Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

First Year Students Launch Their Career Journeys

A few days ago, the Class of 2016 attended our mandatory (Yes, mandatory!) orientation program to be introduced to the Office of Personal and Career Development. In order to seat all 1357 students, we gathered in Wait Chapel.  Many of them were exhausted after five straight days and nights of Orientation meetings and fun.  I actually saw one girl sleeping in the front row before our session began!

In order to keep their attention and demonstrate to them our fun and welcoming office, we put together an interactive and engaging hour that involved games, live polling using text messaging, music, videos, and even paper airplanes. Through these, we conveyed our three key messages:

Our first key message: You’re not married to your major. Our College-To-Career Course instructor Heidi Robinson asked, “Why do students dread the question, ‘What is your major?’.” She explained that there is an underlying (and inaccurate) assumption that your major defines what your career will be after graduation. However, Heidi offered a competing theory that your major neither guarantees nor precludes your entry into a particular industry or career field. To prove her hypothesis, Heidi revealed to students the notable careers of recent graduates and asked them to guess their majors via a live texting poll. Students were surprised, and excited, to learn the CEO of Emerson Electric was a Chemistry major and a Senior Sales Representative at Google was a Psychology major amongst others.

Our second key message:  Use all the resources provided and start now.

Following Heidi’s presentation, our Presidential Fellow and recent graduate, Tommy Derry, described two of the most important resources for First Year students:

  • DeaconSource – our central hub for job and internship postings that compiles student information enabling the OPCD to send targeted messaging.
  • The Career Passport – their road map of key action items to complete during each year of their college experience.

DeaconSource and The Career Passport will keep them connected to our office and ensure they don’t miss important information, programs, events or opportunities.

Our third key message: Use all four years to train and compete like an elite Olympic athlete. With the London Olympic Games having just taken place, I compared the First Years’ status to that of a promising athlete hoping to compete in the 2016 Olympics. Just as athletes must train for their events which are four years away, so must students train during all four years and begin their career process now. These athletes have coaches to assist them with their technique and training methods, and the OPCD staff, as well as many other Wake Forest faculty and staff, are available to help students along their career path.  But help and assistance only occur if students ask for it. They must be proactive, take responsibility and put in the time and effort to train, learn and compete, just like elite athletes. Encourage your student to engage in the career process early so that he can maximize his chances for success.

In closing, I explained to the First Years that their career path will be an unpredictable journey. They may not know exactly where they are going or how they will get there, but the OPCD will help them throughout the process. They need only to connect and engage with us – all four years.

To make this point come to life, I asked the First Years to write down their current career and geographic interests (“Unsure” is an acceptable answer) on a sheet of paper. I then asked them to turn it into a paper airplane. Then, as one class, they “launched” their career journeys by tossing their paper airplanes in every direction while we played the song from the movie, Rocky: “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti.

Here is a video capturing this fun and memorable moment:

We are excited to teach and equip all of our students to successfully navigate the journey from college-to-career.  And we’re pretty sure that our Class of 2016 enjoyed their launch experience with us this week at Orientation.

Category: Career Exploration, Educational Events