Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

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Help Your Child Go for the Gold

The OPCD is getting into the Olympic spirit!

If you haven’t seen the Proctor & Gamble advertisement honoring the mothers of various Olympians, it’s worth seeing.  My own kids like to tease me about how I get choked up and emotional watching touching stories, and this ad definitely got a tear out of me!


Whether or not the ad affected you, most of us agree that we wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of our parents.

One crucial step for parents is the college-to-career process.  From taking your prospective student on college tours and helping him (or her) decide on the best fit school to helping him make connections and prepare for job or internship interviews, you are a pivotal player in the process.  When I ask parents to guess who has the most influence on student career decisions, they typically don’t include themselves.  In our work with thousands of students each year, we find that parents actually hold the greatest influence on student career decision making.

So it’s so important for parents to take this role and responsibility seriously.  That means parents need to be very conscious of the opinions they share, the judgements they make and the expectations they have.  Every interaction with your student sends them a message about whether or not you approve of their choices and process.  Students really feel a lot of pressure and anxiety, and parents can either add to the intensity or they can help the student handle it in a positive, supportive manner.

Compounding this challenging reality, the world of work is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace.  There is so much new information regarding how and when various employers recruit, what careers are hot (and not), the value of graduate school, how to utilize social networks, how to best use the career office and many other questions.  In order to guide and advise your student effectively, you need accurate information to base your opinions, advice and decisions on.  You must understand the environment, resources and opportunities available to your student through the OPCD (and other networks and connections that you or your students may possess).  It really does “take a village” to help our students achieve positive career outcomes.  Very few “go it alone” these days.

To help you learn about the best ways to help your child on the path from college-to-career, please visit our OPCD parent page for important information and resources.  Thank you for all that you do to support your students and assist in their career development process.

Death, Taxes, and First Destination Surveys

It is a guarantee of life: if you recently graduated from college, you will receive a request from your institution to fill out a survey detailing your post-graduate plans. In fact, you may receive multiple requests if you don’t answer the survey. While it is commonly recognized that colleges use this information to understand their graduates’ first destination outcomes, the full function and importance of these surveys is not widely understood.

Most importantly, the first destination survey is one report card of the university, especially the career office. It measures how effectively the institution supported and guided students in their personal and career development. With the student feedback provided, the career office can improve their communications, programs, resources and events. For instance, if graduates’ responses indicate a low level of awareness and usage of mock interview services, the career office can improve the publicity and communication of these services especially around the time of career fairs and on campus recruiting interviews.

In the case of the OPCD, we also ask students to report their clarity of career direction, their competency to conduct a successful job search and their confidence that they will achieve their career goals now and in the future. We also share the first destination outcomes with faculty advisors so that they can accurately inform students, in a major or when deciding on a major, about what jobs and graduate schools outcomes resulted given the major. In many instances, this information has freed students to pursue their true academic interests while also developing interesting career-related options.

If you are a parent of a recent graduate, please encourage your son or daughter to take a few moments to complete our survey. The results we receive will help us more effectively and efficiently educate and equip the next class of Demon Deacons for their academic careers and their post-graduate paths.

Top Five Things Your Student Should Do This Summer

Even though summer is reaching its half way mark, there is still plenty of time for your student to strengthen his or her career prospects. Here are five important steps your student should be taking this summer:

1. Network. Then network some more.

Networking is the single most important tool in searching for a career or internship. In fact, 70% of jobs are landed via networking according to some research. This should include reaching out to Wake Forest alumni, fellow students, or parents in your student’s field of interest. Encourage the use of LinkedIn to find appropriate contacts at fascinating companies and arrange an informational interview. For more information, please visit our Informational Interviewing page on the OPCD’s website.

2. Organize your contacts in a worksheet.

Once you student has conducted an information interview, recommend the use of an organizational worksheet to keep all of the information in a central place. Things like thank you’s or follow up steps can easily be forgotten if not written down. Review our “Networking Tracking Tool” located on our Find Networking Contacts page.

