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CAREER READINESS SUPPORT STRUCTURE
You are not alone on your journey toward career readiness. In fact, expert help is all around you, right here on campus. There are three key career readiness resources you can access as a liberal arts student:
• Academic Departments
• The Career Center
These resources are integrated into the academic and engagement offerings here, and behind them are people who care about your future and want to help you navigate the complexities of your unique career readiness journey.
As a student, you have an advisor here to support you. Your advisor will guide you—purposefully and continuously—on the career readiness path.
Your advisor offers you the resources and information you need to start identifying your strengths and interests; choose a combination of major(s), minor(s), and certificate(s) that aligns with your academic and career goals; and graduate on time. Your advisor is in a learning partnership with you. In collaboration with your advisor, and through an ongoing process of reflection and decision making, you will develop plans for academic achievement, engagement, and career readiness. Of course, if you’re like many students, your overall plans may change along the way, either by choice or by necessity. That’s why your advisor will also lead you through a process of parallel planning—so that you have route B to fall back on if you decide to choose a direction different from the original route A.
Meet with your advisor at least once each semester.
Specifically, your advisor can support your liberal arts education by helping you:
• Talk about what’s going well for you, as well as any challenges you’re encountering.
• Share what you enjoy about your classes and engagement experiences—and what you don’t like as well.
• Discuss how your courses and engagement experiences build your Core Career Competencies.
• Create an academic and engagement plan for the next year.
• Investigate majors and minors that align with your values and interests.
• Navigate campus resources.
• Participate in courses that broaden your perspectives and enhance your abilities.
• Articulate your Core Career Competencies and transferable skills.
• Recognize the value of your liberal arts education.
• Attain timely graduation.
Your advisor will help you explore majors and select one (or perhaps more than one); select courses in your chosen program(s); connect with related student organizations (which are often their own career-readiness outlet!); and resolve your discipline-related questions in such areas as career options, graduate school, and learning abroad.
You can think of your advisor as your navigator—helping you find the academic and career path that works for you.
The various academic departments here offer their own wide assortment of career readiness resources and activities. Among them:
• Student organizations connected to the department.
• Department-specific alumni connections.
• Periodic career readiness-related events—presentations by professional speakers, panel discussions with people working in a particular industry, and site visits to related companies and organizations.
• Research activities.
• Mentoring opportunities.
To see what career readiness resources a specific department has, just ask them!
THE CAREER CENTER
The career center helps you with the entire range of career-related concerns you might have— throughout your undergraduate experience (not just senior year, as some students mistakenly believe!). Indeed, you can begin working with a career counselor freshman year and develop a career planning partnership that you can utilize throughout your time as a student. You’ll find contact and location information for the career center on page 3 of this guide.
(Note: Later in this guide, you will learn more about the Career Management Model that we use to support the unique career needs of liberal arts students.)
The career center can help you:
• Learn more about yourself—your interests, your skills, what matters to you, your personality— and how it all relates to your choices about majors, careers, and the specific ways you’ll develop the Core Career Competencies.
• Explore majors or minors and then choose one.
• Research and prepare for potential career paths.
• Discover internship, volunteering, research, campus leadership, and employment opportunities.
• Learn job search techniques like writing a solid résumé and preparing effectively for interviews.
• Get information on post-graduation possibilities, including full-time jobs, gap-year service opportunities, and graduate programs.
• Connect to a variety of career-related events and opportunities to engage with employers.
The career readiness support structure ensures that you have plenty of help available to you as you work toward your own career readiness—that you have knowledgeable, caring people you can turn to for guidance. All along the way.
SIX WISE REASONS TO USE YOUR SCHOOL’S CAREER CENTER*
You may find it surprising, but many college students know little or nothing about a wonderful resource that is right in their backyard: the school career center.
Most every school has a career center whose sole purpose is helping students with career-related issues. But despite career centers’ best efforts to market and publicize themselves, surprisingly few students take advantage of their expertise. And that’s a shame—because, as many recent (and not-so-recent) college graduates can attest, the career center could well be the most important resource on campus when it comes to helping you envision and plan for your future.
Why should you pay a visit to your school’s career center? Here are six wise reasons:
1. It’s staffed by professionals who are specifically trained to assist college students with career-related concerns.
Many college career counselors hold master’s degrees in counseling or a closely related field, and many also have additional educational background that focuses specifically on college student development issues. In addition, many college career counselors have worked in the corporate, nonprofit, or government sector, so they can give you a sense of what to expect in the “real world” of your work life.
2. Its staff members interact with the employers who will someday hire you.
College career professionals are well informed on employment trends, in great part because they’re talking with employers frequently. They also keep up on career-related trends through their professional reading and their involvement in professional organizations. Careers are their career! And they can pass some of their considerable knowledge on to you.
