Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers


Ask the Experts

Parents and alumni play an important role in our students’ career development process.  To foster this support, our Office of Personal and Career Development has established a Linkedin group called Wake Forest Career Connectors. Over the past seven months, an impressive 2,600 parents and alumni have joined the group to provide students with career guidance and advice. Students can now easily query group members through private messaging and a public discussion board. Our office staff has also taken advantage of the public discussion feature to ask member’s career related questions.

Amy Willard, Assistant Director for Professional Development, sought advice using our Wake Forest Career Connectors’ open discussion board. Seeking information to support her work in professional development, she asked members, “If you were hiring a recent graduate, what top five professional skills do you want him/her to possess to be a strong candidate for your profession?”

Amy was excited to receive over two dozen detailed responses from members detailing their “top” workplace skills.  She notes that “even with the responding members’ varied occupations, common skill themes quickly emerged that will support my professional development programming strategy.”  Below are some common skills as noted by our respondents:

  • Proven communications skills were highlighted most often. Joseph Tranfo (Parent,  ’15) noted the heightened importance of “communication – written, oral, AND visual” in today’s work environment. Furthermore, he states that “in 2011 and beyond, students better be able to communicate digitally using more than just words.”
  • Sam Smith (Psychology and English, ’84) was one of the many alumni to emphasize the need for skills in critical thinking. He emphasizes that when a student is faced “with a brand new challenge and you can think your way through to a working solution, you’re going to get lots and lots of opportunities to shine.”
  • “The world of work is a world of people and therefore relationships,” states Patrick Flemming (Psychology, ’96). Several of the responders focused on our students’ need to understand the big picture when beginning their first internship or job assignments. Furthermore, Patrick shares that “students/graduates can distinguish themselves in a powerful way by demonstrating awareness and enduring interest in who people are, why they do what they do, and how they behave together.”
  • Like others, Sarah Shoaf (Physician’s Assistant, ’76) emphasized initiative and noted that students should “constantly seek ways to improve yourself and your performance, as well as improve the business around you.”  She advises students to “spend your first month absorbing what is around you, asking questions as to why things are done certain ways. Once you understand the business, then start making suggestions, but don’t be offended if your suggestions are not immediately acted upon.”

The Wake Forest network of alumni, parents, faculty and staff is committed to helping students successfully navigate the path from college to career.  We’re excited that the LinkedIn Career Connectors Group can provide these important connections for students to learn about the world of work.  If you are willing to provide friendly advice and encouragement to current Wake Forest students, please join the Wake Forest Career Connectors Group today.

Generation Limbo: How Can We Help?

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times, entitled, “Generation Limbo: Waiting It Out”. This article spoke to a common fear I hear among parents- that your child will be unemployed after college. In this economy, more and more students are struggling to find work after they graduate. So what can we as parents and educators do about this?

Unfortunately, neither you, nor I, nor your student can change the current employment market for college graduates. What we can do is re-educate ourselves and our students about the uniquely different job search strategy and mindset required for the 21st century. Here at Wake Forest, we are educating students that a college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job. Students must possess professional competencies, such as emotional intelligence, leadership and entrepreneurship. Most importantly, they must go after opportunities rather than waiting for opportunities to come to them. As twenty-seven year old Geo Wyeth mentions in the article, “You have to make opportunities happen for yourself, and I think a lot of my classmates weren’t thinking that way. It’s now become the equivalent of setting up your own lemonade stand.”

I love the lemonade stand analogy, because it speaks to our mission here in the Office of Personal and Career Development: We are empowering and educating your students to take responsibility for their career development, internship, or job search as early as possible. Students must take an entrepreneurial attitude and approach to their careers-whether they want to work or go to graduate school. Parents, encourage your students to visit our new and improved office on the second floor of Reynolda Hall. We guarantee that they’ll be impressed and motivated to start moving forward on their career journey.

We can’t predict what the economy will do. But by working with us, we can predict that your student will have a direction and plan that they’re motivated to pursue.

Speaking with Student Leaders

School has officially begun and we are thrilled that students have returned! Last Tuesday, I met with forty-five students at our OPCD Open House for Student Leaders at Wake Forest. The majority of them were seniors, and when I asked how many of them had a clear career path for the year, only four raised their hands. I think this speaks to the importance of what our office hopes to accomplish this year: ensuring that all students come in to our office to meet with a career counselor, clarify their interests and determine appropriate options, and develop a motivating action plan for their career search.
We discussed how it can be difficult to get motivated to do a job search given the weak job economy.  When I shared that 9 out of 10 Wake Forest graduates in 2009 and 2010 were either employed or in graduate school by December after their graduation, they realized that they could beat the economy and find success in their job or grad school search. I feel that many students actually shoot themselves in the foot by not trying and giving up too soon. We know that when students come to our office and create an action plan with a career counselor, we can help them stay motivated and accountable to take one step at a time.  Given the many ups and downs of the job search, especially in this crazy economy, it’s even more important not to run the race alone.
We understand that every student has a unique path: whether they want to find employment, pursue graduate or business school, travel abroad, or volunteer. Our hope is that our seniors understand that we can help them at every step in this process. By capitalizing on the OPCD’s resources, staff, and expertise, our seniors will be able to successfully prepare for their post-graduate plans. Seniors, we look forward to helping you this year as you look towards graduation!

First Years Meet the OPCD

Last week I had the special opportunity to deliver a light-hearted and fun overview of the new Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) to all 1,246 students from the Class of 2015.   As part of the official orientation program here at Wake Forest, our newest students received an overview of the core OPCD resources and began the process of successfully navigating their journey from college to career.

With our twenty-six person staff, our First Year students learned how to take advantage of the variety of resources housed in the OPCD’s five departments:  Career and Professional Development, Leadership Development, the Mentoring Resource Center, the Family Business Center, and the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship.

To emphasize the need for students to manage and take responsibility for their personal decisions, we employed a new audience participation tool to let our audience drive the program.  At each juncture in our presentation, students were shown a set of questions and asked to text a “vote” for the question that they wanted to have answered.  In our example below, over 700 students interacted directly by texting their replies using Polleverywhere.com.

Through our interactive presentation, the First Years learned about where to find the Focus2 career assessment tool and how to track their likes and dislikes on our T-chart handout over the course of their first year at Wake Forest.  Students were encouraged to share their findings with parents, academic advisors, career counselors and other adult fans to discuss their results and possible majors and careers.  If you are a parent of a First Year student, consider asking your student about these tools and their preliminary thoughts over Thanksgiving or Winter Break.

Students also learned about the new credit-bearing half-semester career classes available to all students, with two specifically designed for first year and sophomore students.  Students were excited to learn about the $100,000 in grants for entrepreneurial new ventures and internships offered through our Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship.

We asked the first year students to remember three simple tips:

  1. Start early. By starting early, students can gather the necessary information about themselves and the world of work to successfully manage the career development process.  By waiting, it’s much more stressful and difficult. If your student has questions on where to begin, you can direct them to our Career and Professional Development website, which has many useful resources, including a checklist for first year students.
  2. Visit the OPCD office. By stopping by our new office in Reynolda Hall on the 2nd floor near the Magnolia room, students will quickly learn about the many ways that we will be able to support them over their four years at Wake Forest.  Each student should schedule a career counseling appointment starting in January to begin work on their career action plan.
  3. Register for DeaconSource. All students should register so that we can track their career activity.  In addition, students will receive personalized email announcements tailored to their career interests (which can be updated any time) and gain access to our internship and job listings. I am excited to report that less than a week after our presentation, a quarter of the first year class has registered for DeaconSource!  Whatever year your child may be in, please make sure that they are registered in DeaconSource.

We’ve Moved!

I am pleased to announce that our Office of Personal and Career Development is ready and excited to welcome students in our new home on the second floor of Reynolda Hall.

On August 1st, our twenty-six staff members moved into our new, 7,000 square foot space located down the hall from the Magnolia Room. With a new state-of-the art ‘Innovation Station’ and six media-enhanced counseling suites, we are looking forward to collaborating with students when they arrive this week.

Fall semester programming has already been developed to make the best use of the OPCD’s new Innovation Station, a flexible space designed to educate up to 30 students at a time – for workshops, company presentations, resume reviews and interactive classes.  Instructors and students can now take advantage of the Innovation Station with full media and internet capability, smart board technology, a 17’ X 10’ dry erase board, and wheeled furniture.

