Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Employer Events

Save the Date – NYC Connects with Wake Forest!

New York City is always one of the most popular destinations for Wake Forest graduates. In fact 90 students of the class of 2012 (12% of those answering our survey), landed in New York for their first job out of college.


To help our students and recent graduates who want to live and work in New York, Wake Forest is hosting a networking event called Wake Forest Connects – NYC on June 5th from 6:00–9:00 PM at The Westin New York Grand Central hotel. This event is designed to facilitate connections between undergrad and graduate students, alumni, parents and friends who live and work in the New York area.

The event will kick-off with an industry panel who will share advice, tips and strategies for effective networking. The panel will consist of five Wake Forest alumni working in media/entertainment, finance, public relations, and fashion.

Alumni Panel:

  • Dave Hanson, ’05: Managing Partner, Hanson Wells Partners

  • Sheereen Miller-Russell,’00 Vice President, Ad Sales at Viacom Media Networks (MTV and VH1)

  • Laura Mills, ’05: Account Supervisor at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

  • Caroline Naughton, ’11: Network and Digital Sales Assistant, Disney ABC Television Group

  • Pam Shively, ’08: Senior Account Executive at Foley + Corinna (Apparel & Fashion)

Following the panel discussion, students will have an opportunity to participate in structured networking in small groups of 8-10 with professionals representing a broader set of careers and industries. The evening will end with an open reception for all participants at the LCL: Bar and Kitchen , located in The Westin New York Grand Central.

Parents, if your student has a summer job in NYC this summer, encourage him or her to attend this event. Your student will receive valuable advice and connections that could help in securing a full-time job in NY. If you are interested in attending the event as an experienced networking connection, please contact Lori Sykes at sykeslh@nullwfu.edu.

Register here: https://secure.www.wfu.edu/alumni/clubs/?club=NY-NYC

Career Trek Recap

In December, the OPCD partnered with career offices at the University of Chicago and Stanford University to offer Career Exploration Treks to Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco. They offered students from each school the opportunity to explore a city, select industries, and network with alumni from all three schools (see this blog post from October for additional details).
We are especially excited that the treks were a valuable experience to students at different stages in their personal and career development. They provided seniors, who were actively looking for jobs, the opportunity to network in person with alumni, yet provided general information for underclassmen who are still identifying potential career fields. By all accounts these treks proved to be an enormous success, but what better way to share with you the impact of the treks than through our students own words.

“After attending the Career Trek to Washington, D.C., my eyes were opened to the professional environment in Washington, D.C. as well as the standards across the country. Each company and industry was very upfront and clear as to what they expected from a student coming from any school in the country. I have become much more aware of what research to perform and what steps are necessary to take if I am truly interested in any field we visited. Wake Forest provided the three schools that participated a fantastic way to become directly included in those various industries. This trip allowed companies to provide students the opportunity to find out what was required of an employee with their firm and what would best prepare students for this transition into the post-undergraduate world.”

– Sophomore, Undeclared Major

“I went on the CPG trek to Chicago and visited six companies, including Barilla, ACCO Brands, McDonald’s Corporation, Wrigley, SymphonyIRI Group, and The Cambridge Group. At each company a few employees gave a brief presentation about what the company did, and at the end we had Q&A. These visits were very informative as I received some great insight into the work culture of these companies and why the employees like to work for them. By the end of the trip I discovered that a career in CPG is actually not for me. However, I realized from visiting the CPG consulting firms, Symphony IRI and The Cambridge Group that consulting is a job that fits my skills and interests. This is very useful information because now I can better target my job search. Overall, the trek was a very valuable experience and I would recommend it to students of any year as it is a good opportunity to learn more about an industry and network with professionals.”