3. It’s a great place to figure out what you want to do with your life and how.
One of the misconceptions that career centers must fight each day is the notion that they’re the place to go only when you’re about to start your job hunt. Most school career centers, though, also focus extensively on career planning issues—helping you learn more about yourself (e.g., your interests, skills, values), what’s available in the world of work, and even how you might put certain majors to career use (in answer to the common question, “What can I do with a major in ______?”). In other words, the career center can help you not only with “how will I get there?” questions but also with “where am I going and why?” questions.
4. It offers career-related resources, online and in print.
Most school career centers offer job and internship listings, information on careers you might pursue with various majors, information on specific companies and organizations, and even (in some cases) information on the jobs and salaries of past graduates from your school. All of these resources can help you learn more about the employment possibilities that exist and which ones might appeal to you.
5. It’s a good place to meet other students who are working on the same things you are.
Whether you’re a first-year student, a graduating senior, or somewhere in between, you’re not alone in your career concerns. By visiting the school career center, you’ll meet other students who have some of the same struggles and questions you do. You can then help each other by tossing around career ideas, evaluating each other’s résumés and cover letters, and perhaps even making each other aware of companies and organizations that are hiring college students and/or new graduates.
6. You’re paying for it!
The money you pay to attend college helps pay for career center salaries, equipment, and resources. You help fund the career center and everything it does. Why not gain maximum benefit from it?
*Reprinted with permission from College to Career, Inc.
MAKE YOUR LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION MEANINGFUL TO YOU
USE YOUR ACADEMICS TO TELL YOUR STORY
Your academic journey is built to give you a liberal arts advantage. One key aspect of that advantage is that you will end up with a unique degree. No two students take the exact same courses for their degree; choice is built in. How you choose to use your credits can tell your story to future employers and graduate/professional schools. With so many courses to choose from, there are probably as many combinations as there are students. This is the advantage of the liberal arts—no one else is on the same path as you! The challenge for you is to articulate why you made the academic choices you made along the way.
It’s easy to think of your major as the most important part of your degree. Your major accounts for a significant percentage of the total credits for a degree. One question you’ll have to answer is: What else can you do in addition to your major coursework? You need credits beyond your major to graduate, after all.
Second Language Knowledge of another language makes you more competitive when you’re looking for jobs or applying to graduate/professional schools. And with 1 in 6 U.S. jobs being tied to international trade, the demand for language skills and international expertise in the arts, social services, the sciences, business, education, the military, law, and government is increasing.
Studying another language develops your competencies in Oral & Written Communication as well as Engaging Diversity—how you are able to work effectively with people of different cultures.
Studying another language allows you to:
• Connect with family history, traditions, and cultural heritage.
• Participate in a global conversation.
• Appreciate what it takes to learn a language with cultural sensitivity.
• Pave the path to learning other languages.
• Step outside your familiar scope of existence, and view your culture’s customs, traditions, norms, and value system through the eyes of others.
• Open up doors to learning abroad or
Advice from Liberal Arts Grads
Tailor Your Academic Path with the Future in Mind
“BAs can be very useful for a variety of fields that are not necessarily directly related to your major, but you should use your elective credits to show future academic programs or future employers that you’ve tailored your degree to fit the industry you’re interested in.”
Develop Your “Other Plan A”
“Look at three options because your first choice might not happen right away.”
Outside Your Major and Elective Credits These credits give you an excellent way to explore more areas and customize your educational experience—to build connections in your learning that are broader than just your major. You may decide to use these credits to earn a second major or minor. Some students take courses that simply interest them. Keep in mind: Your story of why you took the courses is more important to employers than whether or not you were able to acquire a list of minors. Take advantage of this freedom to choose and build knowledge in a new area.
Complete Required Courses for Graduate or Professional School Admission If you’re thinking about going to graduate or professional school, many programs have a set of prerequisite courses that are required for admission. Planning ahead may allow you to take prerequisite courses that also count for graduation without delaying it.
Be sure to research and know in advance the specific prerequisites you need to apply, and what factors will make you a competitive applicant, for the graduate or professional school of your choice. Then work with your advisor to create a plan that fits in those pieces and gets you to graduation on time.
Majors and Minors
You have to have a major. Minors are an option to consider. What major(s) makes the most sense for you?
Is there a minor(s) that will nicely complement this major(s), in terms of both the subject matter and the Core Career Competencies it will help you develop? What courses will help you get where you want to go, whether that’s a job immediately after graduation, graduate/professional school, or something else? What is an area that you are genuinely interested in and want to learn more about? You can’t make a wrong decision in a liberal arts major. Pick one that is a good fit for you, one where you can be successful.