Our counselors have begun to meet with students in the OPCD’s six newly designed career counseling suites. Each of the suites include a 42” computer monitor to engage students in assessing employer websites, giving tips for a variety of job boards, reviewing presentations, and evaluating career assessment results.

As we settle in and begin to see students on a daily basis, we will post additional photos with special attention to our new media resources and student exploration spaces.  We will be hosting tours of our new offices during the Friday afternoon of Family Weekend on September 16th.   Please stop by when you are on campus!

Inspiring Leadership at Wake Forest

I’d like to introduce you to Evelyn Williams, Wake Forest University’s new Associate Vice President for Leadership Development.  Evelyn has joined our staff in the Office of Personal and Career Development, where she will be developing leadership curriculum and programming for our undergraduate students.

Evelyn’s research focuses on leadership, team dynamics, interpersonal dynamics, curriculum design, organizational behavior and management communication. She plans to help Wake Forest students build leadership skills throughout their undergraduate experience so that post-graduation, students are able to seamlessly transition into the work world or graduate school with confidence.

Evelyn is passionate about working with undergraduate students to help develop their leadership acumen for their personal and professional lives. She believes that every graduate must possess three skills in order to be a leader in their field:

  • The ability to motivate others,
  • The ability to influence outcomes, and
  • The ability to build and maintain relationships.

As an English major, Williams believes that a liberal arts education is the foundation from which great leaders are built:  “Organizations rely on students with liberal arts backgrounds who look at challenges and change through a variety of lenses. When asked to improve team building in an organization, an employee who has studied anthropology may use ethnographic skills to understand the corporate ‘tribe’ by interviewing members of the community to learn about the workplace culture. Or use lessons from sociology on group dynamics to find ways to team-build.”

Prior to joining us here at Wake Forest, Evelyn developed and led several leadership programs at both Stanford University and the University of Chicago. Evelyn worked with me at the Stanford Graduate School of Business where she developed one of the premier MBA leadership development programs that students regarded as an outstanding transformational experience to prepare them for the professional world. She has also worked in executive and leadership development positions within Fortune 500 firms in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

We are excited to have Evelyn join our team and look forward to collaborating with her on innovative, transformational leadership programs for our students, including those in the business and medical schools. Welcome to the Wake Forest community, Evelyn!

To read more about Evelyn and her new position at Wake Forest, the full article is available here.

A Successful Year

As we plan for another exciting year in the Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD), I’d be remiss not to take a moment to share our successful year as described in our 2010-2011 Annual Report. Twelve months ago, the OPCD was just a concept. Over this past year, it has become a reality. We are no longer a standard career services office designed to help upper class students ‘just get a job or internship.’ We are equipping students to lead lives with purpose. In addition to supporting students’ job search and career development needs, we are providing opportunities to learn important competencies for life and work, including mentoring, leadership, professional skills, innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.

As many of you are aware, the mission of the OPCD is to teach, advise, and equip all Wake Forest students to successfully navigate the path from college to career. This year, we focused on accomplishing four key goals:

  • Assemble a strong team and foundation
  • Inspire and track increased student education and engagement with our office and programs
  • Create new partnerships, networking connections, and employment opportunities with faculty, parents, alumni, and employers
  • Raise necessary funds to cover our projected expenses (incremental to the University’s operating support) through June 2014

Our office received consistent, positive feedback from students, employers, and faculty with many noting the innovations and visibility of our office and staff. By increasing the staff from 7 to 25 and broadening our mission and services, our investment is making an impact on Wake Forest. An admitted student’s parent recently commented that our services and resources are “head and shoulders above the rest of the other schools we are considering. It gives [Wake Forest] a distinct advantage.”

Our positive results reflect not only the contributions of the OPCD staff, but also those of our partners across the University. With a focus on developing the College-to-Career Community, more faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and employers are engaged and equipped to effectively support our students than ever before.

As we reflect upon our successful year (including raising over $5 million from friends and parents!), we also look forward to continued growth and accomplishments in 2011-2012. From new technologies and resources to new programs and courses and a new office space on the 2nd floor of Reynolda Hall, we will continue to build upon the strong foundation that we have created while further developing our unique College-to-Career Community, a caring, supportive community and culture that is already becoming known as an leading, innovative model in higher education.

