Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers


Life After Wake Forest

Guest post by Kory Riemensperger (’13)

When it comes to senior year, the second semester can be a time of intense pressure.  Not only must seniors maintain their grades, ensure they have enough credits to graduate, and handle all the commencement details, but most of them are feeling the pressure, both internal and sometimes parental, to find a next step after an undergraduate degree.  Sometimes that means moving on to graduate school, but for many, it means finding a career.

“My last winter break was great for relaxation and reflection,” says Dale Ruffin (’13), “but now that I’m back for my second and final semester as a senior, I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of starting my first real career search.”

While some students may line up potential employment before the end of their final semester, Carolyn Couch, Associate Director of Career Education and Counseling in the Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) suggests this is simply a result of different career paths.

“Don’t panic,” Couch says. “Many students will come to the OPCD and say that they’re concerned that their roommates already have job offers – but the simple fact is that different industry interests involve different search timelines.  Students with accounting majors, for example, are recruited early in the fall; while other industries hire on a just-in time basis.”

The trick is to stay focused and avoid stress. The annual OPCD destination data survey shows that of the 78 percent of Class of 2012 Wake Forest graduates who responded, 95 percent were either employed or in graduate school within six months.  Instead of obsessing over the progress of friends, seniors should seek out potential employers and make direct contact– this highlights them as a proactive and interested hire.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 70 percent of jobs across the nation were found through networking.  These career opportunities are not advertised, so a great network is key.

“Some students may have a negative reaction to the idea of networking,” says Couch, “They perceive it as exploitative, when in reality it is no worse than the research they do before they apply for a position.”

The social networking website LinkedIn is a powerful tool that Couch and her colleagues in the OPCD recommend to students. Couch and her colleagues offer students tips on how to use it to the best advantage:

  • Make sure the information on your resume matches the information on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Choose a professional-looking photo for your profile picture.
  • Find alumni to network with by conducting an “advanced search” for Wake Forest University,
  • Browse Wake Forest related “groups” on the site for those that match your industry or geographic location.  The largest – the Wake Forest University Career Connectors group – has over 6,000 members and is growing every day.

“When you find the profile of an alum that catches your interest, reach out to them through the site’s message feature, asking for guidance, tips, and advice.  If they’re from the area, invite them to talk over coffee, or ask for an informational interview” says Couch, “Networking should focus on gathering information, so this isn’t the time to ask for a job. Build a relationship instead.”

Practice makes perfect, and students feeling even the slightest bit unsure about future job interviews may want to schedule a mock interview.  These meetings reveal strengths and weaknesses before a true job interview, so prospects can be ready to market their skills efficiently.  Couch says around 125 students have already requested a mock interview this year, representing a 62 percent increase.

Finding Posted Job Openings

Students can and should seek out advertised job openings as well.  There are a considerable amount of job search engines and posting sites online, though the OPCD recommends a few select ones.

DeaconSource is Wake Forest’s private site for undergraduate students.  The service lists jobs and internship openings from employers who specifically want Wake Forest applicants.  New jobs for diverse career interests are added every day, so it’s vital to stay connected; e-mail alerts can be set up to send the latest job offerings.

With a completed profile in DeaconSource, the OPCD will also send tailored information to students based on their career and geographic interests.  It is important that students keep their profiles updated so that they don’t miss out on valuable information regarding events and internship/job opportunities.  If a student’s resume or cover letter needs reviewing the OPCD offers regular review sessions throughout the year.

Another recommended site is Indeed.com, which aggregates job listings from thousands of websites, including job boards, newspapers, associations, and company career pages.  It is another efficient way for students to specifically search for entry-level jobs by geographic region and industry.

The OPCD also subscribes to sites specific to certain industries and career interests, such as international opportunities, public relations, journalism, conservation, environmental education and advocacy, human rights, public policy, politics, and public affairs.  Login information for these websites is available in DeaconSource.

As a student begins the job search, Couch suggests that they schedule a meeting with a career counselor.  With their mentor, job seekers establish two important career tools – an action plan and a job search strategy.  These documents help prevent any unexpected procrastination and keep students focused on their job search.  This relationship is in high demand among students.  The number of career counseling appointments has already seen a 28% increase over last year.

“Sometimes it just helps to be accountable,” says Couch, “a plan and a guide to help you follow-through give the best chance for success.”

