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Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Tommy Derry

Top 10 Interview Tips for New College Graduates

One of the most critical stages of the job search process is the interview. While resumes, cover letters and networking might get you into the room, the job offer often comes down to the interview. After all, employers are hiring a person, not a piece of paper. Therefore, it is critical that students and recent graduates be prepared so they can thrive in interviews.

Recently, I was asked for the unique things that today’s college students must know and do to succeed in interviews. What I realized is that because students have almost no job interview experience, students don’t know what they don’t know. With help from our career counselors, I developed a list of Top 10 interview tips for college students:

1. Do your homework on the job, the organization, the competition and the industry. Reading the website is the minimum. Tap your college and/or high school alumni network and your parents’ network to get the inside scoop. Most students don’t read business magazines, newspapers or trade journals, so when you do, you’ll stand out from the crowd. Doing this homework will prevent you from asking really obvious — and naïve — questions.

2. Anticipate and prepare for the typical questions with strong personal answers.“Tell me about yourself.” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” “Tell me about your greatest accomplishments.” “Share a time you failed and how you responded to the situation.” “Why do you want this job?” “Why this organization?” Have your answers and examples so well rehearsed that it’s natural.

3. Develop 5-7 adaptable stories from your resume related to the job you’re seeking. Start with the situation by describing the context and problem. Then explain what you did to improve the situation and describe the results in quantifiable terms. This demonstrates that you understand the importance and the impact of your personal contributions. With these stories prepared in advance, you can adapt them to various questions.

4. Frame your answers to show how you will add value to the organization. Many students too often focus on why they want the job, what they will get out of it, and why it will be good for them. Turn the tables and explain how and why you can and will benefit the organization. Find ways to tactfully mention what they’d gain if they hired you (or how much they’d miss out on if they didn’t).

5. Use the right vocabulary. Surprise an employer by actually being able to translate how your academic or extracurricular experiences have helped to prepare you for the role you’re interviewing for — using words in the job description. Very few students can do this. For example, if you’re a theatre major, describe how you managed and promoted a play or musical production using your project management, creativity and sales skills.

6. Prepare two or three ‘go-to’ questions that demonstrate you prepared in advance and your strategic thinking. There’s a difference between “Tell me about the culture” and “Tell me about how major decisions are made here and provide an example of a recent decision and the process used.” Or, “I read that the organization is changing its strategic direction. How will that affect this business unit?” Avoid questions where answers are on the website.

7. Practice interviewing out loud with mentors, adult fans or even in the mirror. Most students have not done many (if any) job interviews – and definitely not when under pressure. It’s important to hear the words you intend to speak, including the tone, emphasis, inflections and facial impressions, so that you don’t blow it when it really counts. It’s rare to get a second chance.

8. Demeanor, humble self-confidence, personality and enthusiasm really matter.Smile! Allow your voice tone, words and body language to communicate your genuine excitement about the opportunity. It will be a significant decision factor for your interviewer. If you don’t, your interviewer will question if you really want the job or if you’re going to be committed to the organization. This is one of the top reasons why people do not get job offers.

9. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Many students have difficulty getting excited about entry-level jobs because they feel overqualified or discouraged that the work will not be fulfilling. In each interview, your primary objective is to get invited back for another interview and to eventually secure an offer. As you progress through the process, many find that the job and organization are much more interesting than they originally thought.

10. Finish strong and follow up. Always close with a final statement that makes it crystal clear that you are genuinely excited and interested in the opportunity, including why you’d be a great hire and fit for the job and organization. Clarify next steps and the timeline. Email a thank you note less than 24 hours after the interview while it is still fresh on your mind. Articulate your fit and why they should hire you specific to the interview conversations. Every interviewer expects a thank you note from each candidate, so no note is a sign of no interest and no professionalism. To really stand out, also send a neatly hand-written thank you note soon after the interview.

 

Andy Chan’s Top 10 Interview Tips for New College Graduates first appeared on The Huffington Post College Blog on June 14, 2013. 