– Senior, Economics Major

Other students articulated important insights regarding their own career development knowledge, mindset and plans:

  • “The trek demonstrated to me the importance of organizational culture in my career search.”
  • “The trek showed me that business does not have to be boring! Now, I want to work in California!”
  • “Through conversations with alumni, I realized I will need an MBA for the career I want.”
  • “The trek illustrated that everyone moves from company to company – your first job certainly won’t be your last, so I don’t have worry if my first job isn’t a perfect fit.”
  • “I learned that lots of employees began their careers working for large companies to benefit from their training programs or other opportunities, but then transitioned to smaller, boutique organizations. This opened my eyes to the number of pathways available to me to reach my end destination.”

We are pleased that 45 Wake Forest students were able to benefit from these treks at various cities around the U.S.  We will conduct similar treks in the future and are committed to developing and offering other ways for students to continue to learn about the wide variety of careers in the wide open world of work.

Parents – if your student is yearning to explore and discover possible career interests and options, encourage him/her to connect with Wake Forest alumni, high/prep school alumni, your friends or acquaintances and conduct an informational interview or job shadow.  For more guidance on how to do this, direct him/her to our web page on networking and informational interviewing.

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

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

Before the Fair

1.      Identify and research prospective employers.

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

2.      Prepare your resume.

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

3.      Practice typical interview question responses.

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

4.      Develop a list of questions to ask recruiters.

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

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

5.      Map out a strategy.

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

During the Fair

1.      Arrive early, get your bearings.

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

2.      Make a good first impression.

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

3.      Minimize your “stuff.”

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

4.      Ask for a business card.

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

5.      Network. Network. Network.

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

After the Fair

1.      Send a thank you note.

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

2.      Organize all your contact information.

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

3.      Devise a follow up plan.

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

Apply for the Career Exploration Treks

One of the objectives of the Office of Personal & Career Development is to be creative and innovative in the programs and services we offer to Wake Forest students. In the past, these innovations have taken the shape of partnering with the Department of Counseling to offer College to Career Courses and designing tools like the Career Passport. However, we are not the only career development office thinking along these lines. In many of our peer institutions, we have found the same excitement and energy that is characteristic of the OPCD. It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that the OPCD is partnering with the University of Chicago and Stanford University to offer undergraduate students three Career Exploration Treks this year.

Students from all three universities will have the opportunity to embark upon career-related field trips to Chicago, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. from December 16th to December 18th. The trip will be a valuable professional learning experience, enabling students to become familiar with a variety of organizations in a small group setting, meet students from other outstanding schools, and build their professional network. Each trek will include a reception on Monday, December 17th which will include representatives from the organizations students will have visited, as well as local alumni from all three universities.

Each trek is open to all undergraduate students and can accommodate 45 students, fifteen from each school. We are anticipating that these treks will be popular as they provide a unique opportunity to both the students and employers who will be participating. The trek enables employers to meet outstanding students in person and identify potential candidates for internships or full-time jobs.

Wake Forest will be hosting the trek in Washington, D.C. where students will be exposed to the vibrancy and energy of our nation’s capital as well as leading consulting organizations, the leadership team of National Media Research, Planning and Placement (NMRPP), and various government opportunities. CEB, Deloitte LLP, Navigant Consulting, NMRPP, and the U.S. Capital Visitors Center will provide the fortunate 45 students a variety of learning experiences and potential employment opportunities.

For more information on the treks and the application process, click this link.

Encourage your student to apply for this incredible opportunity. Ensure that your student maximizes his chance of being selected by reminding him to spend time refining his resume, cover letter and verbal introductory ‘pitch’ to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Students can also utilize our daily, walk-in resume review hours to make sure these documents emphasize the best aspects of themselves. Make sure your student seriously considers applying for this outstanding opportunity to learn more about these exciting cities and career fields.

Face-To-Face Conversations Matter

In the 2012 commencement address, President Hatch counseled the Wake Forest community about the double-sided nature of wireless technology. He reminded that while the speed and efficiency of digital communication is admirable, we are losing something vital in the process. Similarly, technology has transformed job search methods. It is now easier to research, network and apply for a multitude of jobs in locations all over the world, but again something is lost. The Office of Personal & Career Development teaches students that face-to-face interaction – the art of personal conversation – cannot be completely replaced.  We have four key opportunities this semester designed to give students personal interaction with employers.

