Joni Hongisto ’20, an international student from Kaarina, Finland, has found success at Plymouth State University and beyond, having secured employment with global research and advisory company Gartner before his senior year.
A leader in his program and cocurricular roles on campus, Hongisto, a marketing major with a concentration in professional sales and a global tourism minor, has drawn on Plymouth State’s many opportunities. Hongisto serves on the business program’s Student Advisory Council, working closely with faculty and administration as a voice for the student body. As a member of the International Business Club, he helps expand possibilities for business students by hosting alumni and guest speakers from around the world, all while leading the men’s soccer team as captain for the last three seasons. When he’s not studying or serving his community, he works in University Advancement as a gift processor and for Athletics as event staff.
Academically, Hongisto has engaged in career-stimulating experiences facilitated by the Professional Sales Program, including real-world learning situations and exposure to corporate sponsors. In one of his classes, he collaborated with the New Hampshire Boat Museum in Wolfeboro Falls.
“We did business consulting for the organization to better their business model and to improve their plan moving forward,” says Hongisto. “I enjoyed working with a real client, which is something Plymouth does really well.” In another class, he traveled to Quebec, Canada, to do hands-on work in the tourism field.
In addition to course projects, the Professional Sales Program runs dozens of collegiate sales competitions, elevator pitch competitions, and networking events during a typical fall/spring semester.
“Students get coaching, mentoring, and evaluations from professionals in various fields,” says Director of the PSU Professional Sales Program Bob Nadeau. “Corporate partners participate and engage with students in the classroom. In turn, these educational events lead to employers making qualified hires from our nationally recognized sales program. Data from national sales programs show that students in these programs will average 2.8 job offers five months before graduation.”
Hongisto is evidence of this data. Come September, he will be joining 18 PSU alumni in working for Gartner. Through the networking events and corporate partnerships, he established a relationship with a PSU alumnus who works for the company in Boston. The alumnus mentored Hongisto through the interview process and recommended him for hire. Through this connection, Hongisto landed an intenship at Gartner’s London office last summer and was ultimately offered a full-time position.
“Plymouth gave me a huge leg up,” Hongisto says. “Our Professional Sales Program is phenomenal in that most people get jobs before they graduate. I was fortunate to have that before my senior year. Plymouth really strives to give students the opportunity to build relationships with each other and with alumni. It’s so valuable.”
Alumni Relations supports Professional Sales and other PSU programs in providing extensive opportunities for students. “We connect students with alumni by partnering with Clusters and departments to bring alumni in as guest speakers or panelists,” says Director of Alumni Relations Rodney Ekstrom. “We’ve also done career mentoring programs, where we pair up students with alumni in their field. This is something we plan to expand.”
Like Hongisto, Kylie Hershey ’19 exemplifies the success of these real-world networks. As a junior, Hershey attended an alumni event at Quick Base, a Boston software company. When the firm interviewed her on campus, she had already connected with and impressed the alumni who worked there, as well as senior management. She was hired by Quick Base right out of college and is doing well in her first year. “These success stories happen across all disciplines and Clusters,” says Ekstrom. “Networking can sound stuffy or intimidating, but at its core, it’s the practice of making friends in your career field.”
This practice, both professionally and personally, has been essential for Hongisto in his time at Plymouth. “I’m nearly 4,000 miles from home. I wouldn’t have stayed here if I didn’t feel like family. My professors come to my games. I know people on a first name basis, and they know me. I can walk to class and fist bump the police officer. I can go to restaurants down the street and hug the owner because I haven’t seen her in a while. That’s important to me. I don’t know if I would have experienced that had I chosen to go somewhere else. The relationships I’ve made here I’ll never forget.”