Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

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Motivating first year students

A reader recently asked me for suggestions on how to motivate her first year student to begin the career process.  Here is some guidance from our career counselors:

Most first-year students use the fall semester as a time to adjust to “real” college life, which includes the load and stress of classwork, studying and research, and the freedom to make choices in how they spend their time. It is normal for a freshman to not have considered the resources that Career Services can offer. We see interest in our services pick up during the sophomore fall and spring semesters, especially since major declaration is required in February.

However, it would be advantageous to meet with a career counselor this semester to begin the exploration process in a proactive, informed manner.  She will also be less likely to miss out on potential opportunities and experiences.

Another option is to talk to your daughter about pursuing some type of career exploration experience during this semester or the summer (e.g. shadowing a person/alumnus in a field of interest or obtaining a summer job/volunteer experience/internship) – in exchange for receiving something else of value.  Bribery does sometime work!  Once your daughter has this experience, her interest in career-related “stuff” will likely be piqued.

Also, ask your daughter to register for a career development course for first year and sophomore students scheduled to begin in fall 2012.   She will receive credit for taking the course so she will likely take it seriously and make progress on her journey from college to career.

Internships for pre-meds

Dear Andy,

I have seen a great improvement in career services over the last year and really appreciate your team’s efforts. My daughter is a junior pre-med and has been looking for an opportunity for the summer.  She seems to be having a difficult time finding an opportunity to match a
pre-med student’s needs.  Should she apply for any internship rather than none at all?  Is there a database of internships for pre-meds?

– A Pre-Med’s Dad

Dear P.M.D.,

There are several resources that your daughter should be actively using:

  1. She should contact Professor Pat Lord to get onto the listserv for pre-health/pre-med students.  Then, she will be kept informed about important pre-med news and information.
  2. She should also meet with Dr. Lord once she returns to campus during spring semester.  Dr. Lord can discuss summer opportunities as well her overall strategy and plan for applying to medical schools, including letters of recommendation.
  3. A helpful website listing hundreds of co-op and internship opportunities for pre-med students and students interested in biomedical research: http://people.rit.edu/gtfsbi/Symp/premed.htm
  4. Many universities run summer research programs for undergraduates.  While some of these programs are intended to introduce students to PhD programs, many of them are relevant for and open to the pre-med student.  A link to a list of such programs is here – http://www.the-aps.org/education/ugsrf/sumreslinks.htm
  5. By meeting with a career counselor in the Office of Career Services, she will be introduced to a variety of databases and other sources that would have opportunities that fit her interests.  UCAN and internships.com have many internship and volunteer opportunities for students interested in medicine.

If you daughter proactively engages with the many resources available, she should be able to find an internship that will help her learn more about medical careers and enhance her potential application.  If she is serious about medical school, it is important for her to find a valuable, worthwhile internship.

What to pay college interns?

Dear Andy,

I was wondering what you suggest as a compensation guideline for summer internships in the healthcare industry. I’ve heard that the average is $25 per hour.

I hear that the compensation in recent times has diminished, and that some students have taken internships without compensation, but I’d like to pay what’s appropriate.

What do you recommend?

– A Paying Employer

Dear P.E.,

Glassdoor.com is a useful website that publishes self-reported wage and salary information.  The site can be searched by job title, employer and/or industry.

One of our career counselors used the advanced search feature and found over 400 results for intern salaries in the healthcare industry.  Some highlights are below:

  • Finance Intern:  $10 to $22 per hour
  • Operations Intern:  $15 to $34 per hour
  • Marketing Intern:  $10 to $36 per hour
  • MBA Intern:  $22 to $42 per hour

I am pleased to hear that you intend to pay your interns.  Employers need to be aware that there is a new law enacted this past year in which it is illegal to hire interns for free in many cases.

You are providing a great service to provide internship opportunities.  College students need work experience to help them develop work skills and learn about possible jobs and careers.  It’s even more important today as there are fewer opportunities available for them.  Thank you!

Job searching when on semester abroad

Dear Andy,

As a parent of a junior that is about to leave for a semester abroad, I was wondering what advice you might provide about internships for the summer. I assume that a lot of applications/interviews for these must occur during the spring semester, and she will be unable to follow through with an interview if she is out of the country. What would you suggest as an appropriate approach to this problem? Many of the applications are online and would not provide the “cover letter” option to inform prospective internships of her unavailability. Any advice you or someone in career development might have would be appreciated.  Thanks!