6 Tips for Parents to Help Your Recent Graduate Get Hired

After graduation and the celebration that surrounds it, many recent graduates will begin or continue their job search during the summer. Often, their parents will play an important role in helping them navigate the path to their first jobs. To advise these parents, Mercy Eyadial, our Executive Director of Employer Relations, offers six tips so parents can best assist their recent graduates during this exciting, yet sometimes painful, process.

  1. Establish a game plan. If you are helping the student by way of financial support, or if your child is living in your home, lay out a schedule as to how long he or she will be supported, and decide how much money you’ll provide. In turn, the student must be expected to meet certain milestones, such as a specific amount of hours spent searching for jobs, number of contacts made or emails sent. “You must establish the expectations on the front-end, not months into their job search,” Eyadiel says.
  2. Set clear priorities. Eyadiel often sees families take the recent grad on a congratulatory family vacation after school lets out, encouraging the young person to spend more family time since they have moved back home. This sets an example of putting fun above the job search. “Don’t send mixed messages,” she says. “The job search is the priority. Make clear that they must find a job before they can play.”
  3. Share your network—carefully. Eyadiel suggests giving the student the contact information for three to five of your professional connections. Do not make the call on your child’s behalf, but instruct him or her on how to write an initial email. Also give advice on what to say in a meeting, and how to parlay an introduction into a conversation or job opportunity. Choose these contacts carefully. “The first person the student contacts should not be the CEO,” Eyadiel warns. “Have them start lower and practice. Let them build their confidence and work their way up to communicating with more senior people.” And don’t jeopardize your own Rolodex with these connections. After all, young professionals often make many mistakes.
  4. Elicit the help of a family friend or professional contact. Another adult can be useful as a secondary adviser. “I call them ‘adult fans,’” Eyadiel says. “They can take some pressure off the parent and offer another mature perspective.”
  5. Remember: You are not the one going through the job search process. This is not about your interests or goals. It is also not your responsibility to land the job for the student. “Parents often want to intervene too quickly and take the pain out of the process,” Eyadiel says. “But a job search is an inherently painful process. At the end of the day, the student is the one who has to interview and has to build their own professional identity.”
  6. Whatever you do, do not contact the recruiter or hiring manager. Never! “You actually harm the child by doing that,” Eyadiel says. “The employer will be so astonished that it is hard to give your kid serious consideration.”

Mercy Eyadiel’s 6 Tips for Parents on Helping Your Recent Graduate Get Hired first appeared on Retail Me Not on June 5. 

Graduates: Jump Start the Job Search Now

With graduation over, it’s time to commence life after college. For our seniors, this season is bittersweet. It is sad to be leaving friends and a place they have called home for four years, but the promise of a new future is exciting and energizing. While about half of the senior class already has plans in place for their future (which is consistent with past years), others are in the middle of their job searches or are just getting started. Not to worry, 95% of the class of 2012 who responded to our first destination survey were either employed or in graduate school by six months after graduation (which compares favorably to the national average of 59%. Source: NACE).

If your student is just beginning the job search process, share these tips so s/he can get a jump start on securing his or her first post-graduation opportunity:

  1. Don’t Compare. One big thing that can keep you from moving forward is worrying about how your situation compares to everyone else. Every person’s journey is unique and really cannot be compared to others. Focus on what you can do to keep moving forward at your own pace and time.
  2. Get Going. Just as no one wins the lottery without buying a ticket, you won’t get a job if you don’t start working on your search. The first mistake most make is to start applying for a multitude of jobs online (your odds of success are just like playing the lottery). The best first step is to develop real clarity about your work interests. Use the Job Search Strategies worksheet to organize your efforts.
  3. Clarify Your Interests. Do some research about the types of work (job functions & industries) that most interest you. Read Explore Careers on the OPCD website and other career sites. Write down what interests you and why, as well as what does not. Obtain feedback from adult fans who know you and a career counselor who knows these careers.
  4. Clean Up. Before you begin ‘selling yourself’ and applying for jobs, you have to get your act together. Clean up and tailor your resume, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media channel pages. Refine and practice your elevator pitch to quickly describe yourself, your background, strengths and interests so that you’re ready when you make connections.
  5. Make Connections. Start with your Adult Fans: family, friends, Wake Forest faculty and staff, Wake Forest alumni and fellow students (and their parents), and even alumni, friends, teachers from your high school and home town. Use LinkedIn every day. Set a goal to conduct at least 5 informational interviews each week. Ask each person about their experience, perspective on the sector and career paths, and their advice on the hiring process and how you can become a viable candidate. Always ask for introductions to others.
  6. 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time meeting people who work in your areas of interest (a.k.a. informational interviewing and networking). Only spend 20% of your time applying to jobs online. Use the Internet to research jobs, organizations and people – to understand what they are looking for and the skills and terminology that you need to demonstrate and/or acquire. Apply for jobs after hours, not during prime meeting times.
  7. Translate your experience. Employers will be interested in you when you have the knowledge and skills that they are looking for (as described in the job description). Many students have the necessary skills, but don’t define it accurately on the resume or communicate it well in an interview. Find great resumes online, on LinkedIn or the OPCD website for examples in your field of interest that you can mimic.
  8. Be realistic. You may be interested in jobs that require knowledge and skills that you don’t currently have. Be realistic that these jobs may be in your future with more experience and/or schooling. Focus on interesting jobs that fit your capabilities now. You can work towards that other job with good planning and professional development.
  9. 100% Effort.  Your job search is your primary job. Now is the time to work on your career, especially if you need to earn income and the clock is ticking. Invest at least 6-8 hours each day on your job search: Meet contacts during the day. Perform research, apply for jobs, and reflect and follow up on your meetings after hours.
  10. Be patient. The average job search takes three months and will have its ups and downs. Employers consistently tell us that Wake Forest graduates have the work ethic, drive and skills to be successful in the workplace and you will be successful, too (95% of the class of 2012 was employed or in graduate school by November). You only need one person to say “Yes” for all of your efforts to pay off.
  11. Ask For Guidance. The biggest roadblock to success is our pride. Most don’t want to ask for help, but everyone enjoys helping others. So give it a try. Ask, “What questions should I be asking myself?”, “What would you do if you were in my situation?”, “What else do you think I should look into?” By asking, you will open the door to new ideas and options. And deeper relationships that may help you now or sometime in the future.

Leveraging LinkedIn

At Wake Forest, we are fortunate to have a very strong, supportive and connected alumni network. While the OPCD staff sometimes provides direct connections to alumni, we always teach our students how to make these connections on their own. With every student, we strive to fulfill the proverb, “If you feed a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”

I asked one of our career counselors, Patrick Sullivan, to share his tips on how to tap into the Wake Forest network using LinkedIn, the network we have cultivated to include over 2,000 current Wake Forest students and over 18,000 alumni.

Clarify and broaden the “target contact” market.  When a recent graduate asked how to contact Wake Forest “alumni with architecture degrees”, Patrick asked the following questions to better understand what she was looking for and to broaden the potential market of target contacts who could be helpful to her.

  • Would she speak to Wake Forest alumni who are working architects (with or without a degree)?

  • Would she speak to Wake Forest alumni who are employed in architectural firms, regardless of role?

  • Who else might be helpful in providing her with useful information or connections to others in the architecture field?

As you can see, identifying contacts requires one to think like a detective. Work with your student to clarify the information she is seeking and brainstorm the largest possible ‘target contact’ market to pursue. This will play an important role in the way she searches for contacts and result in many more potential, and valuable, connections.

Create a great LinkedIn profile. We have found LinkedIn to be the most useful way to connect with, and ask questions of, Wake Forest alumni – there are over 4,000 in the Wake Forest Career Connectors group – a group we created specifically to provide guidance and connections for current students. If your student does not already have a LinkedIn profile, direct them to the OPCD website for specific suggestions on how to create a positive, professional LinkedIn profile.

Use LinkedIn Advanced Search. Here are three key tips to find Wake Forest alumni.  We’ll continue using the search for Architecture contacts in this example, but your student can apply the same approach to their area of interest.  Each of the searches will require your student to use Advanced Search mechanism at the top of the LinkedIn home page.

  • Tip #1 – Search using the School and Industry fields.
    Put “Wake Forest” in the School field and select “Architecture & Planning” from the Industries field.   This search returned more than 80 alumni working in the Architecture and Planning industry.

  • Tip #2 – Search using School and Title fields.
    Put “Wake Forest” in the School field and search for the term “Architect” in the Title field.  This search brought back a large number of results, including architects, but is made even more effective by adding the suggestions in Tactic #3.

  • Tactic #3 – Search using School and Keyword fields.
    Put “Wake Forest” in the School field and use the Keyword field to search for terms that are unique to that industry or profession.  In the case of Architecture, using the terms LEED or AIA would bring back relevant results.

Ask for advice, feedback, and suggestions.  Once your student has identified alumni of interest, encourage them to connect via LinkedIn, with the goal of conducting an “informational interview.”  Why should your student start by asking for an informational interview rather than for a job or internship?  Our experience indicates that alumni are often happy to provide information about their field, so taking the informational interview approach is likely to “open the door”.  Asking for a job or internship runs the risk of having the door close as the alumnus your student is targeting may not be in a position to hire, and the may reply with a simple “Sorry I can’t help you” or give no answer at all. Remind your student to highlight the Wake Forest affiliation and make it clear to the contact that their goal is to gather information and ask questions. Here are more specific suggestions on how to best approach and conduct informational interviews.

Plug into multiple networks.  Finally, while we strongly encourage our students to utilize the Wake Forest alumni network, it’s important to recognize that most students have access to other networks – friends and family, high school classmates and teachers, athletic teams and coaches, and many other affinity groups. Brainstorm with your student to think about all of the networks they could plug into (including your own) and help them identify specific targets to connect with.

Whether your student is conducting informational interviews, seeking contacts in a specific organization, or wanting to learn about career paths that may be of interest to them, encourage your student to think broadly and to fully leverage LinkedIn.

 

No Internship? Tips to Make the Most of Your Summer

Most students eagerly anticipate the summertime – warm, sunny days, relaxing by the pool or beach, and catching up with friends from home. But summer is a critical time for learning about the world of work, exploring possible career fields and building marketable professional skills. Some students will accomplish these things through internships, but there are many ways your student can do the same even if s/he has other plans this summer. Share these tips with your student so that s/he can make the most of the summer – and begin building the foundation for future college-to-career success.

  1. Volunteer. Identify organizations (for profit or non-profit) that you find of interest and inquire if they could use any help this summer. Suggest projects that you’d like to work on and can help you develop knowledge and skills in areas that interest you. Your initial good work could lead to additional projects, helpful connections and possibly even a small bonus at the end of the summer.
  2. Take on extra responsibilities. You may see your summer job as just a way to make a few bucks or possibly something that you have little interest of doing in the future. Explore the possibility of doing more than what you are hired to do. For example, if you are a waiter, lifeguard, or camp counselor, ask if you can help with the social media account or office operations or managing and training others. If the organization does not have social media presence, volunteer to create and run the account in addition to your other responsibilities.
  3. Take free classes. With a little digging, you can find free classes – either online or in your community – in which you can learn marketable skills or knowledge that will help you be more competitive in your future internship or job searches. Learning Excel, Powerpoint, Presi, Access, basic finance and budgeting or how to sell, market or negotiate will set you apart from others and increase your capabilities and self-confidence.
  4. Conduct informational interviews. Dedicate time this to learning about interesting jobs and careers and building your professional network. Beginning with your “Adult Fans” of family and friends, conduct informational interviews to receive insights, feedback and advice on careers and jobs that interest you. See the OPCD Informational Interviewing page for a list of good questions, an elevator speech worksheet, and a networking tracking tool, as well as what you must know before you enter each conversation.
  5. Job Shadow. Learn more about a particular organization, job or career field, by ‘job shadowing’. It’s a very easy and helpful way to understand what it’s really like and to get answers that are otherwise somewhat difficult to obtain. Ask a family member or family friend for an introduction to one of their friends who works in your area of interest and then ask to spend a half day or day shadowing her. Ask if she could arrange for you to talk with a few colleagues while you are there so you can learn as much as possible.

Save the Date – NYC Connects with Wake Forest!

New York City is always one of the most popular destinations for Wake Forest graduates. In fact 90 students of the class of 2012 (12% of those answering our survey), landed in New York for their first job out of college.

nyc

To help our students and recent graduates who want to live and work in New York, Wake Forest is hosting a networking event called Wake Forest Connects – NYC on June 5th from 6:00–9:00 PM at The Westin New York Grand Central hotel. This event is designed to facilitate connections between undergrad and graduate students, alumni, parents and friends who live and work in the New York area.

The event will kick-off with an industry panel who will share advice, tips and strategies for effective networking. The panel will consist of five Wake Forest alumni working in media/entertainment, finance, public relations, and fashion.

Alumni Panel:

  • Dave Hanson, ’05: Managing Partner, Hanson Wells Partners

  • Sheereen Miller-Russell,’00 Vice President, Ad Sales at Viacom Media Networks (MTV and VH1)

  • Laura Mills, ’05: Account Supervisor at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

  • Caroline Naughton, ’11: Network and Digital Sales Assistant, Disney ABC Television Group

  • Pam Shively, ’08: Senior Account Executive at Foley + Corinna (Apparel & Fashion)

Following the panel discussion, students will have an opportunity to participate in structured networking in small groups of 8-10 with professionals representing a broader set of careers and industries. The evening will end with an open reception for all participants at the LCL: Bar and Kitchen , located in The Westin New York Grand Central.

Parents, if your student has a summer job in NYC this summer, encourage him or her to attend this event. Your student will receive valuable advice and connections that could help in securing a full-time job in NY. If you are interested in attending the event as an experienced networking connection, please contact Lori Sykes at sykeslh@nullwfu.edu.

Register here: https://secure.www.wfu.edu/alumni/clubs/?club=NY-NYC

Tips to Rock that Summer Internship

Internships play a critical role in today’s career development process. They serve several key functions that increase a student’s clarity about their fit in the world of work as well as making a student a more competitive applicant for full-time positions. Additionally, if an intern performs well, a full-time job offer may be extended at the end of summer. Even if an internship does not result in an offer, an intern’s co-workers and manager will be some of a student’s most important references when applying for other opportunities. For these reasons, performing well in an internship has never been more important. To help your child make the most of this opportunity, share with him this list of tips developed by Patrick Sullivan, our Associate Director for Career Education & Counseling.

  1. Work hard – Do whatever is needed and do not assume that your education equips you with so much knowledge that executing low-level projects is beneath you. Don’t be the intern that turns their nose up at the “little” jobs.
  2. Seek extra work – Show your willingness to go above and beyond the job description. Be proactive in asking for more projects and responsibilities. Look for opportunities to assist co-workers and volunteer for assignments that interest you.
  3. Develop your skills – Challenge yourself by helping out with projects requiring you to develop skills that you don’t use very often. Observe the skills used by people in the kinds of positions in which you envision yourself working, and polish those skills.
  4. Be a team player – In today’s workplace, more and more work is project-oriented, which means you will be working on teams. If you are a strong team player, you will be a strong intern.
  5. Seek feedback – Get a sense for what you do well and what you need to improve.  Ask for specific suggestions on how you can get better and make it a point to do so.
  6. Network with co-workers – Everyone you meet is a potential member of your network. The more people who know you and your work, the more support you will have when it comes to turning your internship into a full-time job. Some of these co-workers will act as workplace references for you should you decide to conduct your job search in another career sector or company.
  7. Find a mentor – A mentor can make a big difference. If you have the opportunity, try to develop a relationship with someone who can guide and support you in your internship, your efforts to secure a full-time offer and beyond. Ask to take that person to coffee to learn about their experiences and career path.
  8. Establish yourself as a leader  Some corporations offer structured intern programs that involve social and professional development opportunities in addition to work assignments. Why not take the lead on a professional development program for interns if your organization doesn’t have one? Set up weekly brown bag lunches that feature relevant speakers or informational sessions. You’ll not only expand your (and your peers’) experiences, you’ll make an impression as a leader and a go-getter.
  9. Don’t get ahead of yourself  When you’re already known as the rock star intern, it’s easy to get complacent or even cocky. Remember that you are always interviewing for the next level. Landing an internship and completing it isn’t enough, in and of itself, to convert the experience into a job offer. How you end an internship is often the difference between one summer’s experience and long-term employment.
  10. Stay in touch – Leave on the best possible terms. Always thank your manager for the internship. Connect with colleagues on LinkedIn. And if you are interested in working at the organization full-time, by all means, ask about openings.

For more tips, encourage your student to follow our new Professional Confessional blog. This summer, experts from the OPCD, employers, and current student interns will be providing guidance and advice to help current student interns make the most of their experience.

Students Helping Students

At Wake Forest, there is peer tutoring available for calculus, biology, Spanish, and British literature amongst other subjects; so why not for career related topics? Well, now there is.

Five senior business students are volunteering their time to assist underclassmen of all majors in their career development by connecting them with resources during evening hours on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. These students are called the UBCC Fellows and will be assisting the Undergraduate Business Career Center counselors by sharing their job and internship search experiences, discussing the resources and strategies they used effectively, and examining the different business options available to students. There is one UBCC Fellow representing each of the undergraduate business majors.

  • Steven Millard – Finance
  • Jenny Turner – Business & Enterprise Management
  • Nick Stanzione – Math Business
  • Andrew Russell – Math Finance
  • Megan Mancosh – Accountancy

The UBCC Fellows will be available to answer questions students may have regarding: networking, resumes, interviews, the business school, or just share their experience with job search process. There is no appointment necessary so students are welcome to stop by Manchester 245 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights from 8:00 – 10:00 PM.

Parents, this is a great resource for your undergraduate student who is hoping to learn more about the career process as well as business career fields. Encourage your first-year or sophomore student to stop by one night to discuss potential career fields and the steps necessary to get there.

Professional Development at Wake Forest

Like a train moving full steam ahead, so is the semester nearing its end, and Wake Forest students are getting excited about what the summer months hold for them. Whether they are embarking on their first job, internship, graduate school, or other experience, your students can and should start to prepare now by building important professional and life skills necessary for life outside of college. Thanks to the leadership and hard work of Allison McWilliams and Amy Willard, the OPCD has a robust Professional Development department that provides tools, resources, and a framework to guide your students in developing their professional selves.

According to the 2013 NACE Job Outlook survey, an annual survey of employers, the most sought-after skills (in order of importance) that they look for in recent college graduates are: 1) oral communication; 2) teamwork; 3) problem-solving; 4) organizational skills; 5) critical thinking; 6) analytical skills; 7) technical knowledge; 8) computer skills; 9) written communication; and 10) interpersonal skills. At Wake Forest, students have the opportunity to develop these skills through their academic coursework; research opportunities; educational workshops; and experiential activities such as internships, student organizations, study abroad, and volunteer experiences. In addition, we have created a skill-building directory that allows students to search for and find opportunities where they can begin acquiring these critical skills.

In addition to these key skill areas, financial literacy is critical to post-graduation success. Research increasingly indicates that students possess aloof attitudes and behaviors toward fiscal responsibility until faced with debt and expenses that comes with living on their own for the first time. According to Everfi’s survey of 40,000 first-year college students, “Nearly 80 percent of students said that they “frequently” worry about debt.  Yet many of them also acknowledged risky financial behavior, such as carrying a credit-card balance of $1,000 or more.” To combat this, the Office of Personal and Career Development has partnered with the National Endowment for Financial Education to offer CashCourse, a free online interactive financial literacy tool for Wake Forest students. CashCourse provides topical advice and resources to students delivered through worksheets, financial calculators, quizzes, courses, videos, and budget guides to help students build financial literacy and make sound fiscal decisions now, in order to prepare them for their future.