The courses you take to complete your degree requirements are one part of your story. Another important part of your journey are the things you do outside of your coursework. Volunteering or student leadership or learning abroad? Which are a good fit for you, and how can you actually make them happen—and when? Perhaps you’re interested in pursuing an internship at some point, to explore a potential career field or to show the commitment you already have to one. In either case, how does the whole internship process work, anyway? Maybe you should do an internship while learning abroad.
Working closely with your advisor and/or others, you can develop a comprehensive plan you can follow to not only develop the Core Career Competencies, but also, on a broader scale, to achieve your academic and career goals and turn
your dreams into reality through careful research, informed decision making, reflection, and proactive, purposeful action. The liberal arts way.
Ask Professors About Their Research
“The most positive experience in my undergraduate career was taking a course that I was really
interested in and then basically just going up to that professor and asking them more about their
research, and do they need help on their research. I think that if students can muster up that kind of
courage, a lot of faculty are looking for students that are passionate.”
THE CAREER MANAGEMENT MODEL
EXPLORE, EXPERIENCE, EXCEL
You may have noticed that nine of the Core Career Competencies reflect the very essence of liberal arts education and the competitive advantage it offers in today’s dynamic economy. Career Management, the tenth competency, gives you the tools to seek and obtain the career you desire. Career counselors, advisors, faculty, and others can guide you through the development of this competency and prepare you for your lifelong career journey.
We believe that you need to actively engage in planning for life after college—by taking the necessary steps to explore possible careers, gain meaningful experience, and build skills that help you excel after college and lead to employment or other successful post-graduation outcomes.
But where do you begin? What do you actually
do, practically speaking? How do you know when you’re done? To help you answer these questions, we offer the Career Management Model, which you can use to progress toward your goals, even if you are unsure of your path.
The Career Management Model isn’t a set of linear steps. It’s actually three interdependent phases that overlap at times. Indeed, you’ll find yourself partially revisiting a previous phase on occasion—especially later in life, as you and the world around you both change, but even as you discover more about yourself and future career possibilities while you’re still an undergraduate.
Here are the three phases of the Career Management Model, which you will cycle through continuously:
EXPLORE Learning more about yourself as well as how you can proactively and purposefully develop your Core Career Competencies through various academic, engagement, and career activities. Examples of exploration include:
• Meeting with your advisor, a career counselor, or a faculty member.
• Taking a career assessment or a career management workshop/course.
• Arranging a meeting, or informational interview, with a professional in a career of interest.
• Enrolling in courses that interest you.
EXPERIENCE Engaging in experiential opportunities to apply what you are learning in the classroom, further explore your options, and continue developing the Core Career Competencies. Examples of experience include:
• Getting involved in a student organization or club related to your unique combination of major(s), minor(s), and certificate(s).
• Participating in volunteer activities, part-time work, micro-experiences, or leadership.
• Meeting with your advisor, a career counselor, or a faculty member to get support pursuing other experiential opportunities, such as internships, research, service-learning, and/or learning abroad or away.
EXCEL Preparing for your post-graduation life, whether that means pursuing employment, going to graduate or professional school, or something else. And knowing that, to achieve your career goals, you’ll need to convincingly demonstrate and articulate your development of the Core Career Competencies: to show that you are career ready, not simply say it. Examples of excelling include:
• Working with a career counselor to develop a solid résumé.
• Participating in practice interviews with a career counselor, a volunteer employer, and/or a faculty member.
• Attending career fairs to meet with prospective employers and learn about job opportunities.
The reflection you do along the way, and your resulting decisions, will determine your specific path through the Career Management Model. Just know that you will continue cycling through the phases throughout your life as you refine your interests and goals and respond to your changing needs.
The Career Management Model is a realistic, practical way to navigate the complex process of becoming career ready, inside the classroom and out. It helps you see where you are on your career readiness journey and where you still need to go. Ideally, by the time you graduate, you will be able to:
- Describe your values, interests, identity, personality, skills, and strengths.
- Explain how your own domains of diversity– which may include: race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, class, gender, age, etc. — will be an asset to your future organization.
- Develop and implement academic and career plans that integrate self-assessment and occupational information.
- Demonstrate completion of at least two experiences, which may include: internships, research, service-learning, or learning abroad and away.
- Identify at least five connections within your chosen career field by utilizing LinkedIn, past experiences, and events.
- Articulate (on your resume, in your cover letter, in interviews, in networking, on your LinkedIn profile, etc.) how your academic and co-curricular experiences in the liberal arts make you a strong fit for professional opportunities.
- Utilize at least three search strategies, one of which is networking, to pursue your job, internship, or graduate school goals.
- Craft a professional identity that is authentic to you and your career field.
— This is the second of seven articles in this series. Click here to go to the next article. This series of articles are courtesy of the collective expertise of the staff in the Office of Undergraduate Education and Career Services in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota.