It’s never too early to start thinking about your career!
College orientation, when students are busy decorating dorm rooms and meeting new friends, is not a time typically spent thinking about graduation and the job search that follows. But a growing number of colleges are trying to change that by starting the conversation with students about post-graduation plans as early as day one.
[Find college scholarships to help fund your education. Search our database here.]
Introducing students to the college career services network earlier rather than later allows them to get the most from their college experience, explains Mercy Eyadiel, associate vice president of career development and corporate engagement at Wake Forest University’s Office of Personal and Career Development, which has played a formal role in orientation since 2009.
“During our orientation program, we plant seeds to grow strong relationships between students and the personal and career development team,” says Eyadiel. “We get first-year students thinking about all the possibilities for their lives after graduation.”
The program has included interactive games where students guess a famous person’s (unexpected) academic major and panel discussions with upperclassmen who have used the OPCD for resume writing, interview support or internship opportunities. It concludes with students filling out a survey about their career interests, folding it into a paper airplane and letting it fly – symbolically launching their careers.
Make introductions at orientation.
Other colleges have followed suit, including:
- Albright College in Reading, Pa, where the Career Development Center has been a formal part of orientation since 2012. It hosts interactive sessions introducing students to internship and experiential learning opportunities, concluding with an invitation to an ice cream social held later in the week.
- Virginia’s Roanoke College, which is making career services a formal part of orientation for the first time this year. Students will complete a short assessment and survey and discuss the resulting reports in their first meeting with an academic advisor, kick-starting conversations on students’ after-college plans.
- Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, which uses orientation to introduce students to its StrongPoints program. Students complete an online strengths assessment survey and attend a session to interpret their results.
- Saint Leo University in Florida, where staffers from the career planning office help new students and their families unload their belongings during move-in day. “This sweat equity is a tangible and appreciated way to express that we’re here to share in the heaving lifting associated with student development,” explains Rob Liddell, director of career planning.
If orientation is all about finding one’s way – sometimes literally –career planners hope an increased visibility during those early days remind students that they’re available for help.
[Learn about interdisciplinary majors that offer a lot of career potential.]
“We can offer the programs, support and guidance, but none of these things are useful until the student decides to connect with us. The mandatory orientation program is the first of many events that signal our commitment to the student’s college to career journey,” says Eyadiel.
“What we’ve found is that the earlier the student begins to identify and explore their interests, the sooner he or she will learn to make informed decisions regarding the hundreds of classes, extra curricular activities and programs available to them during their time at college.”