– A Concerned Mom

Dear C.M.,

Thanks for writing to me about your daughter’s situation.  There are hundreds of students who will have a similar experience so it’s good to be inquiring.

Let’s start by addressing the internship market and process:

  1. Although some internships are acquired by students through on-campus recruiting activities, the majority are acquired by candidates who seek out contacts and opportunities (this is networking).  Email and phone are very acceptable methods to make these types of connections.
  2. Numerous employers choose not to absorb the cost of bringing candidates to their location for in-person interviews.  As a result, they will make their internship offer decisions based on applications and phone/video or Skype interviews.  Many online applications require a cover letter so candidates can explain their interest and qualifications.  As long as your daughter is able and willing to make the arrangements for an international phone call, there should be no disadvantage to her bring abroad.
  3. For many firms, interviews can be conducted with Skype, so your daughter’s international location is not a barrier.

I asked our career counselors for their advice and recommendations:

  1. If it’s possible before she leaves the country, she should set up an appointment with a career counselor to develop a job search action plan that takes into account her interests and study-abroad experience. This appointment can be done over the phone or in person. To make the appointment, she can call our main office at 336-758-5902.
  2. If she has an interest in specific employers who recruit on-campus, she should speak with Dana Hutchens in the Office of Career Services.  Dana will give your daughter instructions on how to apply and be considered for such opportunities.
  3. Utilize the information and list of internship websites and resources available on the Career Services internship website: http://career.opcd.wfu.edu/career-resources/how-to-find-an-internship/. http://career.opcd.wfu.edu/career-resources/internship-and-job-postings/.
  4. If your daughter is a BEM student in the business school, she should speak with professor Holly Brower for specific suggestions on how BEM students addressed this issue last year.  Dr. Brower has many relationships with companies who offer internships for BEM students.
  5. If your daughter is interested in an academic or research internship, she should speak to a faculty member in her area of interest for advice and support.

As you can tell by the above advice, your daughter has many resources available to her.  Please encourage her to utilize them as soon as possible.  She will gather the necessary information and generate more potential options if she gets started on this process before she heads overseas.

What Senior Parents Need to Know at Winter Break

Your Senior student is likely one semester away from graduating – an extremely exciting accomplishment. This Winter break will be an opportune time for you and your student to discuss together your Senior’s postgraduate options.

At this point during senior year, many students are quite anxious.  With students dressed in business attire for interviews, some students worry when they are not participating in interviews or if they have not received a job offer.  The reality is that historically less than 20% of the student body has a job offer at this time.

In addition, many seniors are considering graduate school and won’t know about their options until later in the spring.  Since 30-40% of Wake Forest students attend graduate school each year, these students, too, are anxious about their uncertain future.

The good news is that the majority of employers and jobs that are available and filled each year come to the market just months before the start date.  So if a student is looking to start work in September, formal interviews for these jobs may not begin until June.  But this doesn’t mean that your student should wait until then to begin the job search process.

Whether your Senior is headed for postgraduate study, a full-time job, an internship within his or her field of interest, a “gap year,” work abroad, or volunteer work, here are some helpful suggestions for how they can take advantage of Winter Break:

  • Rest and reenergize that positive and confident attitude.  This demeanor will go a long way toward impressing all networking contacts and employers.
  • Network! Networking is the most powerful method to secure an internship.  Support your student in his/her networking attempts.  Introduce your student to some friends and family members that will share information about different types of organizations, careers and jobs.  Coach your student on how to conduct an informational interview. During the fall semester, students were offered programming on the most popular on-line networking site, LinkedIn.  Ask your student about their LinkedIn account; “How does it work?”,  “Is there a Wake Forest alumni group?”,  “What makes LinkedIn different from Facebook?”.  Check out the helpful video tutorials to get the most out of this tool.
  • Check out helpful on-line job search and alternative selection websites.  Over 63% of all Seniors are registered on DeaconSource, the only Wake Forest specific internship and job posting site.  As a result of our outreach to parents, alumni and employers this fall, the list of employers requesting Wake Forest graduates has increased considerably, thus growing the number and the quality of job postings within DeaconSource.  If your Senior has not activated their DeaconSource account they can email Laurie Cronin anytime over the break to have their account activated if they agree to attend a DeaconSource Registration meeting prior to February 11, 2010.
  • Winter break is a great time to do some stress-free research.  Your student should log-on to Vault to read about how employers describe their industry and career functions.  If your Senior is considering graduate school, take a look at www.petersons.com to explore and compare any graduate school programs in the United States.  Have your student check out our website for additional job leads, networking, career exploration, and interview preparation sites.  Also, check out the Document Library in DeaconSource under the Document tab for information on a variety of industries, bridge jobs and popular cities.
  • Students should closely review their resume to make sure it is clearly targeted to their pursuit.  Employers are impressed when an applicant clearly communicates their enthusiastic interest and value on their resume and in their cover letter.  Your student can get a constructive resume/cover letter/graduate school essay and application critique from a Career Counselor.  We offer daily resume walk-in hours every day from 1-3 pm and a bonus session each Friday from 10 am – noon.  To consider any of the other selections mentioned above, make an appointment to meet with a Career Counselor.
  • Finally, the interview is the ultimate test of how well a student can express personal value to a potential employer, admissions professional, or other decision maker.  Over the break, your student can use Interview Stream to practice and strengthen their interview skills.  Back on campus, your student can put their skills to the test by making an appointment for a mock interview with a Career Counselor. Interviews are extremely competitive and challenging for even the most confident candidate.  Preparation and practice are the keys to calming nerves and turning the interview into a valuable exchange of information that will benefit both the employer and the candidate.
  • Upon returning to campus, your Senior will benefit from a one-on-one appointment with a Career Counselor where ideas and plans can be shared, evaluated and further developed.  Our counselors have access to many tools, such as the Strong Interest Inventory and the Strengths Quest assessments, which students can take online to help identify their interests, strengths, possible career options and prepare for interviews.

Reassure your Senior that they do not have to “have it all figured out” with regard to their postgraduate plans.  They are not alone.  Our counselors have advised and assisted thousands of Wake Forest Seniors with all different majors, backgrounds, interests and plans and they have the experience and the tools to work effectively with your Senior, too.

Encourage and support your student over this Winter break to move forward with their postgraduate research, networking and planning. We find that students have (or make) little time for this important activity while on campus.  The Winter Break is a great time to make significant progress.

What Junior Parents Need to Know at Winter Break

Winter break is the perfect time for juniors to get a jump on the internship search.  The summer internship recruiting season formally begins in January and on-campus interviews will start in February.  While your student is home for winter break inspire them to spend some time doing the following:

  • Rest and reenergize that positive and confident attitude.  This demeanor will go a long way toward impressing all networking contacts and employers.
  • Network! Networking is the most powerful method to secure an internship.  Support your student in his/her networking attempts.  Introduce your student to some friends and family members that will share information about different types of organizations, careers and jobs.  Coach your student on how to conduct an informational interview. During the fall semester, students were offered programming on the most popular on-line networking site, LinkedIn.  Ask your student about their LinkedIn account; “How does it work?”, “Is there a Wake Forest alumni group?”, “What makes LinkedIn different from Facebook?”.  Watch the helpful video tutorials to get the most out of this tool.
  • Check out helpful on-line internship search websites. Over 47% of all Juniors are registered on DeaconSource, the only Wake Forest-specific internship and job posting site.  As a result of our outreach to parents, alumni and employers this fall, the list of employers requesting Wake Forest interns has increased considerably, thus growing the number and quality of internship postings within DeaconSource.  Students should also look at internship databases like internships.com and UCAN.  Your student’s DeaconSource account must be activated to view internships and to access UCAN and Interview Stream.  They can email Laurie Cronin anytime over the break to have their account activated if they agree to attend a DeaconSource Registration meeting prior to February 11, 2010.
  • Winter break is a great time to do some stress-free research. Your student should log-on to Vault to read about how employers describe their industry and career functions. Students should closely review their resume to make sure it is clearly targeted to the internships they are seeking.  It is very impressive to an employer when an applicant clearly communicates their enthusiastic interest and value on their resume and in their cover letter. Your student can get a constructive resume/cover letter critique from a Career Counselor.  We offer resume walk-in hours every day from 1-3 pm and a bonus session on Friday from 10 am-noon.
  • Finally, there is the ultimate test of how well a student can express personal value to the potential employer – the interview.  Over the break, your student can use Interview Stream to practice and strengthen their interview skill.  Later, they can put their skill to the test by making an appointment for a mock interview with a Career Counselor.  Interviews are extremely competitive and challenging for even the most confident candidate.  Preparation and practice is the key to calming the nerves and turning the interview into a valuable exchange of information that will benefit both the employer and the candidate.
  • Upon returning to campus, your student will benefit from a one-on-one appointment with a Career Counselor where ideas and plans can be shared, evaluated and developed.  Our counselors have access to many tools, such as the Focus2 assessment, which students can take independently online in brief 15 minute modules to identify career options that align with their interests, values, skills and personality.  Reassure your student that he or she does not need to “have it all figured out.”  Most students do not.  Our counselors have advised and assisted thousands of Wake Forest students with all different majors, backgrounds, interests and plans and they look forward to working with your student, too.

