Boot Camp gives seniors skills for workforce

BY SHUNQI GAO ’16
Staff Writer

The Senior Class Caucus and the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD) collaborated to organize the first Senior Class Boot Camp, held on January 14 in the catering suite at the dining hall. The event, which was thought of by Molly Thompson ‘13, the senior class caucus OSPGD representative, was aimed at helping graduating students gain tools to better their potential in the job market.

“I am really proud we were able to utilize the appropriate resources to create an event where a wide range of seniors were able to get closer to finding a job,” said Amanda Loh ’13, senior class president.

In his opening remarks, Dan Porterfield, president of the College, recounted his first years after graduating from college. He reminded students to look at their life pictures and not define themselves by their first jobs.

The Boot Camp consisted of four workshop sessions, including networking via social media, résumé writing, interviewing strategies, and negotiation for the best salary package. At noon several alumni arrived to have lunch with students and help them with their résumés.

Alumni offered general advice to seniors as well. According to them, the most important thing for seniors now is to network actively instead of just sending a few emails and waiting around. Students should make every day count, as there is limited time before commencement.

“[The search] is too important to take a day off,” said Donnell Butler ’95, senior associate dean for planning and analysis of student outcomes at F&M. In addition, however, James Lemonick ’80, first vice president – financial advisor at Morgan Stanley, said it is important, for students to try to enjoy their last semesters at college.

The Senior Class Boot Camp was only one of the many new events and changes brought to campus by the OSPGD. Since introduced in July 2012, the OSPGD has implemented a variety of workshops, resources, and dedicated services to assist students’ career development. These include the Life Skills Series in Fall 2012, the Life After F&M tool that gives students access to 800 alumni, and new professional advising services.

According to Beth Throne, J.D., ’95, associate vice president for student and post-graduate development, the Office is now approaching career service in a more holistic and active manner, featuring staff reaching out directly to employers and connecting successful alumni with students.

For the rest of the semester, students, especially seniors, will find more resources and events to utilize. Feb. 4, Phil Gardner will talk about how to articulate the competence of a liberal arts education to employers; the Spring 2013 Job Fair will take place on March 5; a preparatory workshop will be held on Feb. 28; and the Financing Your Future workshop on April 17 will help students understand the issues with debts and credit.

An intensive workshop on the job search will also be available by the end of the semester to help students who need the service.

For those students who do not have to worry about finding a job right now, the most important thing is to explore and to start early.

“There’s never a point where it’s too early to explore,” Throne said. “Start noticing what courses and subjects excite you. Start noticing magazines, articles, scholarly literature, and what media you are watching and listening to and what most interests you. Often you’ll find that your passion for what you would do beyond college comes out of those sources.”

Then students should try to experience those fields that appeal to them.

“It’s almost like trying on clothes and seeing what fits, or going to a buffet and picking out food and realizing to which food you would never go back,” Throne said.

To this end, the Office started a mentorship program last summer, connecting students and alumni who work in students’ areas of interest. Students will then have the opportunity to learn more about the industry and the working environment, leading to internships and jobs or the realization of disinterest. Also this semester, multiple trips will be conducted to help students interact directly with alumni in large cities.

Nevertheless, underclassmen should take their time.

“I would not decide upon a career in freshman year or even in sophomore year because those years should be used to explore your areas,” Throne said.

It is also crucial to have a combination of class work and extracurricular activities.

“So you want to be a playwright, for example,” Throne said. “We would recommend you getting involved in the student writing publications with creative writing because that’s going to help you exercise that muscle of telling a story and seeing how the audience reacts, and then you should publish something else, maybe blogging, maybe submitting something to a third party. That would be more valuable. Pair up your coursework and your life work, and that can prepare you.

“I really believe that who you become after F&M is a combination of what courses you took and what experiences you had. It’s not either. You have to have both.”

Questions? Email Shunqi at sgao@fandm.edu.

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