Kory Riemensperger is a senior English major from Wilmington, N.C.

Look Beyond The Job Boards

When parents, faculty, or generational researchers are asked to provide a few adjectives about students, one commonly offered is “wired.” Today’s students have grown up with the Internet, can adapt to quickly evolving technologies, and (sadly) some even go to bed bathed in the glow of a phosphorescent screen. This comfort with technology provides students with some advantages, but students must be careful to not rely on technology in ways that promise results, but in fact, are not as valuable as perceived.

Many students look to internet job boards as a primary method for job or internship searching. While the Internet is good for researching organizations and opportunities, it’s not the most successful way for securing jobs.  Over 70% of jobs are obtained through networking; and less than 20% are obtained through job boards.

Students need to be aware of several issues when utilizing job boards.

  • Not all job postings are created equal.  A recent Wall Street Journal article, Beware the Phantom Job Listing, points out that “many open jobs are never advertised at all, or are posted only after a leading candidate—an internal applicant or someone else with an inside track—has been identified.”  While this “hidden” job market might frustrate job seekers, it demonstrates the weakness of relying solely on positions posted online.
  • Recruiters receive numerous online applications. Thus, they frequently rely upon Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen candidates.  This means that an application may get screened out and never be seen by a recruiter. Or the resume is buried in a database of thousands, never to be seen.
  • Networking remains the best way to secure a job. Students should not rely solely on job boards as most jobs are still secured through relationships. Students should be encouraged to attend networking workshops and events.  Working with an OPCD career counselor, they will develop a comprehensive job search strategy. The New York Times article, In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed, conveys how organizations are increasingly leveraging their own employees and their network to find new hires.

The propensity for students to over-rely on job boards has muddied their understanding of the value and purpose of DeaconSource, our system for communicating with students and also providing some job and internship opportunities. The primary benefit and function of DeaconSource is that when students have completed their profile to indicate their career and geographical interests, the OPCD can send students tailored messages with educational information, resources, workshops, events and opportunities – and relevant to their class year. This insures that students don’t miss important news and opportunities in their areas of interest which will help them stay on track to identify and achieve their career goals.

Although there are many opportunities in DeaconSource listed by employers who post jobs there, the number and types of opportunities is small relative to the thousands of opportunities available across all types of sources.  Students should check out the OPCD website for additional valuable sources for job and internship opportunities.

If students do not have a DeaconSource profile or have not updated their preferences, they are missing out on critical information which is relevant and necessary for their career development. 66% of all students have a completed profile, so make sure your student is not left out!

Encourage your student to create a DeaconSource account today, yet remind him that he cannot rely solely on DeaconSource, nor any other job board, in his search. Emphasize the importance of networking and the role it plays in the job attainment process. If you have contacts that might be helpful for your student, make the introduction. And make sure your student has a LinkedIn profile and is tapping into the Wake Forest Career Connectors group.  Armed with this advice, your student will appropriately prioritize his job search time and efforts and will have a much greater chance of securing a promising summer internship or full time position.

Opportunity Knocks! Start with DeaconSource

There is a certain quality about Demon Deacons – their work ethic, their “Pro Humanitate” spirit, their interpersonal skills and their well-roundedness – that makes our students stand out. Everyone affiliated with Wake Forest agrees there is something distinctive about our students and graduates, and employers have noticed as well. Thanks to the efforts of our Employer Relations team and the support of our alumni and parents whose organizations recruit our students, on-campus interviews increased by 15.5%, job postings were up 11.7%, and employer attendance at career fairs improved by 43.3% in the last year. These numbers are especially significant given that our economy is stuck in neutral.

One of the primary methods for your student to learn about and access employers interested in Wake Forest students is DeaconSource, our online recruiting portal prominently located on the OPCD website. Students can access job descriptions for internships or full-time jobs from a wide range of industry sectors. For any that interest them, DeaconSource allows students to apply for the opportunities online directly within the system. To facilitate the search process, they can set up search agents that notify them when new opportunities are posted that align with their interests.

In DeaconSource, students must complete an online profile detailing his or her broad career and geographic destination preferences. This simple step is critical. With this key information, the OPCD can deliver important email messages targeted to your student based on his or her interests. Then, your student will not miss out on information, events and opportunities that can help him or her in making career-related decisions. If your student’s preferences change, s/he can quickly adjust his or her profile to reflect the adjustments and will begin receive updated messaging. We ask students to update their DeaconSource profile at the beginning of each academic year and at any time they change their career or geographical preferences. Please remind your student of this important action item.