3. Continuously update your LinkedIn profile and resume.

Your students will never be fresher on the work they are doing this summer than now. Encourage your students to reflect every other week on the experiences they are gaining and transcribe them in their resume and LinkedIn profile. You never know when they will need an updated copy.

4. Build your business acumen and stay updated current events.

Give your students a gift this summer; a subscription to a daily paper or weekly periodical will help your student stay current as well as help them explore their interests. The Wall Street Journal and The Economist are two excellent options that have online subscriptions. Talk to your students about current affairs to help them build foundational knowledge.

5. Take a week off.

Let’s not forget that it is called summer break. At least one week of relaxation will go a long to helping students reboot and recharge. Many studies illustrate a correlation between a period of rest and improved academic performance.

Wake Forest Celebrates "Pro Humanitate Days"

Anyone who knows Wake Forest knows how important the school’s motto, “Pro Humanitate”, is to our students.  From the moment that students arrive on campus (and many even in the summer before!) Wake Forest students volunteer their time and energy to help others.The OPCD is very excited to participate in this year’s “Pro Humanitate Days”.  These “4 days of good” were originally created by Kim Shirley (‘85) and are being implemented across the country from June 1 to June 4.  The concept is quite simple: Wake Forest alumni from all over the country can volunteer and show their Pro Humanitate spirit in their local area.

The Wake Forest Alumni Group has organized a “Pro Humanitate Days Kickoff Event” on campus this Friday.  Scores of Wake Forest students, staff, faculty, and local alumni will volunteer with the Wake Forest Campus Kitchen, the Wake Forest Campus Garden, or our local Enrichment Center.  This is a great opportunity for all of us at Wake Forest to not only give back, but to spend quality time with like-minded individuals that have the same Pro Humanitate mindset.

We hope that you or your student are able to participate in a local Pro Humanitate event.  For more information follow this link.  Whether you participate or not, don’t forget to follow the hashtag #4goodwfu on Twitter to hear all about these 4 days of good!


Great Networking Event in DC!

It’s no surprise that so many of our students want to live or work in Washington, D.C. – it is an energetic, vibrant city that offers growth and challenge to our hard-working students.  With over 3,000 alumni living or working in the DC area, the OPCD and Alumni office realize how important it is to connect with students and alumni living in that area.

Wake Forest Connects – DC is a networking event that should not be missed!  It’s a great way for current students, recent graduates, alumni, and parents to connect and discuss what it’s like to live and work in Washington, D.C.  Not only will registrants get the opportunity to learn about the DC culture, but they’ll also meet people that will help them feel more comfortable and welcome in taking their first steps in DC.

On Wednesday, June 20th, students will have the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion where they will learn how to connect their classroom knowledge and skills with actual job opportunities, learn how to market themselves effectively in DC, and then participate in a networking session.  They’ll meet alumni from prestigious companies such as Deloitte, Small Think Majority, Navigant Consulting, The Advisory Board and even The White House.  Following the networking reception participants will get some helpful guidance and perspective from yours truly (me!) and Steve Reinemund, Dean of the Schools of Business at Wake Forest University.

If you currently live in DC or have a student that is interested in working in DC, please join us for this important opportunity to re-connect with Wake Forest.  Please visit the alumni page here to register.

Closing Remarks

Energizing, enriching, enlightening — these are three words attendees used to describe the Rethinking Success conference. Others included: inspirational, thought-provoking, disruptive, and challenging.

In closing, President Hatch said he was encouraged by the discussions on the value of a liberal arts education in the world of work and the creative and innovative ideas presented during the conference. Finding the language to clearly explain what a liberal arts education is and why it’s valuable and then “proclaiming” it is critical, he said. By thinking in integrative ways and combining academics, student affairs and career services, for example, schools can broaden and deepen students’ experiences.

Dean of Wake Forest College Jacque Fetrow emphasized that any effort in higher ed to make changes to an institution’s culture and goals must engage faculty. “If faculty don’t come to the table, we won’t succeed,” she said.

Two other take-aways from the conference Fetrow noted are:

  • A liberal education is relevant to the 21st century. It provides an edge. But we must learn to tell that story loudly, often and effectively.
  • We must help students to learn to tell their stories. Faculty should articulate for students the competencies and skills they are teaching so that students can explain to employers how what they have learned will provide value to the organization.

