The Office of Personal and Career Development has organized this year’s “Career Exploration Trek” to the Big Apple, New York City where Wake Forest students head a major city to learn about interesting careers, companies and industries from alumni during a few jam packed days. I have long believed in the value of experiential learning and enjoy the teachable moments that come with it. It’s one thing to talk about networking, but to actually do it can ignite students’ interests and open their minds to fully understanding the true power and importance of the concept.
One surprising aspect of the Career Trek is that our staff also benefits from the experience. The one-on-one off-campus exposure with students enables us to learn how students really think and address many of their misconceptions. One of our current seniors, Alex Tulowieki, attended one of last year’s Career Treks and he shared his experience with us.
Students can represent themselves as professionals. “Those papers and projects I worked on during college have value and are real work. Speaking with professionals, they do value that if you open up. A lot of students were intimidated to network at first, because it felt like we were going into the conversation empty-handed. When we accept that we have been producing work, regardless if it has only been in academic setting, it gives you confidence to not be so shy and talk about shared interests with that professional”.
Networking is much more than small talk and is conversation-oriented. “No one asked for my resume before we started talking”. He also noted that the students who were most driven to getting a job seemed to have the worse luck. People appreciate talking to someone who is just interested in what they do rather than just interested in getting a job.
Networking is much more of a round-about process. It’s neither wise, nor realistic, to go into a conversation with someone who you’re meeting for the first tie with the hope that a job offer will result. It is better to have conversations about your interests and curiosities and to take genuine interest in people who have experience in your field of interest. The person you are speaking with may not be able to help you directly, but they may have other connections that could be helpful to you.
Chemistry is as important as competency. Alex noted that most college students have the misconception that work is all about competency. This is partly due to the fact that most grades awarded are based upon how well students demonstrate knowledge through taking tests and writing papers. Chemistry, in the sense of how we mesh with those we work with, is equally important.
What Alex discovered is that the Plane Rule. While competency is a major factor in any work setting, employers are also evaluating if a candidate is the type of person they would enjoy spending time with while on a cross-country flight or delayed for hours at the airport. As our students engage in experiential learning activities and professional settings like the Career Trek, they, like Alex, will release their misconceptions and be more prepared for a successful personal and career development journey.
For more info on the OPCD Career Trek, click here.