Every fall, Champlain welcomes parents, families, friends, and alumni to return to our beautiful Burlington campus to be in community with one another. For some, this annual tradition—called Champlain Weekend—is a homecoming of sorts, providing an opportunity to revisit familiar faces and experience revamped spaces. Such was the case for Jared Knepper ’19, when asked by a former professor to participate in a panel discussion at this year’s Champlain Weekend. Knepper, being Knepper, jumped at the opportunity.
The Management and Innovation alum currently works as an associate operations manager and executive assistant at The New York Times. If you’re wondering how he landed such an impressive job, you’re not alone. We asked him about it during his weekend back at Champlain, and he told us the key is building relationships with others, no matter where you go.
After graduation, Knepper worked in Vermont for a time before deciding to pursue his career in a new city. He started throwing applications everywhere around New York and Pennsylvania—60 to 70 in total, with many custom cover letters. After all of his hard work, only two companies responded—one being The New York Times.
During Knepper’s interview, the recruiter for the position admitted that he never would have pulled Knepper’s resume for the role, and it was actually the hiring manager who insisted he be interviewed. Why? “I think the cover letter was probably what did it for her, it was addressed to the hiring manager, too.” But after their initial conversation, the recruiter was just as convinced.
Though Knepper did not get the job he initially applied for, the recruiter advised him to try for a different role. Eventually Knepper was able to be hired as a temp before being offered a full-time position. “It was really just wait it out, wait it out, be patient, and those are not necessarily my strong suits. But, for The Times I was willing to give it a shot, and it worked out.”
Putting Yourself Out There
Throughout his time at Champlain, as well as in his professional career, his best opportunities arose from the friendships he created along the way. Both in academics and in his social life, Knepper felt right at home in the Champlain community. Returning for Champlain Weekend to talk about his experience was a no-brainer. “I mean, the ease with which I reached out to three professors and they said, ‘Oh my God, let’s spend time together today,’ when I said I’m going to be in town for the weekend.”
Today, even with distance and time separating Knepper from his former Champlain professors and peers, he can still rely on the friendliness and supportive attitudes of people in the community. “It felt so easy and familial, and I don’t keep in touch with a lot of people with huge regularity—on the academic side at least. But, when I do reach out there’s still a connection there.”
Knepper specifically credits the Core curriculum for many of his successes in communication: “I might have a hot take in that I think Core was the most valuable part of my Champlain experience.” He notes that the rigor and complexity of many Core classes forced him to be persuasive and find clarity of voice through both his written and verbal communication.
Now his days are spent emailing, collaborating, and connecting: “I have used my writing skill incessantly just in an operational role at The New York Times. I mean the door opened, I assume, because of communication skills, and then the follow-up happened because I was relational and that’s what I love.”
But what is communication but a tool to express yourself? Skill can only get you so far in your career—it’s character that leads people further, and Knepper has a lot of it. During his time at Champlain, Knepper completed an internship at the Echo Leahy Center. Much like his long path to a job at The New York Times, his path to this internship made clear how valuable a good interview can be. “I interviewed for an events and marketing internship, and the person who did the interview told me that she thought I would be bored with it,” he recalls.
Knepper exudes intelligence and authenticity, so much so that his description of his studies at Champlain left that interviewer with a uniquely inspired idea. “She loved the interdisciplinary sort of approach to business and even just the name of my major. She was like, ‘We’re going to make a Management and Innovation internship,’ and then just gave me a whole array of operational and HR tasks to do alongside the staff, helping them and strategizing all the while about what could be improved across the whole organization.”
Finding Your Footing
He values the opportunities that Champlain gave him to build his interpersonal skills, as well as the time it gave him to explore and develop his own professional persona. He commented, “I didn’t realize to what magnitude my whole life ahead would depend on making relationships. So I really cherish the way that Champlain emphasized the power of meaningful connections. From the professors I had here, and with my coworkers who generously introduced me to folks just trying to boost me up and help me find my footing when I went out into the so-called ‘real world.’”
The biggest lesson Knepper learned from his time in Champlain, as well as in his career journey, is not being afraid to get personal, to be yourself, and to explore all the possibilities that are in front of you. He hopes to continue his exploration, using all the skills he’s learned along the way, but also remembering to enjoy the ride: “I’ve been in New York for such a short time—in the full scope of things—and I want to soak up New York as much as I can. If I’m at work twelve hours every day, I can’t do that. So, it’s all about balance.”