Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Tommy Derry

Help Your Child Make the Most of the Spring Job & Internship Fair

Over 37 employers have already registered to come speak with Wake Forest students at the Spring Job & Internship Fair on January 23rd  regarding full-time positions and summer internships. This is a fantastic opportunity for your child to network with potential employers, learn about the world of work, and perhaps even find a full-time job or seasonal internship. Ensure your child makes the most of this great opportunity by conveying the following tips.

Before the Fair

1.      Identify and research prospective employers.

Use this link to find a list of attending organization with attached hyperlinks to each company’s website. Distinguish 5-10 organizations you would like to speak with and research their organizational structure and breadth, key products and services, culture and values, and hiring practices. (Note: Do not be too selective as you may not know as much about a firm or career path as you might think.) The fair is a valuable learning and exploration opportunity.

2.      Prepare your resume.

Make sure your resume is in great shape. If unsure, get your resume checked out at our walk-in resume hours in the OPCD. If you have more than one career focus, you should have separate resumes tailored to each career field. Be sure to have a standard resume with you as well so that you are ready for any situation should it arise. Visit our website to find resume samples, advice, and hours for resume reviews.

3.      Practice typical interview question responses.

When conversing with employers, do not be surprised if they ask you about your goals, skills, or experience. Spend some time practicing your response to interview questions like the ones listed on our webpage. Additionally, prepare your elevator pitch to concisely communicate your background and interests to employers.

4.      Develop a list of questions to ask recruiters.

Thoughtful and intelligent questions demonstrate to recruiters that you have done your homework and are sincere in your interest in their organization. Find a list of questions on the informational interviewing page of the OPCD’s website. Refrain from asking “Can you help me get a job?” or for details about salary or the benefits package. Here is brief list of example questions:

  • What is a typical day for someone in this position?
  • Why did you choose this career?
  • Can you describe the company culture?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • What are the traits/ skills of people most successful in your organization?

5.      Map out a strategy.

Your strategy for the fair should begin with identifying the prospective employers that interest you most. Map your route of organizations you plan to visit, in priority order.

During the Fair

1.      Arrive early, get your bearings.

You want to talk to the recruiters while they are still fresh and eager to meet candidates. As the day wears on, the room will become more crowded, your conversations might be cut short, and everyone tends to tire. Arriving early also allows you to get your bearings before jumping into a conversation with an employer.

2.      Make a good first impression.

In job-hunting, first impressions are critical. Remember you are marketing a product – yourself – to a potential employer. The first thing an employer will see is your attire; we recommend a conservative suit (black, dark blue or charcoal). Click this link for more details. When meeting an employer, keep your introduction short and simple using a natural, but forceful, voice to be heard over the other conversation. Strong eye contact, a firm handshake, and gentle smile are also critical components to good first impression. Additionally, if there is a long line to meet the recruiter, remember to relax and be calm and patient.

3.      Minimize your “stuff.”

If you are coming from class or somewhere else on campus, make sure to leave your extra belongs with a friend or at the check-in area. You should only be wearing your professional attire and holding a portfolio with your resume and some notepaper. Do not bring backpacks, purses, or other bulky items as they will just get in the way.

4.      Ask for a business card.

One of the most important follow-up action items is contacting the representatives after the fair to thank them and continue the relationship. This will be much more difficult if you do not ask for a business card. If the recruiter does not have a card on them, ask for their contact information taking care to get the correct spelling of their title, name, email and phone number.

5.      Network. Network. Network.

While networking with the recruiters is your primary goal, do not forget to connect with other fair attendees. Your classmates and WFU faculty and staff may have gained information and resources that can be helpful to you.

After the Fair

1.      Send a thank you note.

Write thank you note’s to all the recruiters you met. If possible, hand written thank you notes always leave an impression (as long as your handwriting is legible!), but a well worded email is fine as well. Make sure to mention where you met the employer and comment on an aspect of your conversation with him or her. Also, declare your intention to progress to the next step of the process (whether that be applying for a position or conducting an informational interview with someone else in the organization). Visit our Employer Correspondence webpage to find a sample thank you letter.

2.      Organize all your contact information.

You should leave the fair with lots of new contact information. It is important you keep this information organized and readily accessible so you can continue your relationship with the company representatives. Use our Networking Tracking Tool to stay organized.

3.      Devise a follow up plan.

Formulate a plan to take the next steps with each organization. Whether you hope to apply for a specific position or just gather additional information, your plan will contain different action items. Determine what your goal is with a particular organization and then build a plan to help you get there with appropriate action steps and deadlines. Meet with one of our career counselors in the OPCD, Reynolda 230, for guidance in developing your Action Plan and to make sure you are on track.

Winter Break Tips for Parents

The Winter Break is a good time for parents and students to talk about a wide variety of things. One typical topic is your student’s plan for post-graduation (seniors) or for the summer (everyone else).  While leaving Wake Forest for the world of work may seem like a scary prospect for your student, many Demon Deacons in prior years have navigated this path successfully. In fact, 92% of the class of 2011 were either employed or in a graduate or professional school within six months after graduation. Over the past five years this percentage has ranged from 86% (class of 2010) to 97% (class of 2007).  If you would like to learn more about the First Destination Data for the Class of 2011, click this link.

Parents can play a significant role in advising and supporting their student to successfully transition from college to the world of work. Here are some tips for parents to consider when they engage with their students over the coming Winter Break.

Make sure your child has registered for DeaconSource.

DeaconSource is the primary information source for students to received tailored information, resources, events and opportunities based on their specific career interests.  It also contains a dynamic database of jobs and internships that constantly changes throughout the year. When logging into DeaconSource, students are prompted to fill out a profile detailing their career field and geographic preferences (which can be changed and updated at any time). Our office then sends tailored messages based on the student’s profile, including educational resources and workshops, employer visits, job and internship postings, application deadlines and much more. To ensure your student receives this important information, encourage him to fill out or update his profile.  Over 80% of freshman and seniors have completed profiles, so make sure your student isn’t left out.

Connect your child with your network.

Networking is an essential component of the job and internship search process. In fact, over 70% of jobs are found through networking. Many attractive jobs and internships must be discovered in the “hidden job market,” which means that they not available through job board listings or on-campus recruiting. Encourage your student to create a high quality LinkedIn profile. Help her clarify which careers or organizations that interests her. Have her practiceinformational interviewing with you.  Introduce her to your contacts and encourage her to connect with Wake Forest alumni in the LinkedIn Career Connectors Group. Informational interviewing and networking are two of the most important skills for a successful job or internship search.  They are not only valuable for gathering important information, they can often result in interesting projects, internships andjob opportunities.

Engage in thought provoking conversation.

Reflection is an often overlooked step in the career development journey, but it is vital to successfully finding meaningful and fulfilling work. It is the primary method for clarifying ‘who you are’ and ‘what really matters to you’. Although students talk about wanting to find quiet time and be reflective, it doesn’t really happen.  In fact, 94% of students report feeling “overwhelmed by their busy lifestyle.” Assist your student to be reflective by asking thought-provoking questions and giving him space and time to respond and consider his answers…

  • What has been your favorite class so far? What did you learn about yourself in this class?
  • What has been your least favorite class so far? What have you learned about yourself in this class?
  • What are you doing with the organizations you are involved with on campus? What are you enjoying? What are you not enjoying?
  • Given your answers to the above questions, what might you conclude about yourself?
  • Are there career fields you are thinking about? If so, what interests you about them?
  • What career fields would you want to learn more about?
  • How I might I be able to help or support you in this process?
  • What resources at Wake Forest can you utilize in this process? What do you think about checking into those resources while you’re here at home or when you get back to campus?
  • I really enjoy hearing about what you’re learning in college and how you’re thinking about interests and future possibilities.  Can we set up another time to continue our conversation on this?

We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season. It’s a great time to re-connect and be reflective with your student. As we often tell parents, try to be a “consultant” where you ask questions with a neutral, unbiased, non-judgmental tone and you allow “the client” (your student) to be empowered to take charge of their thought process and their decisions.

Your goals are to stimulate reflective thought and action by your student and to develop a positive relationship where your student sees you as someone who they can comfortably share their thoughts and ask for suggestions and advice. Through this approach, you will begin to build the foundation for a new type of adult-to-adult relationship with your child; and also help your child build their own foundation for making informed, sound career decisions.

Debunking An OPCD Myth

A common misperception among students, parents and faculty is that the Office of Personal & Career Development primarily helps students interested in business or who study business as their major. Contrary to this myth, the OPCD supports students from all backgrounds and with diverse interests. We have a number of resources and initiatives dedicated to students who are especially interested in non-business and non-traditional career fields.

The first method in which we assist these students is by bringing a diverse group of organizations and employers to campus. A recent example is the CIA information session in which 145 students attended! In information sessions, representatives from the organization discuss the opportunities available, the daily work life, the desired skills and attributes for applicants, and logistical information about the application process. Representatives always remain after the formal presentation to engage with eager students who want to learn more about their experience and their organization. These information sessions are a valuable opportunity for students to interact with potential employers and learn more about an industry or organization without even leaving campus. Examples of other notable employers include Teach For America, Gallup Polling, City Year and the State Department.

The second initiative is a pilot program for seniors interested in non-profit careers. A number of seniors have joined Non-Profit Career Action groups in which they meet with a dedicated career counselor to help guide them in the job search process focused on non-profit careers. These groups meet three times in the fall semester to help students prepare for the search process. After each group meeting, they are given “homework” by their counselor such as conducting informational interviews or bolstering their LinkedIn profile. In the spring semester, these groups meet three more times to hold them accountable in executing their job search strategy. These groups help students secure non-profit careers which is often difficult because the non-profit sector does not have structured recruiting and hiring timelines and processes like those in large corporations.

The third resource the OPCD offers to students are Career Weeks. These weeks are focused on unique career fields and are intentionally timed throughout the year to correspond with the recruiting and hiring timelines of the relevant careers. For instance, from February 4-8, the OPCD will be sponsoring the Advertising/PR/Event Planning week, which is an area of significant student interest. During those five days, alumni panelists will discuss their experience, dynamics in their job, organization and industry, and important job search and career management advice. In addition, internship search strategy workshops will be held for students seeking to get their foot in the door in these competitive career fields. Finally, the week will culminate with a 25-student career trek to Woodbine advertising agency to experience get a hands-on view of life in advertising. Last year, several students who visited Woodbine were hired as summer interns!

Outside of these examples, OPCD has numerous other resources and programs to assist students interested in non-business and non-traditional careers, as well as graduate school options. Encourage your student to complete their DeaconSource profile and visit the OPCD regardless of his or her interests as we have the capabilities and resources to help your child navigate the path from college to career with clarity, competence, and confidence.

The OPCD Helps Students in Record Numbers!

The OPCD is off to a blazing start this academic year. We’ve experienced double-digit growth in student engagement compared to last year at this time. These results reflect our progress towards achieving our goal of changing the culture at Wake Forest, where personal and career development is an essential component of every student’s college experience.

Counseling appointments are one of the primary ways the OPCD assists students in their career development journey. We have experienced a 20.4% increase in appointments, with over 100 more than this time last year. Career counselors help students in a variety of ways and address each student’s career-related questions including self-assessment results, up-coming interviews, job or internship search strategies, and refine their career action plan. In post-counseling appointment surveys, 100% of students report that their counseling appointment was a helpful and positive experience.

In the past, mock interviews have been one of the more underutilized services offered by the OPCD so we are pleased to experience a 38.1% increase. We have one staff member, Don Masura, solely dedicated solely to mock interviews because it is one of the most crucial job search skills that students practice the least. In mock interviews, the student gives his/her resume and a job description to Don; then Don conducts a tailored interview representative of the industry and job description. Once the interview is complete, Don analyzes the student’s performance with the student and offers detailed feedback on the student’s strength and opportunities for improvement.
The number of self-assessments taken has increased over 30%. Self-assessments are a vital tool to help students make significant decisions like identifying options for major selection and potential career fields. These assessments enable students to understand their interests, values, skills, strengths and personality to make well-informed decisions regarding their academic and career development.

Finally, attendance at OPCD programs has increased by 11.4%. These programs are topical in nature and can be designed for particular audiences or be offered to the student body at large. The subjects range from creating a collegiate resume to building a professional LinkedIn profile to job search strategies. These programs have been embraced by students because our staff meets students where they are. Whether our staff speaks at a sorority’s chapter meeting, in a residence hall or in a faculty member’s classroom, students greatly appreciate our meeting them where they are.

Parents, make sure your student is taking advantage of all that the OCPD has to offer. The first step is to complete their profile in DeaconSource so that they receive relevant news and information tailored to their specific interests,. Students from all class years are connecting with the OPCD and increasing their capabilities to successfully find internships, full-time jobs or graduate school admission. Please encourage your student to come into the OPCD today to get started.