Encourage your student to use this Winter Break to jump-start the internship search process.  We find that students have (or make) little time for this important activity while on campus.  Winter Break is a great time to make significant progress.

What Sophomore Parents Need to Know at Winter Break

Sophomores will likely be deciding on their major during the upcoming spring semester.  I hope that discussions with parents, professors, academic advisors and career counselors, coupled with exposure to divisionals have already helped to narrow down the options.  If you’d like to support your sophomore as he or she makes this important academic and life decision, take some time over the winter break to consider a few ideas together.

Major Choice

Many students are inclined toward the majors they believe will create the greatest volume of job opportunities when, in fact, Wake Forest has a national reputation as a liberal arts college and the majority of our recruiters are looking to hire our students with any major.  So when your student elects to major in English over Education, Economics over Business, or Theatre over Biology, you might respond by simply listening and posing a few open-ended questions:

  • “I don’t know a lot about that major, tell me about it.”
  • “What do you think you will like/dislike about it?”
  • “How can you gather more information about this major?”
  • “How might you gather more information about the types of jobs and careers that result from pursuing this major?”
  • “I heard that the career office has an online self-assessment, Focus 2, that can help you confirm majors that fit you best given your interests, values, skills and personality.  You might like to check it out.”

Internship Search

Sophomores can feel anxious about having to decide their major and also having to think about and work on their summer internship plans.  Though summer is an optimal time for an internship, there are also plenty of spring internship opportunities near Wake Forest. If your student is interested, have them stop by the career office or log-on to DeaconSource to learn about some of these opportunities.

“What is the value of an internship?” College begins that time when your student should start to connect with the working world.  An internship gives students the chance to experiment with different job functions and skills and experience each function firsthand.  Support your student as they try something new.  Strongly encourage them not to return to their old high school job or to a job that does not help them learn about new environments, new skills or new relationships (e.g. life guard, sports team coach, camp counselor).  If they must, encourage them to also volunteer, do short-term projects or job shadow in another field.

There are many employers who actually consider hiring their entry-level employees directly from their internship pool. The earlier your student begins to stretch beyond their comfort zone, the stronger their foundation of knowledge will be – about themselves and about the working world. As they discover their interests and passions and how those interests and passions fit into the world of work they open doors to opportunities they never dreamed possible.  People learn best through experience, so encourage and facilitate new and varying experiences to enable your student to grow and learn.

Connect with Adult Friends

Over the winter break introduce your student to some friends and family members who will share information about different types of organizations, careers and jobs.  Coach your student on how to conduct an informational interview and allow them to develop their personal information gathering style with familiar and friendly adults.

Use the Career Office

Upon returning to campus, your student will benefit from a one-on-one appointment with a Career Counselor where ideas and plans can be shared, evaluated and developed.  Our counselors have access to many tools, such as the Focus2 assessment, which students can take online in brief 15 minute modules to identify career options that align with their interests, values, skills and personality.  Reassure your student that he or she does not need to “have it all figured out” when it comes to their career path. Most students do not.  Our counselors have advised and assisted thousands of Wake Forest students with all different majors, backgrounds, interests and plans and they look forward to working with your student, too.

