Though the majority of Elon University students are not from North Carolina, many are beginning to call the Triangle home by finding jobs and internships in Raleigh. Time magazine recently profiled Raleigh as one of the fastest-growing economies in the United States, and Forbes rated Raleigh the third-best city for businesses and careers.
According to Time, companies are coming to Raleigh to collaborate with and recruit from the top universities in the surrounding area. Many businesses seek out young talent from North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.
“This is a market of, by and for smart young professionals,” said J. King White, an Elon graduate and business consultant based in Raleigh. “Companies are attracted to this economic and community dynamic because their workers increasingly demand a culture where they can live, work and play in the same vicinity. It seems like every week Raleigh appears on some publication’s Best Of list, and such acclaim is entirely valid.”
According to Forbes, the cost of living in Raleigh is 4.7 percent above the national average, relatively low compared to the cost of living in other major cities like Baltimore, which is 13.4 percent above the average. Because of this, Forbes cites Raleigh as one of the best cities for new graduates to launch their careers.
“Raleigh is a great fit for Red Hat, and I would say it’s a great fit for any growing company,” said Kim Jokisch, Director of Employment Branding and Media at Red Hat. “It’s a fast growing city. It’s a vibrant city. It’s a great place to work. There’s some energy on the streets, and there’s nightlife for young professionals after work.”
Raleigh is also part of North Carolina’s Qualified Business Venture Incentive program, which offers certain businesses a refund on state taxes. This draws in manufacturing, processing, research and service sector industries.
North Carolina offers up to $6 million in refund credit, with the majority going to Raleigh-based businesses Because of these incentives, businesses have flocked to Raleigh in recent years.
White said the most desirable cities for businesses possess a large percentage of well-educated professionals, a culture of innovation, a spirit of collaboration, a progressive community mindset and proximity to urban amenities and natural resources.
White claimed Raleigh possesses all five of these qualities. He worked to tap into that potential to create a business-friendly climate.
“Several years ago, Raleigh community leaders began a very concerted effort to encourage entrepreneurship as part of a much broader strategy for economic development,” White said. “Through ‘Innovate Raleigh,’ a major initiative involving thought leaders from a wide cross-section of the community, we identified big-picture needs, established goals and made action plans.”
As more businesses enter the Raleigh market, competition has increased, which is not necessarily a bad thing for emerging companies who feed off each others’ success.
“This unique dynamic explains the speed of our success. In large part by deliberately fostering a grass roots culture that embraces innovation, greater Raleigh has crafted a culture that welcomes the creative class,” White said.
Elon goes to RaleighThe Student Professional Development Center encourages Elon students to look in Raleigh and the rest of the Research Triangle region for internships and jobs.
Unfortunately, getting into some of the bigger companies is challenging for Elon students and alumni.
The Triangle is home to some of the largest and most well-known universities in the country, whose students compete with Elon students for the most coveted positions.
Lauren Duffy, associate director of corporate and employer relations at Elon, said students can leverage their Elon experiences, like study abroad or research, to stand out among other students.
“Elon experiences set [Elon students] apart from the pack,” Duffy ’09 who recently moved to Raleigh, said. “We really encourage our students to talk about these experiences to a potential employer.”
According to Duffy, relationships play a key role. The SPDC hosts information sessions with companies from all over the country. When students do not show up, she said it reflects poorly on the university and threatens the relationship Elon has with the employer.
“It’s crazy to pass up opportunities to meet employers,” she said.
Christine Mavraganis, a 2013 graduate, used SPDC opportunities to secure her job at Allscripts, a health care technology company based in Raleigh.
“They were the link to Allscripts because they got me to go to the job fair,”
Mavraganis said. “I found the Allscripts table, and when I introduced myself to the HR woman, she said she remembered my resume. I had an interview from there.”
Mital Patel, a 2009 Elon University School of Law graduate, agreed networking can significantly help Elon students stand out.
“There are a lot of alums already here in leadership positions,” Patel said.
He recommended students travel to Raleigh for events like SPARKcon, a three-day career fair held in downtown Raleigh every September, to meet employers.
Learning a little bit about the geography of Raleigh is not a bad idea, Duffy joked.
