By SARAH R. SCHWARTZ ’10
Photography JORDAN RICHARDS ’15
Mitchell Cohen ’12, assistant bid coordinator for Benjamin Foods, approaches his goals the way he approaches a ladder: It’s one foot after another, one rung at a time until he reaches the destination. Simple enough. But when the first few rungs are missing, as it is for many recent graduates searching for that first job, Cohen explains it’s time to get creative rather than remain on the floor. Sometimes you have to make your own opportunities.
After a long day at the office, Cohen grabs a seat by the door at the Keswick Tavern. But he certainly isn’t the worse for wear. As he animatedly relates the hectic events of his day—he was filling in for his new boss who was on vacation—his tone is not one of complaint but of happy discovery. He’s found an industry he likes and colleagues he can trust.
Cohen didn’t begin his journey in Glenside. Initially, he set out to pursue a dual degree in Culinary Arts and Marketing/Communications at Johnson and Wales University (JWU) in Providence, R.I. When the university discontinued the program, he left after two years with an A.S. in Culinary Arts and felt like he was missing the other half of his education. Returning home, he took a few courses in business at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) in N.J. before he realized it would take more than an associate’s degree to be competitive in the job market.
Business is in Cohen’s blood. Being raised by parents who owned and operated multiple businesses and were successful entrepreneurs gave him a lot of insight into how to create and operate a business. But while instinct and experience drive success, opportunities are scarce without credentials.
Encouraged by a relative to consider Arcadia, Cohen soon discovered that all of his credits—from both JWU and MCCC—would be accepted toward earning a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. It meant he could complete a bachelor’s degree in less than two years, half of the time he had originally expected.
“Arcadia’s small class size allowed me to build a relationship with each and every professor where I felt completely comfortable in asking questions or asking for some additional help,” says Cohen. “Many of the courses required many hours of study to be able to perform at a top level. The professors gave us enough information to be able to do well on the test, but it was up to us to bring our performance to the next level, which put a fire in me to excel.”
Cohen gained confidence while taking Financial Management with Dr. Annette Halpin, Assistant Professor of Business Administration. Although he was apprehensive about the class at first, noting Halpin’s reputation for having very high expectations, he pushed himself to succeed. “I studied for countless hours,” he says. “But I found myself scoring the highest marks in the class on a consistent basis. To do so well in an extremely difficult course changed my outlook on how I could and should approach a task.” He already felt closer to his goal of owning and managing multiple businesses.
With his new found confidence, Cohen decided to pursue an internship in the spring 2012 semester. The only problem was he couldn’t find any opportunities that combined both his business and culinary skills. So, on a whim he sent an email to Benjamin Foods LLC, a broadline food distributor based in Horsham, Pa., a company his family had visited in the past. Though the website didn’t list an internship opportunities, he decided to email HR, noting his interest and availability. He was contacted by the company for an interview and was later offered an internship in the accounts payable department. He started one week before participating in Arcadia’s Undergraduate Commencement ceremony.
Thrown into the fray on his first day, Cohen was asked to shadow the CFO. “He took me in, and because a lot of us share the same belief system, it was like being welcomed into a family.” Cohen quickly moved from shadowing to learning different skills within the office—everything from accounting to procurement. Within a month he was asked to apply for a full-time position and was hired within the week.
“I never expected to get a job out of [my internship experience],” he says. But I thought, maybe if I work hard enough they’ll notice me.” They did. He refers back to a few words of impeccable advice the CEO of Benjamin Foods shared with him during his first week: “Make your work seen. Make your work visible.” Cohen’s climb up the corporate ladder is inspired by his goal of becoming proprietor of his own restaurant and developing his family’s real estate and rental business. He is learning something new every day.
“It’s the desire to learn that is of the most important traits to have,” he says. “Arcadia prepared me to achieve my goals by providing me with my formal business education where I learned all the concepts, terms, and theories behind how businesses work and what makes them successful. College is a great place to learn, but sometimes there is no better teacher than the real world.”