Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Tips for Students

Top 5 Tips for Graduate School Seeking Seniors

Many students mistakenly believe the OPCD is not able to help them if they are interested in graduate or professional school. However, we actually have a lot of information and resources to help students navigate the path from college to career, including graduate school! We work closely with the faculty who advise students considering attending graduate school for medicine and pre-health professions, law, business, divinity as well as many other academic paths. Today, we offer the top 5 tips for seniors seeking graduate or professional school.

1.  Meet with the Appropriate Adviser

Since the preparatory process for applying to different graduate programs is so unique, meet with the appropriate advisers to learn more about specific timelines and steps you should be taking right now. They will provide advice tailored to your specific needs and situation.

2.  Update and Tailor Your Resume and Professional Documents

Resumespersonal statements, and other documents for graduate programs are subtly different than those for the world of work. Ensure you are emphasizing the characteristics that make you an attractive graduate school candidate by visiting the OPCD (Reynolda 230) during resume review hours (Mon-Thurs 2:00pm-4:00pm, Friday 10:00am-12:00pm and 1:00pm-3:00pm) to have these documents reviewed.

3.  Figure out Finances

Graduate school is not cheap. Remember that in addition to tuition, there are many other costs associated with graduate school. Thoroughly research all of the costs of attendance and the methods you may pursue to afford the degree. Research potential scholarships, work-study opportunities, assistant positions, and available student loans in order make this investment in your future possible.

4.  Obtain Letters of Recommendation

Every graduate program will ask for recommendations from professors and professional contacts. Connect with your recommenders early to allow them the time they need to write a strong, positive recommendation. Remember that you will not be the only one asking for recommendation letters, so request them early to ensure you have your letters by the necessary deadlines. Don’t forget to include materials they may need to write a recommendation such as your resume or a letter of interest stating why you would like to attend a particular program.

5.  Prepare for Your Interviews

Prepare for your interview by researching the program thoroughly and scheduling a mock interview. Search websites such as Petersons.com or the program’s webpage in addition to discussing the program with Wake Forest alumni and your professors in order to receive additional information and advice to help you prepare for your interview. Also, attend the Graduate & Professional School Day on November 7th from 10:00AM – 1:00PM in Benson 401 to meet with representatives from the different schools to which you may have applied. Furthermore, schedule amock interview to practice your interviewing skills and receive constructive feedback on ways to succeed.

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.

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.

Internship Search Strategies

It may be hard to believe (considering winter break was just last month!), but the summer is almost here. The biggest question our career counselors are asking students is: “have you started your summer internship search?” No matter where a student is in the process, the OPCD is here to help. Read on for our top 3 tips of what students should be doing now to look for and prepare for a summer internship.

1.  Utilize your resources. The OPCD website is full of helpful internship tips and resources. We’ve recently updated our website to include information about earning internship credit, funding your internship, and finding internship housingDeaconSource, our on-line career portal for students, also contains a variety of internship postings.

2.  Set goals and execute your plan. Use this tracking tool on the “Find an Internship” page to track the contacts made, the internships applied for, and the follow-up required. Set specific goals for the number of internships you will apply for and the industries and locations you want to pursue.

3.  Get in touch and stay in touch. Networking is the single best way to identify opportunities, research information for interviews, and build relationships that will help you land an internship.

  • Here are 3 great tips for building a network:
    • Create a LinkedIn account today and start making connections.
    • Join the Wake Forest Career Connectors group on LinkedIn to get access to the more than 2,800 Wake Forest alumni willing to help you get started on your career search.
    • If you are involved in a sorority, fraternity, or other campus organization, see if the organization has a LinkedIn group. If they do, join that group, too.

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…

Ask the Experts

Parents and alumni play an important role in our students’ career development process.  To foster this support, our Office of Personal and Career Development has established a Linkedin group called Wake Forest Career Connectors. Over the past seven months, an impressive 2,600 parents and alumni have joined the group to provide students with career guidance and advice. Students can now easily query group members through private messaging and a public discussion board. Our office staff has also taken advantage of the public discussion feature to ask member’s career related questions.

Amy Willard, Assistant Director for Professional Development, sought advice using our Wake Forest Career Connectors’ open discussion board. Seeking information to support her work in professional development, she asked members, “If you were hiring a recent graduate, what top five professional skills do you want him/her to possess to be a strong candidate for your profession?”

Amy was excited to receive over two dozen detailed responses from members detailing their “top” workplace skills.  She notes that “even with the responding members’ varied occupations, common skill themes quickly emerged that will support my professional development programming strategy.”  Below are some common skills as noted by our respondents:

  • Proven communications skills were highlighted most often. Joseph Tranfo (Parent,  ’15) noted the heightened importance of “communication – written, oral, AND visual” in today’s work environment. Furthermore, he states that “in 2011 and beyond, students better be able to communicate digitally using more than just words.”
  • Sam Smith (Psychology and English, ’84) was one of the many alumni to emphasize the need for skills in critical thinking. He emphasizes that when a student is faced “with a brand new challenge and you can think your way through to a working solution, you’re going to get lots and lots of opportunities to shine.”
  • “The world of work is a world of people and therefore relationships,” states Patrick Flemming (Psychology, ’96). Several of the responders focused on our students’ need to understand the big picture when beginning their first internship or job assignments. Furthermore, Patrick shares that “students/graduates can distinguish themselves in a powerful way by demonstrating awareness and enduring interest in who people are, why they do what they do, and how they behave together.”
  • Like others, Sarah Shoaf (Physician’s Assistant, ’76) emphasized initiative and noted that students should “constantly seek ways to improve yourself and your performance, as well as improve the business around you.”  She advises students to “spend your first month absorbing what is around you, asking questions as to why things are done certain ways. Once you understand the business, then start making suggestions, but don’t be offended if your suggestions are not immediately acted upon.”

The Wake Forest network of alumni, parents, faculty and staff is committed to helping students successfully navigate the path from college to career.  We’re excited that the LinkedIn Career Connectors Group can provide these important connections for students to learn about the world of work.  If you are willing to provide friendly advice and encouragement to current Wake Forest students, please join the Wake Forest Career Connectors Group today.