Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Making the Most of Breaks

No Internship? Tips to Make the Most of Your Summer

Most students eagerly anticipate the summertime – warm, sunny days, relaxing by the pool or beach, and catching up with friends from home. But summer is a critical time for learning about the world of work, exploring possible career fields and building marketable professional skills. Some students will accomplish these things through internships, but there are many ways your student can do the same even if s/he has other plans this summer. Share these tips with your student so that s/he can make the most of the summer – and begin building the foundation for future college-to-career success.

  1. Volunteer. Identify organizations (for profit or non-profit) that you find of interest and inquire if they could use any help this summer. Suggest projects that you’d like to work on and can help you develop knowledge and skills in areas that interest you. Your initial good work could lead to additional projects, helpful connections and possibly even a small bonus at the end of the summer.
  2. Take on extra responsibilities. You may see your summer job as just a way to make a few bucks or possibly something that you have little interest of doing in the future. Explore the possibility of doing more than what you are hired to do. For example, if you are a waiter, lifeguard, or camp counselor, ask if you can help with the social media account or office operations or managing and training others. If the organization does not have social media presence, volunteer to create and run the account in addition to your other responsibilities.
  3. Take free classes. With a little digging, you can find free classes – either online or in your community – in which you can learn marketable skills or knowledge that will help you be more competitive in your future internship or job searches. Learning Excel, Powerpoint, Presi, Access, basic finance and budgeting or how to sell, market or negotiate will set you apart from others and increase your capabilities and self-confidence.
  4. Conduct informational interviews. Dedicate time this to learning about interesting jobs and careers and building your professional network. Beginning with your “Adult Fans” of family and friends, conduct informational interviews to receive insights, feedback and advice on careers and jobs that interest you. See the OPCD Informational Interviewing page for a list of good questions, an elevator speech worksheet, and a networking tracking tool, as well as what you must know before you enter each conversation.
  5. Job Shadow. Learn more about a particular organization, job or career field, by ‘job shadowing’. It’s a very easy and helpful way to understand what it’s really like and to get answers that are otherwise somewhat difficult to obtain. Ask a family member or family friend for an introduction to one of their friends who works in your area of interest and then ask to spend a half day or day shadowing her. Ask if she could arrange for you to talk with a few colleagues while you are there so you can learn as much as possible.

Quick Tips for your Student on Spring Break

Even though there are only a couple days left before students return from Spring Break,  here are a few quick things your  child can do before they come back to campus next week:
1. Network, network, network!
Regardless of the industry in which a Senior wants to find a job, networking and making key connections are always important.  In fact, research shows that approximately 70% of jobs are landed through networking.  This might include reaching out to Wake Forest alums via LinkedIn or talking to any family or friends who work in your student’s career field of interest.  Doing a service trip over the break? Make sure your student gets to know the people they’re working with and stay connected to them on LinkedIn once they return to campus.
2. Join Career Connectors on LinkedIn
The Wake Forest Career Connectors Group is comprised of Wake Forest alumni and parents who are willing to talk with current students and offer career advice. To date, we have over 4,000 Wake Forest fans ready to offer student advice, career tips, and information regarding various jobs and industries.  As a parent, you can also join Career Connectors and help students in their career research and job search.
3. Keep applying for job openings
Your student should continue to use DeaconSource, Career Shift, and other industry-specific websites to apply for as many openings as possible. All of these resources are available on-line which makes them incredibly easy to access.  Even ten minutes of searching for jobs while waiting at the airport could make a difference in your student’s life.
4. Tailor the resume/cover letter to each job
One size does not fit all when it comes to resumes and cover letters.  Be sure to read each job description carefully and incorporate key words and skill sets into the resume/cover letter.  Once your student returns to campus, they can come by the OPCD office from Monday-Thursday from 2-4 pm, and Friday from 10 am-noon, and 1-3 pm to get their resume and/or cover letter reviewed.
5. Practice interviewing
Seniors are encouraged to come to the OPCD for mock interviews, where the interview can be specifically tailored to a job description.  Mock interviews provide students with the opportunity to ask questions about the interview process, practice answering questions so that they are less nervous, and  feel more confident and prepared when heading into their real interview. Even if they can’t come into the office, students can still practice by utilizing Interview Stream, our on-line interview preparation resource.

Your Senior Student’s Holiday To-Do List

Winter Break is CRUNCH time for your senior! As they wrap up their second semester at Wake Forest, it is crucial that your senior is prepared with a flawless resume and strong interviewing skills. In today’s ultra-competitive job market, it’s not sufficient to just be OK at interviewing.  Practicing interviews will make a real difference. When your student returns to Wake Forest, remind them to sign up for a Mock Interview to practice these skills.