A New Home

Construction is underway on the new home for the Office of Personal & Career Development.

To equip Wake Forest students for their future career endeavors, we have spent the past year assembling an exceptional team of professionals in the areas of career education, employer relations, mentoring, professional development, leadership and entrepreneurship.  Our new office space will bring together our 26 talented individuals from various locations on campus.  An architect and an interior design specialist, both with expertise in education design, has developed a unique office space designed to encourage collaboration as well as provide exceptional service and support to students.

Located on the second floor of Reynolda Hall in the middle of campus, and down the hall from the popular Magnolia Room, our state-of-the-art workspace design will enable our staff members to work with students in a welcoming, open environment.  The 7,000 square foot “hall” will house a new Innovation Station training room for groups of up to twenty-five, six rooms for counseling appointments, open meeting and collaboration space, and contemporary work stations and glass offices. Construction is on-track for us to move in in early August and to open the doors to our students when classes begin at the end of August.

Above is an arial view of the new space. Below are photos of the new space in the early stages of renovation. Over the next six weeks, I will post additional pictures, progress reports and details of the new office as our new home takes shape. Please stop back to check out the progress!

Above: Hallway view looking towards the reception area.

Above: The Quad Pod.

Above: Counseling appointment rooms near the reception area.

Above: The Magnolia Quad Pod.

Above: The Magnolia Quad Pod.

The Expense of Unpaid Internships

Hi Andy,


I’m a junior that has landed an unpaid internship with a television network in New York City this summer.  My employer tells me that I have to earn academic credit for the internship.  This would be the opportunity of a lifetime, but it’s really expensive to live in New York and I’m not being paid.  Can you help?


A hopeful NYC intern

Dear hopeful NYC intern,

Several students have raised this question during the spring semester so I asked one of our team members, Patrick Sullivan for his sage advice. His wisdom is captured below…

Aside from two Wake Forest endowments that offer stipends for unpaid entrepreneurial activities, there is very little money available to fund unpaid internships.  Given this reality, here are a few options to consider:

1.  Part-time internship/Part-time work – In many cases employers offering unpaid internships will be flexible in their scheduling because they recognize the costs you will incur.  Consider interning part–time to build professional experience while working part–time in a summer job to earn the money you need for your expenses.  Check out sites like Craigslist or Snagajob to identify part-time jobs in New York City.

If your schedule allows, you could also consider working in a temporary job before or after your internship to earn more money.

2.  Limit your housing costs – Living in New York City is expensive, without a doubt.  In addition to the options available through organizations like Educational Housing Services many college dormitories are rented out to interns during the summer.  In New York City, dormitory housing at NYU and Columbia offers great, inexpensive options for summer interns.

3.  Limit the cost of earning credit – You can also limit the cost of earning credit through Wake Forest.  If your employer requires you to earn credit during the summer, the least expensive option available is Business 181, a 1-credit class that any student, regardless of major, can take.  You can contact Dean Betsy Hoppe in the Schools of Business for more information.

If your employer does not require you to earn credit during the summer, you can arrange an independent study project, based on your internship experience, to be completed in the fall of 2011.  By enrolling and receiving your credit in the fall, your tuition costs will be absorbed into full-time tuition and you would not have to pay summer school tuition.

If you are creative and consider these suggestions, you can certainly manage your costs effectively.  While unpaid summer internships do present challenges, the skills and experience you gain are critical for your personal and career development.

101 Things to do Before you Graduate

My friend, Jullien Gordon, co-wrote the book “101 Things to do Before you Graduate” and in my opinion, it is a must read for every college bound high school senior.  It may seem a bit overwhelming to begin with, right?  101 things to do before I graduate—heck, I haven’t even started!  The reality is, developing goals and having a plan to achieve them is one key to success in college.  This book is the ideal blueprint for creating that plan.

The book is divided into four ‘chapters’, if you will, focusing on Academic, Career, Money and Success.  Then broken down even further into:  Academic Excellence, Above & Beyond, Campus Involvement, Graduate School, Networking, Skill Development, Personal Brand, Job Hunting, Manage your Money, Make Money, Health and Wellness, Relationships, Leadership and Service and Personal Growth.

“If you want to build a solid foundation for an inspired life, this list will pay off in ways you can’t even imagine.”