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Alumni Perspective: Heather Hardinger

Heather HardingerGraduation Year: 2009

Major: International-Multicultural Studies

Current Position: (Economic Development) Programs & Communications Director for Taney County Partnership at the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce

Location: Springfield, MO (Originally from Fairbanks, AK)

Q: What is your favorite memory from EU?

Developing relationships with people from all over the world! And getting to travel and sing with the EU Concert Choir all 4 years.

At EU, I learned to be creative, resourceful and innovative. In my classes, I always felt like the odd person out – no one had quite the career focus I did during my undergraduate years. That ended up being the best possible scenario for me because I had to think critically about everything.

Q: How did EU help you identify or develop your calling?

When I graduated, I wasn’t sure where life would take me. At EU, I learned to be creative, resourceful and innovative. In my classes, I always felt like the odd person out – no one had quite the career focus I did during my undergraduate years. That ended up being the best possible scenario for me because I had to think critically about everything.

Ultimately, I wanted a major I knew I would find useful long after graduation day, and I certainly found that in the social science department. I am happy to say that I use the knowledge I gained in my major every day in the work I now do. How many people can say that?

My time at Evangel taught me that God cares so much about people in need. That spurred me to find meaningful work ministering to underrepresented groups, from the homeless community in Nashville to serving with a diverse crew through AmeriCorps STL in Springfield and helping connect displaced workers to good jobs.

Looking back, every moment I spent learning and building community in my college years has made such an impact on my life today. All of it matters. Even moments of failure or disappointment helped me learn and grow in my personal and professional development. And I’m grateful for the experience.

Q: How did your experience at EU prepare you for life after graduation?

At EU, I constantly sought out opportunities to lead, despite my sometimes-crippling anxiety! Singing solos in front of packed, 10 a.m. chapel hours? No big deal. Becoming president of a once-defunct political club in a crucial election year, helping students register to vote and become familiar with candidates, issues and platforms? Not scary at all!

I joke, I joke. But I wanted to participate in activities that challenged me; things I thought might actually be too difficult in execution. I wanted the opportunity to do more than try. And I had some wonderful professors who encouraged me and supported me in those efforts and I am a better person for having had those experiences at EU.

In this stage of my career, I continue to innovate and be brave. I continue to lead and encourage others to take courage and stand out in their truth and I continue to learn and be coachable. My Evangel experience was instrumental in helping me grow and tackle the tough challenges that life after graduation brings.

Q: What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?

As a Workforce professional, I am more than happy to answer this question!

  • No matter what your major, participate in activities that help you to become an expert communicator. In every industry, we hear employers say that college graduates do not have this skill. If you can stand out as an exceptional communicator, I can almost guarantee that you can land any job you want!
  • Be coachable. Don’t expect to land your dream job right out of college. Put in your time, do the work, take advantage of opportunities that you are passionate about and that make you stand out.
  • Get involved in the local community. There is a wealth of knowledge to gain from volunteering at local organizations and getting involved in networking groups in Springfield. Use your summer vacations to hone your craft, whatever that may be, and give back to the community. Apply to be on a board of directors of an organization you really care about – they need young people! Just do it! The connections I’ve made through my volunteer work have been a benefit in more ways than one.

Q: What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from EU or AGTS?

Passion. I can always tell a candidate is a good fit by the passion they have for the work. Even if they lack the technical work experience, I appreciate a candidate who has volunteered or otherwise taken the initiative to spearhead relevant projects or activities they really care about.

Another trait I look for in a candidate is an innovative spirit. I want people on my team who share my vision but have unique ways of getting there. In an interview, I love to hear from candidates how they plan to make a difference at our organization and what tools they’d use to achieve common goals.

Categories: Cultivate