Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Demystifying 'college to career'

Katharine BrooksEveryone fears the unknown. In the world of the college students the biggest, scariest unknown of them all is the “real world,” that strange place we are all expected to enter upon graduation. At the Rethinking Success panel “Understanding Today’s Students,” conference participants were led to reflect on how universities can help demystify the “college to career” journey for their students.

Katharine Brooks, director of the Liberal Arts Career Services Center at the University of Texas, challenged universities to change their campus culture around the career search. She presented four concrete areas for change:

  1. Shift the way we talk about the career journey. Finding a job today is a practice in chaos theory. It’s not a standard linear path. Instead, many students will “fall” into positions by taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. Bottom line: it’s OK to not know what you want or where you’re going. Focus on developing yourself and learning who you are, and you will be ready to take advantage of the unplanned chances that come your way.
  2. Give permission to explore. Create spaces where students are encouraged to engage in deep explorations of how the liberal arts connects to vocation.
  3. Encourage reflection. Students need to figure out the value of their education for themselves. Don’t give them the canned answers about why history matters. Get a group of history majors together and ask them what makes a good history major. What unique perspectives, methodologies and skills do they have because of what they study?
  4. Make students practice their story. A consistent theme of the conference has been the inability of liberal arts students to translate their college experiences into meaningful narratives. Newsflash: Telling your story is difficult. The first time you try, you’re not going to be very good. So please ask students good questions about what they love, how they think and how they want to change the world.

Brooks said that “Everyone on campus has the potential to be a career coach.”

I would argue that if universities are going to support their students like they should, everyone on campus must be a career coach. We should all be invested in helping today’s students discover who they are and where they want to go.

— Guest post by Beth Ann Williams (‘11),
Wake Forest Fellow,
from the “Rethinking Success” conference

Category: Higher Education, Rethinking Success