If they haven’t already done so, students should attend a DeaconSource Registration meeting to activate their DeaconSource account.  DeaconSource is the only Wake Forest-specific internship and job posting site and keeps students informed about internship and job opportunities and educational events.  Over 51% of all sophomores are already registered.

All of these ideas and interactions will enable your student to make a confident selection of first, a college major and second, an internship opportunity.

What First Year Parents Need to Know at Winter Break

Many first year students are trying to decide on a college major.  They might also be wrestling with their summer plans.  As your student goes through this process of making these important academic and life decisions, your primary role will be to listen, motivate and encourage.

Major Choice

Many students are inclined toward the majors they believe will create the greatest volume of job opportunities when, in fact, Wake Forest has a national reputation as a liberal arts college and the majority of our recruiters are looking to hire our students with any major.  So when your student elects to major in English over Education, Economics over Business, or Theatre over Biology, you might respond by simply listening and posing a few open-ended questions.

  • “I don’t know a lot about that major, tell me about it.”
  • “What do you think you will like/dislike about it?”
  • “How can you gather more information about this major?”
  • “How might you gather more information about the types of jobs and careers that result from pursuing this major?”
  • “I heard that the career office has an online self-assessment, Focus 2, that can help you confirm majors that fit you best given your interests, values, skills and personality.  You might like to check it out.”

Summer Internship Search

What about summer plans?  College begins that time when your student should start to connect with the working world.  The summer is the optimal time to experiment with different job functions and skills and experience each function firsthand.  Support your student as they try something new.  If they must return to their old high school job, encourage them additionally to volunteer, do short-term projects or job shadow in another field.

Plant the seed for a thought toward the future.  The earlier your student begins to stretch beyond their comfort zone, the stronger their foundation of knowledge will be – about themselves and about the working world.  As they discover their interests and passions and how those interests and passions fit into the world of work they may open doors to new opportunities they never dreamed possible.  People learn best through experience, so encourage and facilitate new and varying experiences to enable your student to grow and learn.

Connect with Adult Friends

Over the winter break introduce your student to some friends and family members who will share information about different types of organizations, careers and jobs.  Coach your student on how to conduct an informational interview and allow them to begin to develop their personal information gathering style with familiar and friendly adults.

Use the Career Office

Upon returning to campus, your student will benefit from a one-on-one appointment with a Career Counselor where ideas and plans can be shared, evaluated and developed.  Our counselors have access to many tools, such as the Focus2 assessment, which students can take online in brief 15 minute modules to identify career options that align with their interests, values, skills and personality.  Reassure your student that he or she does not need to “have it all figured out.”  Most students do not.  Our counselors have advised and assisted thousands of Wake Forest students with all different majors, backgrounds, interests and plans and they look forward to working with your student, too.

If they haven’t already done so, students should attend a DeaconSource Registration meeting to activate their DeaconSource account.  DeaconSource is the only Wake Forest-specific internship and job posting site and keeps students informed about internship and job opportunities and educational events.  Over 37% of all first year students are already registered.

All of these interactions will enable your student to begin developing a confident selection of first, a summer work experience, and second, a college major.



It’s tough to get an investment banking interview

Dear Andy,

I have been trying to help Steve, a college friend of my son.  He has been pleased with the support he has been given by the career services office. However, he seems frustrated as a Math Econ major because he feels excluded from i-banking and private equity interviews that the business school students are getting.  He is not negative and has gotten some good interviews and is just trying like crazy.  Is there something he should do to be able to get more of these types of interviews?

A Helpful Dad

Dear Helpful Dad,

Sam has a nice resume, but to be honest, it’s not quite at the level that the i-bankers are looking for.  Most i-banks require students to have at least 3.5 or higher; and the top tier banks want students above 3.7.  This is the primary reason why he can’t get those interviews.  The banks will look at any student with those grades (so it’s not only about being just a business school student – although it can appear that way because so many apply and get interviews relative to the number of non-business school students).

I am sorry that the i-banks are so rigid, but that’s the world he’s trying to get into.  The main strategy at this point is that he has to network – a lot.  And then, perhaps, an alum or friend will ‘sponsor’ him by saying “He’s worth your interviewing, so please give him a shot.”

He should not rely on just applying for jobs by sending his resume into a HR mailbox with thousands of other resumes in which at least a hundred of them have above a 3.5.

