USFSM student Tara Carroll addresses students and Sarasota County employees during a County Connections tour last year.

USFSM graduate grateful to County Connections Program

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: August 16, 2017

USFSM graduate grateful to County Connections Program

Eric Chojnowski

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 16, 2017) – Eric Chojnowski is thanking USF Sarasota-Manatee’s County Connections Program for his new job at Sarasota County’s Office of Financial Management.

“It definitely got the ball rolling,” he said.

The USFSM alum landed a fiscal consultant position last week after attending a tour of county offices in June arranged by USFSM’s Career Services Office. Before heading from campus in a van filled with students and other alums, he filled out an application in the hope of handing it off personally to a hiring manager or other county official.

“The meet and greet was good because it can be hard to get a county position,” said Chojnowski, a 2016 graduate of USFSM’s business management program. “I think being there in person really made the difference.”

Within a few weeks, Chojnowski was contacted by a hiring manager who asked him to sit for an interview and then, a few days later, to come in for another interview. Soon after, he was attending a round of training programs for future employees.

He said the County Connections Program helped because it enabled him to speak personally with managers and administrators. The discussions lasted only a few minutes, but they helped to make an impression when he turned in his application.

Hearing from alums about their career success is especially gratifying, said Neil Spirtas, an employer engagement specialist at USFSM’s Career Services Office.

“As our local workforce ages and changes, new opportunities are arising,” Spirtas said. “Both counties have been extremely cooperative in job placement opportunities for our students. In fact we have another County Connections event coming up in Manatee County on October 20th.”

Career Services launched County Connections last year at the invitation of county officials, who said governments were experiencing a drop in qualified workers because of retirements. As a result, positions were opening in a variety of career fields and settings for qualified workers, including many educated in finance, management, accounting, social sciences and criminology, along with other specialties.

Typically, students interested in the program contact Career Services about upcoming tours. The visits last a half-day and usually occur each semester at the Sarasota and Manatee government offices.

On mornings of the tour, the students meet at USFSM’s rotunda before boarding a van. The visits include talks by administrators, managers and human resources representatives about the roles of various government departments, available positions and potential openings. Some include brief interviews. Afterward, a USFSM van takes the students back to campus.

“I never envisioned having a government job until I went to my first County Connections tour in 2016,” said Chojnowski, who visited Manatee County in the spring. “After hearing from the speakers I realized that this is what I want to do. I didn’t know that what the county does is so important to the lives of so many people.”

To learn more about USFSM’s Career Services office, visit

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