign into law. HB 93 Consumer Protection — Mobile Home Purchasers imposes a duty of good faith and fair dealing on mobile home retailers and provides other consumer protections for the industry.

He has also focused his attention on a particularly underserved area of his district. “I am proud of our accomplishment to secure $3.6 million in funds to build a new recreation center,” he says. “This will act not just as a place for kids to stay out of trouble, but also as a gathering place for the entire community. We faced some challenges in getting it done, but after working with Baltimore County and testifying before the Capital Budget Subcommittee, it will be a reality in the near future.”

When asked about how he sees his political career taking shape, Jackson is modest, yet optimistic. “I’ll admit that I am fielding questions about what’s next and what my goals are—it’s good to have a career strategy in place,” he says. “But, my priority right now is to represent my district, bring funding to my constituents, and make it a better, safer place to be.”

Reflecting on his educational and professional journey to this point, Carl advises, “It’s never too late. You can still be what you want to be, and education can help you on that path. My path was unconventional, and now I sit at the table with senators and government leaders.

“Just go for it. Be bold. Invest in yourself through education. It could change your life.”

Focused on the climb

When Sommer Hoskins (BBA ’19, JWMI student) reflects on her career, one core principle of her career strategy stands out: never give up and keep moving. “I just had one overarching goal to keep advancing and doing my best work.”

After a successful 15 years at South Jersey Federal Credit Union, Sommer stepped out of her comfort zone, to take a new job as a Mortgage Loan Processor for NVR Inc. “It was hard to leave a company where I had worked for so long and the people I spent so much time around,” she says. “But for me to advance, I knew I had to leave. Trying something new is so important for growth.”

Sommer is now in a position to help others with career planning, mentoring and managing her team and working with them on their individual growth plans. “We set goals together and then I’m in touch with them regularly, checking in and providing constant feedback. I encourage everyone to seek and receive feedback with an open mind,” she says. “It helps employees find their voice. I always tell people if you need more feedback, or you want to provide feedback about something to make a change, speak up. The worst anyone can say is no.”

Sommer applies those principles to her own career as well. “I hope to continue working my way up and serving on the leadership team at my new company,” she says, “and to keep applying everything I’ve learned along the way.”

Being the change

Alicia Jackson (BBA ’19) says her education will lead her to her true passion. “My goal is to work as a juvenile court advocate. I want to help youth in the court system access available resources and, eventually, help them re-enter society. That’s what I want to do—be there for them from beginning to end and serve as a support system that they might not otherwise have.”

A well-defined goal is the first, and often most important step, in the career planning process. Alicia’s career roadmap involves a big change from her current role and industry, but she knows the steps necessary to get there.

“It’s possible. Of course it’s possible,” says the mother of four on making a mid-career change. “Anything worth having doesn’t happen overnight.”

“I believe that everything you learn is useful—I’ll rely on skills and knowledge from my Strayer courses, as well as my current job, and layer on new skills I acquire to move into the justice system,” she says.

Alicia points to other resources that will help her: “I’m not afraid to ask questions or ask for help. I’m always looking for opportunities to get involved, to network with those already working in the field, to find mentors in my fellow Strayer alumni,” she says.

Ultimately, changing careers requires desire and persistence, something Alicia already knows she has. “I had children early in life, so I didn’t pursue education right out of high school. I always knew I would go back,” she says. “Finishing my undergraduate degree has opened doors and given me the confidence to move forward with my goals.”