DeaconSource is the ideal place to start a job or internship search, but one cannot rely on it alone. Employers post jobs on many different sites which the OPCD has listed on our website. We offer some of the best pages for both internships and industry and career-specific jobs to assist students in their search. As we teach students, networking is the # 1 way to secure an internship or job, so plan on also utilizing our great networking resources, including LinkedIn, the WF Career Connectors Group and other networking contacts.

Obtaining an outstanding internship or job is not small task.  It doesn’t happen by simply applying. To set your expectations, a student may need to apply to over 30 opportunities to yield one interview. It really is THAT competitive.

As the year unfolds, more opportunities will be posted on DeaconSource. The timelines for jobs versus internships as well as different industries can be drastically different, so if your student doesn’t find anything of interest, tell him or her to remain vigilant. Don’t let your student miss out on a great job because s/he hasn’t created a DeaconSource profile, created search agents or regularly reviewed the dynamic database of job and internship opportunities. Encourage your child to get started with DeaconSource today – Opportunity Knocks!

Opportunity Knocks

We are approaching the mid-point of the semester and I am happy to report that employers have been actively engaged in a variety of recruiting activities at Wake Forest. In the past week, over eleven organizations have met with students on campus, including General Electric, Deloitte, Peace Corps and IBM, among others. During the fall semester, many organizations begin the process of recruiting and hiring students for full-time positions. In the spring semester, many more organizations will hire students for summer internships. We expect to have over eighty employers on-campus this fall to conduct on-campus interviews and attend our three career and graduate school fairs. Organizations have begun hosting information sessions to educate students about a broad variety of opportunities.

The Peace Corps recruiter will make four visits to campus this fall to speak with students of all majors and classes.

All majors and classes

Fall semester is the ideal time for students of any class year to speak with career fair attendees and attend employer information sessions to explore career fields and better understand the recruiting process. Employers have been impressed with the many first year and sophomore students they have met. They know that the earlier students gather information on careers and organizations, the more time they have to determine what most interests them, and the more prepared they will be when it is time to interview for internships or full time positions.  Almost all of the employers consistently ask our office to tell students that they are interested in speaking with and recruiting students of any major.

A first year student reviews application materials for a Big Brothers Big Sisters opportunity.

Employer information sessions

Employers who conduct on-campus interviews work hard to capture the attention of Wake Forest students. Dozens of employers conduct fall semester open information sessions to promote their career field, organization, and open positions. Often, alumni representatives come back to campus to share candid insights and provide additional information beyond what is available on organization websites. By receiving tips for navigating the employment and interview process, students are better prepared for the application process and for potential interviews.  The dates and times of all information sessions are readily available through the student DeaconSource career management system.

Students receive advice about Wipro’s interview process from a WF alumni representative.

Off-campus recruiting

Many organizations seeking Wake Forest student talent are not able to come on campus to recruit students. Instead, they opt to post positions directly to students using our DeaconSource job and internship board.  During the fall semester, we typically post thirty jobs and internship opportunities each week. Most positions are listed for a two week span, so it’s important to check the board frequently and apply right away or you might miss an attractive opportunity. Eighty-six jobs and internships were current and available for student review on October 2.

The Importance of Networking

Most students (and their parents) mistakenly think that most opportunities are available through on campus recruiting or from the DeaconSource job board.  In fact, the majority of jobs secured by students come through networking in the hidden job market. Our networking section on the Career and Professional Development website can serve as an excellent instructional resource for you and your student. Using LinkedIn and the WF Career Connectors Group (it’s all explained on this web page) will allow your student to get in touch with friendly Wake Forest connections.

If you are a parent or alum, join the LinkedIn WF Career Connectors Group today so that you can help current WF students learn about your career area or introduce them to others in your professional network or organization. Although ‘opportunity knocks’ this fall, it will continue year-round so be ready to help students at any time.

Students should take advantage of these active opportunities to learn about careers and apply for job openings now.  They must also recognize that the job search may not come easy. Even in an excellent job market, it can still be challenging to find a job best suited to your strengths.  However, with thousands of WF alumni and parents in the WF Career Connectors Group who are willing to help you (in addition to the staff and resources of the OPCD), your journey will be much easier than if you just go it alone.