This past week, we hosted over 45 employers on campus for the 2012 Fall Career Fair. A record number of students, over 600, attended the fair ranging from nervous and timid first-year students to eager and excited seniors. Students met with potential employers from a broad range of industries and job functions.  The fair was an excellent opportunity to gather information and build relationships from employers of all types. Many of these employers will return during the year to conduct information sessions or participate on industry panels and interview students.

Secondly, the office is piloting a job shadowing program over fall break, October 19. Students in our CNS 120 class will shadow local employers to gain “day-on-the-job” insight into specific positions, organization and industries.  This personal experience will allow them to ask lots of questions and be exposed to an unknown, new work environment. Participating students will  also learn how to develop future shadowing and externship experiences targeted to their interests – on their own initiative. If you or your organization is willing to host a WFU student to job shadow, please email Lori Sykes at sykeslh@nullwfu.edu.

Third, with the help and support of Mark Lyons, the Chairman and CEO of Arch Worldwide Insurance Group, a select number of students interested in risk management will receive an all-expenses paid trip to New York on November 8th and 9th to meet with him and other industry leaders. This trip is not limited to business students or even seniors, but is available to all students interested in learning about risk management. We are grateful to Mark Lyons for providing an exceptional opportunity for WFU students to gather information and network in a highly competitive and dynamic industry.

Fourth, Wake Forest is partnering – for the first time – with Stanford University and the University of Chicago to offer career treks to San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. from December 16-18th, 2012. Each school will host the career trek in its local region (with Wake Forest claiming Washington, D.C.). In Chicago, students will meet with organizations in the arts and consumer products industries. In the San Francisco Bay Area, students will met with entrepreneurial firms and start-ups.  In Washington, D.C., students will meet organizations in politics/government and consulting. Students will spend the two days visiting with employers to tour their offices and hear presentations, networking with professionals, and meeting students and alumni from all three outstanding universities. Students must complete an application to be considered for the treks by November 2nd.

Through these innovative, valuable initiatives, we are giving students the opportunity to conduct personal face-to-face conversations with employers. To quote President Hatch, “For a place like Wake Forest, conversation is at the heart of what we do because it combines ideas and human interaction, the intellectual and the personal.” Through the strategic programs offered by the OPCD, students are making connections with employers more than ever, which will result in better and greater information for students to access opportunities and make optimal career decisions.

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.

Spring Job and Internship Fair

Last week, the OPCD hosted our annual Spring Job and Internship Fair, giving our students an opportunity to talk with representatives from over 35 companies in various industries including Finance, Sales, Marketing and Communication, Computer Science, and Education. For a full list of the represented companies please click here.

Part of our commitment to our students is making sure that they feel prepared and confident when attending these types of events. Leading up to the fair, our office provided extended resume review hours, workshops on how to make the most of the job and internship fair, and one on one counseling appointments.  The efforts of our students paid off, as evident in the remarks by some of the representatives on campus:

“Very impressed to see so many students, especially first year students”- Deloitte Representative

“A WF Alumna is doing extremely well at our company. This year’s career fair went well and I hope to return to future fairs”- Abercrombie & Fitch Representative

Company representatives and students alike were also very impressed with a new addition to this year’s Job and Internship Fair- a LinkedIn Photo Booth.

With the growing interest and use of LinkedIn, the OPCD wanted to give students the opportunity to have great quality, professional LinkedIn profile photos.  During the fair OPCD staff set up a camera and backdrop and took over 350 student headshots. The photo booth was so impressive that company representatives even came over to get their profile photos taken!  We are excited to continue to offer new and helpful opportunities to our students and look forward to seeing their photos on LinkedIn.

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.