He is doing the directionally correct thing by talking to you, but he really should speak with alumni 2-10 years out of college.  They are the folks who will give him the most relevant information on the career path and advice on how to get in the door (as they did or as they are seeing it currently happen in their firm).  We are training students to use LinkedIn to find these alums, so he should go to one of these workshops or make an appointment with a career counselor who can teach him how to use it.

I am guessing that this isn’t exactly what he wants to hear, but hopefully it will help him decide if he wants to do the very hard work of “networking” for it or look for other types of opportunities (which the career services office can help him with).  The window to get a full-time job for next fall in i-banking is almost closed because they do their interviews between September and November – unless it’s a smaller, boutique i-bank.

Also, private equity is not an option right out of college except for a select few people… in the world.  These few students who have that option typically had private equity internships and are returning to the same firm, interned at places like Goldman or Blackstone last summer (very rare), and/or have a parent who runs a PE firm or who has personal or family connections.  They also likely have above a 3.7 from an Ivy League-type school – since many PE firms are run by Ivy League alums.

These firms are incredibly selective and hire very few people each year (sometimes none), so it’s best for every student to develop alternative options.  To help set students expectations in the job search, I frequently tell students to “hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst” given the inherent uncertainty in the process.  I say this not to be discouraging, but to motivate students to work diligently to create multiple options.

Microsoft or Teach For America?

Dear Andy,

My daughter is a senior in college. She is a business major and is deciding between 2 job offers…..one is with Microsoft in their finance dept. It seems like a well structured job that would rotate her through 4 different areas and give her a lot of exposure to different areas of finance. It seems like a very good, fairly traditional job.

The other opportunity is Teach for America. Obviously a very different type of job.

The question for you is if her ultimate goal is bschool, law school  or other grad school, do you think one or the other is a better choice?

This is clearly not the major deciding factor, but I’m interested in knowing how these two very different experiences would be viewed by graduate schools.

Andy’s answer:

She’s has two good options: Finance rotational at Microsoft or Teach for America.  In general, she won’t go wrong with either one.

Law schools tend to evaluate candidates primarily on GPA and LSAT test scores.  Of course, good recommendations and essays are important – but I assume that’s a given.  What she does between college and applying to law school should not make that much of a difference in her application (given her two options).  If she wasn’t certain about her desire to go to law school, she should consider working as a paralegal or with the legal counsel in a corporation to help her decide if she really wanted to be a lawyer.

I find that this is the ultimate issue for most young adults regarding law school.  So many smart people apply and attend without really knowing why. I wish that they would ask themselves these questions before starting an application: “Do I understand what the life and career of a lawyer really is? Is it life and career I desire? Do I understand the career options of a lawyer upon graduation?  Are they options that I desire?  Do I understand that if I do not excel in law school that my job search will be VERY challenging – whether I want to be a lawyer or not?”  (Actually, these questions could apply to most graduate school options, but are especially relevant to law school because the schools have so many students, the students are often inexperienced, and the legal job market is tight).

Graduate schools are pretty similar as law schools in their evaluation process.  However, given that she studied business as an undergrad and worked in finance at Microsoft, I wonder how strong her application would be for the graduate school in ______ (psych, public policy, etc…).  Her experience may be more applicable to graduate school if she wanted to go to grad school in Education after working for Teach For America.  Or if she wanted her Masters in Finance or MBA after working for Microsoft in Finance.  The answer to this question is a bit more nuanced depending on what type of graduate school she is considering.

Many of the students at the most selective business schools (e.g. Stanford, HBS) tend to have multiple experiences at good and/or well-known organizations (business + non-profit, e.g. Teach For America, NGO, international development, Congress).  So if she wants a shot to get into one of these schools, she will probably want to consider another contrasting work experience before she applies to business school. In this case, either option is good.

If she’s considering other b-schools or is not inclined to get another job, then either Microsoft or TFA are both good options.  Given her undergrad business school education, she probably knows enough about business to decide if that’s her ultimate career path.  If she had a different undergraduate major, I might suggest that she take the Microsoft job so that she could learn ‘business’ and determine if she really wants to go to graduate business school.

As you can see, I can’t offer a concrete answer that one is significantly better than the other. They are both good options – and the right one for her likely depends on your daughter’s experience, preferences and future vision.