“When I was a student, my perception of Raleigh was Southpoint Mall, which is really in Durham,” she said.
During fall break 2013, the SPDC led City Treks, an opportunity for students to meet and network with companies in both Charlotte and the Triangle. The group of students visited SAS, HQ Raleigh, Capstrat, IMG, Mullen and the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.
Raleigh races forwardThese companies are a paft of a trend in Raleigh. Technology start-ups and the health care industry represent the biggest sectors of the city, according to Forbes.
“Industries cluster together. They need each other to survive,” Duffy said.
Patel said Raleigh will continue to grow in this way.
“Raleigh will be one of the hubs in the south for creativity, design and entrepreneurship, very similar to what Atlanta is,” he said.
According to Patel, Elon students can become a part of Raleigh’s transformation, and as a result, they can become leaders in the growth of the region as a whole.
Some alumni, young and old, have already made their marks on the region.
Graham Rountree, a 2009 graduate, currently lives in Raleigh and works there for TriMark Internet Solutions.
After graduating from Elon, Rountree moved back to his hometown of Raleigh. Since then, he has watched the city change.
“[Raleigh] has changed from a sleepy southern town to a more nationally acclaimed city,” he said.
But job opportunities aren’t the only reason to move to the Triangle, according to Rountree.
There is a growing restaurant, culture and crafts scene. Breweries are popping up throughout the Triangle and downtown Raleigh.
In November 2013, the Triangle Business Journal named TriMark as one of the top 50 fastest growing companies in the region.
“We’ve grown fast because of such talented people in Raleigh,” Rountree said. “Timing is a part of it, too. Ten years ago there were hardly any digital marketing agencies.”
Rountree said TriMark Internet Solutions and the tech industry as a whole will continue to grow.
Standing out in a competitive marketMavraganis, originally from Pennsylvania, did not choose Raleigh for the job opportunities — she had other options. She chose Raleigh for its environment and future opportunities.
“I liked Raleigh better because it’s a young environment,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities here, and I wouldn’t have to move if I wanted to get another job in the future.”
After graduating, White spent five years as the director of alumni and parent relations at Elon. He then moved to Raleigh and helped establish the region’s original cellular telephone network, which is now Verizon.
He founded the Triangle Alumni Chapter of Elon and now works as a business consultant and networker in the Triangle region.
He said that each year, the number of Elon alumni working in Raleigh and the Triangle increases.
“Each year, more and more Elon grads discover Raleigh — likewise, the Raleigh community is becoming better acquainted with Elon,” White said. “Recent grads comprise the largest share of attendees at our Triangle alumni chapter events, and these events draw more from this area each time.”
For students looking to work in Raleigh, Mavraganis recommended taking initiative in finding internships and connections.
“Don’t expect somebody else to help you if you’re not willing to help yourself.,” she said. “If you don’t know what you want to do, even the SPDC can’t help you.”
Students who want to work in the growing technology industry will need computer skills, but also communications skills, a match Jokisch said isn't always easy to find.
And they still have 800 associate jobs to fill across the globe this year.
“It’s what you know, and that’s all your functional skill set, but it’s also how you go about doing your work,” Jokisch said. “We’re looking for students that will come to Red Hat with a lot of passion, who are energized by their work.”
Rountree said students who want to work in the digital fields need to have good speaking skills and strong leadership potential. They need to be able to handle stress and solve problems quickly.
Mavraganis, a strategic communications major, says she had no problem fitting into the Raleigh market despite the heavy technology emphasis.
“I think sometimes communications majors don’t feel unique, but I was the only strategic communications major in our college graduates group at Allscripts,” Mavraganis said. “The leader that talked to our group said he thought communications is really one of the most relevant majors.”
Elon grads who enter the workforce with a well-rounded skill set, experience studying abroad and good communication skills would be wise to seek out Raleigh companies.
Raleigh has become a hub of new talent, innovation and creativity that is not only profitable but also exciting for new graduates.
“If I were a rising junior or senior at Elon today, I’d certainly have Raleigh on my short list of markets to vet,” White said. “It’s an innovative, open-source city. It’s an increasingly cosmopolitan city with a diverse set of young professionals, most of whom landed here after growing up elsewhere.”