At Wake Forest, we are committed to preparing your students for their lives outside of college, by equipping them with the tools, resources, and knowledge they will need to be successful, positive contributors to society. CashCourse and the Skill-Building Directory are just two examples of how we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to provide the guidance and information that students need. Check them out and let us know what you think!

Value of a Liberal Arts Education

The value of a college education and its relevance to this century’s world of work is being questioned around dinner tables, in high schools and college dorms, in the national media, by governors and legislators, and by President Obama in his State of the Union address. Many of these conversations have focused on liberal arts institutions because economic factors, low job placement rates, and an ever-increasing tuition price tag have opened the door for critics to vilify these institutions as little more than petty thieves stealing from the uninformed. In fact, in efforts to help families make more educated decisions, private companies as well as the Department of Education, with its College Scorecard, have developed tools to measure and rate schools based on factors such as cost, graduation rate, loan default rate, median borrowing, and employment.

The prevailing argument is that students should study or major in something “employable,” something that is directly correlated to a job in a high paying career field. This view is espoused by many parents and national leaders, including politicians on both sides of the aisle. Many have called for additional STEM majors as well as eliminating funding for “softer” disciplines. North Carolina’s recently elected Governor Pat McCrory has stated publicly that he is against taxpayer dollars supporting disciplines such as Philosophy and Women & Gender Studies because they “have no chance of getting people jobs.”

However, Governor McCrory and others are operating under a false assumption: that a student’s area of study dictates his or her employability. As I stated in my Op-Ed in the Charlotte Observer, a specific academic focus is not required to secure employment nor is directly correlated with success in many careers such as account management, consulting, marketing, program and project management, analyst, sales, research, and many more. In his rebuttal to Governor McCrory, Wake Forest Professor of Classics Michael Sloan explains how college students are trained through a liberal arts curriculum to develop valuable skills and competencies that employers seek. Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, echoes this sentiment in his AAC&U article. The true problem, then, is that most colleges and universities do not provide their students with sufficient guidance and support to connect their interests, values, strengths and skills to the world of work.

At Wake Forest, through the support of President Nathan Hatch and the work of the Office of Personal & Career Development, we have significantly increased the resources available to students. While other institutions are cutting career office budgets by an average of 16% this year, Wake Forest is boldly investing millions of dollars in personal and career development. In fact, Wake Forest’s approach has been so transformative that our office has fielded inquiries and visits from over 100 institutions to learn more about our model and successes. To address these important issues and the demand for more information by all higher education institutions, Wake Forest hosted a national conference in April 2012 entitled “Rethinking Success: From the Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century” which examined role and value of a liberal arts education.

One of the main drivers of our success has been the holistic approach we take to personal and career development. As described in a recent AAC&U article, our students are contacted as early as their first year on campus and kept engaged through innovative career courses, partnerships with faculty, alumni and employers, and other innovative programs. Students are taken through a progression of four questions: “Who am I?” “What shall I do?” “How will I get there?” and “Once there, how will I be successful?” While career offices at most schools focus exclusively on the third question related to job search skills and job development, the OPCD guides Wake Forest students navigate each stage of the process with clarity, competence, and confidence.

Additionally, we are partnering with employers – many of whom are alumni and parents – to not only provide our students with increased exploratory opportunities and connections for full-time jobs and internships, but to also better understand the needs of the marketplace. Subsequently, our students can make informed decisions about their career interests and be well-prepared for networking, interviews and on-the-job success. Employer partnerships resulted in several recent career exploration opportunities: A career trek to Bermuda for 17 students over spring break to meet with executives in the insurance and risk management industry; job shadowing at local organizations for over 60 students in the College To Career courses; career treks for 45 Wake Forest students to Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. in partnership with the University of Chicago and Stanford University; and a career trek to Washington, D.C. for 20 students to network with nine hot startups who are actively hiring college students.

We are very fortunate at Wake Forest to have an administration that has committed to making personal and career development a mission critical component of the undergraduate student experience. Parents, encourage your student to take advantage of the extensive resources available. No matter where your student is in in the process, the OPCD is ready to help.