— Guest post by Kim McGrath,
Wake Forest Communication and External Relations,
from the “Rethinking Success” conference

Videos: Daw, Penmetsa

Meredith Daw, the director of Career Advising and Planning Services, University of Chicago, and Mallika Penmetsa, a Wake Forest senior, answer questions a panel at “Rethinking Success: From Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century,” a conference held by Wake Forest University on April 13, 2012.

Video: Meredith Daw »
Video: Mallika Penmetsa »

Getting to Action

Sheila Curran, President and Chief Strategy Consultant of Curran Career Consulting, kicked off the final panel discussion of the Rethinking Success conference by reminding the crowd of Winston Churchill’s admonition, “Without action, thinking is mere idleness.” Curran moderated a discussion around “Real Transformational Change,” featuring success stories and action-oriented tips from leaders representing the career centers at the University of Chicago; Washington University, St. Louis; and Wake Forest University.

Meredith Daw speaks on the panel.

Meredith Daw speaks on the panel.

Meredith Daw, Director of Career Advising and Planning Services at the University of Chicago talked about the transformation that she has helped lead. “Six years ago, we crunched the numbers,” she said. “Not enough of our students were realizing the return on investment we hoped for. They were graduating without jobs and falling behind peers graduating from other schools.”

Daw explained how she started making significant changes at Chicago with three strategies: connecting earlier with students, implementing pre-professional programs with the graduate schools to complement the liberal arts experience, and focusing on increased internship opportunities.

In 2005, only 25 percent of first- and second-year students took advantage of the career advising and planning services Daw and her colleagues offered. Today, more than 80 percent of students come through her office within their first two years on campus.

She talked about a job shadowing externship program – only open to freshmen and sophomores – as part of the office’s success. She also talked about strengthening the link to the admissions office, which now talks up the services she offers before students even arrive on campus.

Daw credited much of the success of her office with eight pre-professional programs called “Chicago Careers In…” The programs offer exposure to careers in the arts, business, higher education, health professions, journalism, law, public and social services, and science and technology. To ensure the success of the programs, Daw hired industry specialists from outside of higher education to complement the advising expertise of career generalists. These experts brought a heightened sense of credibility among students and parents. The career office also made mentorship alliances with the professional graduate programs on campus. Undergrads are paired with graduate students to understand opportunities to advance their goals and undergraduates are now able to take courses within the graduate programs.

To increase internship opportunities, Daw talked about expanding their reach outside of the Chicago area. They now offer internships in 40 different cities and eight foreign countries. With a few thousand dollars of seed money they started a program, called Treks, to take students to geographic areas with large employer bases on the east and west coasts. After demonstrating the value of this outreach, Daw was able to secure corporate funding and additional institutional support to grow the program.

Daw closed out her remarks by talking about how the work of the career office complements the work of faculty without trying to change the core academic experience. As a result, faculty have come to appreciate and endorse Daw’s efforts.

At Chicago, they had recognized a trend of students moving into economics majors as a pathway to business school and a perceived career advantage. The impact was that the students without a passion for economics were not satisfied with the experience and academic programs with a less-defined career path, like history and philosophy, were losing students. The Chicago Careers In… programs helped students explore career avenues launched from a variety of degrees and helped stop the unnecessary change in majors.

All three panelists echoed the importance of data, focus groups, and surveys tracking students and alumni. Tracking trends and patterns outside of career services helps to communicate with other departments around campus about how to make real transformational change.

— Guest post by Brett Eaton,
Wake Forest Communication and External Relations,
from the “Rethinking Success” conference

Video: Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, delivers the keynote speech at “Rethinking Success: From Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century,” a conference held by Wake Forest University on April 11, 2012.

Video: Condoleezza Rice »

Video: Marc Lautenbach

Marc Lautenbach, managing partner, Global Business Services, North America, IBM Corporation, answers questions after speaking on a panel at “Rethinking Success: From Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century,” a conference held by Wake Forest University on April 12, 2012.

Video: Marc Lautenbach »