Here are three easy things that you can encourage your senior student to do while they are home:

  1. Network, Network, Network…and Network some more. Winter Break is an excellent time for your senior to reach out to the Wake Forest network and discuss their career questions and aspirations. If you have questions about how you and your student can use LinkedIn to connect with valuable contacts, refer to the LinkedIn how-to page on our website. As your student meets with family friends, alumni, and other fans, direct them to our helpful Networking Tracking tool (scroll down to #3 to download tool) to make sure they stay organized, focused and on track.
  2. Attend an alumni club event. Alumni events are a great opportunity to meet Wake Forest alumni who are interested in helping current students by answering questions and offering connections. Review the list of alumni club events in your city or in your student’s desired location post-graduation. If possible, travel to their desired post-graduation location so your student can network and gather more information before they move after graduation. If your student is considering graduate school, Winter Break is the ideal time to visit a few of their places they are considering and ask lots of questions. Most importantly, students should inquire what the expected career outcomes are for graduates of the program or school and make sure that these outcomes align with their interests and vision.
  3. Work on job or graduate school applications. Now is the time to be researching and applying for job opportunities on DeaconSource and other job databases. Refer your student to the “Cover Letter” templates on our website for examples as it is important to tailor each cover letter to specific jobs and organizations. If your student is applying for graduate school, the “Graduate School” tab includes helpful resources. Check out this helpful article for students writing their personal statement.

It’s important for parents to ask students to share their expectations and plans for the job search during Spring semester.  Some students may not have the time (due to academic or other obligations) to conduct an intensive search. Other students may be interested in opportunities located in places that make the job search difficult while at college. Others may be focused on graduate school and not able to conduct a job search at the same time.  And others may be interested in jobs and organizations that hire ‘just-in-time’ or only hire people who network to them as opposed to posting opportunities.

This conversation will help students and parents understand their respective expectations for the final semester of college.  And it will likely help make this final season a more positive, and less stressful one for students and their families.

It’s most important for senior students and parents to remember that employers do not hire based on college graduation dates.  Employers hire at the time when they need a new employee and when they have found the best person for the job.  So, it’s really not useful to set a goal of having a job by graduation. It’s better to set a goal to implement every step of a thoughtful job search action plan during each week until a job is acquired.  Our office can help students in creating this action plan and accomplishing this goal.  Encourage your student to stop by our new office and see a career counselor to help them successfully navigate the path from college to career.

Your Junior Student’s Holiday To-Do List

Winter Break is an important time for your junior, whether they are returning home after studying abroad or studying at Wake Forest. This year’s summer experience will play an important role in their job search next year or in their decision to apply to graduate school, so your student should seek and apply for internships in their career field of interest.

Here are three easy things that you can encourage your junior student to do while they are home:

  1. Review our Study Abroad checklist. This handout outlines the action items all juniors should have completed before they return to Wake Forest in January – whether they studied abroad or not. Most importantly, remind your student to update their resume with their current GPA and their study abroad experience. Review our study abroad resume template (Select Resume #2)  for examples.
  2. Watch our Study Abroad: Make it Work video. Created by our Career Education and Counseling team, this video explains how students can leverage and describe their study abroad experience to potential employers in an interview setting. This is equally relevant for students who studied abroad in the summer.
  3. Prepare for the Career and Internship Fair. On January 25th from 12-4 pm, employers representing a very wide variety of industries will be on campus to meet with students about a myriad of internship and career opportunities. In the coming weeks, our website will include the list of organizations that are attending so that your student can make sure to do some research beforehand. To ensure that your student is prepared well in advance, encourage them to update their resume with their current GPA, study abroad experience and extracurricular activities. Refer to the “Interview Attire” tab on our website if your student has questions about appropriate attire for the event.

Learning about and using these valuable resources and developing these key skills will help your student build a strong foundation for their personal and career development. Starting now will help them manage the senior year job search process and will be of benefit to them throughout their lives.

Your Sophomore Student's Holiday To-Do List

Sophomore year brings forth a lot of challenges as your student begins to juggle a full academic workload, extracurricular activities and the decision regarding their major of study. Now that they have completed three semesters at Wake Forest, they should be able to identify the types of courses they like and dislike and be prepared to declare their major and potential minor(s).

