First-year students get serious about career prospects
Students are seeking career planning resources earlier in their time at St. Norbert College than ever before, reports the career services office. During the fall semester, staff saw an approximate 250 percent increase in visits by first-year students.
“It’s been amazing and a little bit surprising,” says Mandy Nycz (Career Services). “We didn’t anticipate it, but it’s been what we’ve been working for in the time I’ve been here.”
Nycz says the economic downturn might have spurred some incoming students to connect with the office. (This cohort was starting their sophomore year in high school at the time of the U.S. stock market crash of October 2008 and, for these students, college and career aspirations have taken shape during tough economic times.)
Nycz further credits two events, geared toward first-year students, for the office’s increased visibility. “Tailgating with Career Services,” held the first week of classes, was designed as a casual, fun offering to introduce newcomers to the office. “Major Fest,” which followed in September, served as an informational resource event, featuring student, faculty and alumni representatives from all academic programs.
Victoria McNeal ’15 of Milwaukee says she was encouraged to explore academic programs through online resources offered by Career Services.
“The information on majors on the website provides me with possible jobs that each can offer,” she said. “In my opinion, just by coming to Career Services and getting the on-on-one time is a helpful project. I get the chance to talk with professionals to get help on choosing what I want my major to be. The entire staff is welcoming and this is what makes me come back. I feel like I have a lot of help.”
Finding the path
Assessments through Career Services help students identify their interests, values and skills so they can better choose a major and begin a career plan.
“It’s important that they understand the value of career-oriented experience, be that an internship, volunteer experience or a leadership position on campus. Then we can help them tell that story in their cover letter, their graduate school application or during an interview.”
When students seek career options, they also make deeper connections to their academic program, which Nycz says helps students persist in their studies: “It’s OK to be uncertain or undecided about a major,” she says. “What better place to do your exploration than at St. Norbert?
“We try to get students on a path of self-awareness. We want them to learn key things they should be doing, such as internships, and getting career-oriented experience along the way. We are really excited to see the first-year students connecting to us early because hopefully these other pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.”
Career Services offers a variety of online resources for students, alumni and parents. Internships and jobs are posted on the site in a database labeled Career Connections. Other online resources range from résumé reviews to a graduate school guide. Nycz said one of the most popular site features is “What can I do with a major in ... ?
“They want to know, ‘What I can a do with my major in history? What can I do with a degree in philosophy?’ It helps them with their career path,” she said.
“Seeing students get that acceptance to graduate school or a job is incredibly fulfilling,” added Nycz. “We are also there to walk with them through a rejection. We work to get them re-motivated; to do it again, start applying. Helping them make those first real big decisions in life is very rewarding.”