Here are three easy things that you can encourage your sophomore student to do while they are home:

  1. Talk about major selection. Sophomore students are encouraged to declare their major when they return to campus in late January. If your student has little clarity on their selection, inquire about their current courses. Which classes have they most enjoyed and why? Which classes have the performed best in and why?  Which classes and majors in the course bulletin do they find most interesting and why? For more clarity, encourage your student to take the Focus 2, an online self-assessment, which aligns their results with possible majors and career paths. Often, students mistakenly choose or dismiss a major based on what they (incorrectly) assume are the employment outcomes for a particular major.  For more information on majors and likely career outcomes as well as the first destination results of Wake Forest graduates in specific majors, go to the “Explore Majors” tab on our website.
  2. Update their DeaconSource profile. Each semester, your student should update their DeaconSource profile to reflect their current career interests and GPA. By selecting up to three different interests (e.g. Consulting, Government, Legal, Non-Profit, Research, Marketing/Sales/PR/Advertising), students will receive personalized email announcements tailored to those interests. These emails are increasingly important for your student now that organizations will begin recruiting for summer interns after the break and throughout the Spring semester.
  3. Prepare for their internship search. The majority of employers say that internship experience is an extremely important prerequisite  for future job opportunities. Many internship applications become available as early as January, so remind your student to update their resume with their current GPA and extracurricular activities, and then get it reviewed during our daily resume reviews when they return to campus. The “Find an Internship” tab on our website has a multitude of resources to aid in their search.  If they seem motivated, encourage them to meet a few contacts who work in areas that interest them.  Here are some tips to get started.

Learning about and using these valuable resources and developing these key skills will help your student begin to build a strong foundation for their personal and career development.  Starting now will make it easier throughout their college experience and will be of benefit to them throughout their lives.

Your First Year Student's Holiday To-Do List

We believe that the first semester of college is a time of transition for students as they adjust to their new living environment and get accustomed to the college workload and extracurricular activities. During their first semester, we ask our first year students to do only one thing: register with the OPCD on DeaconSource to make sure that they will get all the information they will need from our office. About 40% of first years have already done so, so please make sure your student is registered.

Here are three easy steps that you can encourage your first year student to take while they are home:

  1. Take Focus 2. This online self-assessment helps students identify their interests, values, personality type and skills. Acknowledging these personal characteristics will help your student clarify and confirm crucial decisions like selecting classes, majors, summer options and career interests. Focus 2 aligns your student’s assessment results with possible majors and career paths. In less than 20 minutes, your student can receive preliminary results. Encourage your student to share the results with an OPCD career counselor, their academic advisor and any adult fan who they trust and respect. This will enable your student to benefit from hearing different perspectives towards making informed decisions.
  2. Complete 1-3 Informational Interviews. Most first year students have very little idea what type of work or career they want to pursue.  Developmentally, this is completely reasonable and common. Please do not put any pressure on them to feel as if they should know or that the clock is ticking and they are running out of time. Instead, help them talk about their interests and brainstorm where those interests might be used in a work environment. Encourage them to talk to one of their adult fans, as well as someone in your network or neighborhood who might have a broader perspective (like a teacher, coach, doctor or dentist). After your student speaks with a few of their adult fans, help them connect with someone who works in the general career area that interests them. The goal is to understand if this type of work is something your student might want to learn more about.  For example, does your student have an interest in creative writing, art or communications? Perhaps they can talk with the website developer where you work, or with your neighbor who does freelance creative work for an ad agency, or with a friend who is a curator at a local museum.
  3. Review our sample collegiate resumes. Over break, encourage your student to use our resume templates to transform their high school resume into a collegiate resume. Include notable high school activities and honors, but also ask your student to envision what they would like to have on their resume in the future. This is a great way to strike up conversation about new activities and opportunities that they may want to get involved in next semester. When they return from break, they can come into the OPCD office and have their resume reviewed before they share it with their networking contacts and potential summer employers.

Learning about and using these valuable resources and developing these key skills will help your student begin to build a strong foundation for their personal and career development.  Starting now will make it easier throughout their college experience and will be of benefit to them throughout their lives. If you are looking for more ways to help your first year student, check out the Office of Campus Life’s First Year Checklist, which offers helpful ideas on how to get involved and take advantage of Wake Forest’s many resources.

Your Student’s Holiday To-Do List

As our students get ready for Winter break, I asked two Office of Personal and Career Development staff members, Wake Forest Fellow, Caroline Naughton, and OPCD career counselor, Lauren Beam, to offer their advice for students who have finished exams and returned home for the holidays. For most students, the holiday break can be a stress-free time to take small, but valuable steps in the career development process. My next four posts will describe easy ways you can help your student during the Winter Break. Check back each day this week for a holiday to-do list for your first year, sophomore, junior, or senior student…