We are approaching the close of the 2015-16 academic year, and that means we are sending off the class of 2016 into the world. Godspeed! This class has contributed greatly to the life of the college and will no doubt put their remarkable gifts, talents, and strengths to good use in the larger world. Whether they are heading off to their first job and beginning their career, planning for the start of graduate school, preparing to embark upon significant volunteer experiences, or discerning their next steps, our graduates make the world a better place.
We hope that our continuing students take some time now for reflection and consideration. How did this past year go? Did they achieve their goals? Did they refine their goals? Do they have goals? Of course, they do—they need goals as a propellant to move forward. Yet, we all can get lost in day-to-day busy-ness and lose sight of the bigger picture, the grander goal. Earning a Luther College degree is not an automatic, hop-on-the-people-mover outcome. Rather, earning a degree requires a combination of challenge, effort, reflection, discernment, and commitment. The graduates we celebrate this weekend can be wonderful ambassadors and teachers for getting it done right.
Whether students will be returning in the fall for their senior year or arriving to begin their first year, having a plan and goals for the upcoming year will serve them well. Thankfully, we have several tools and people to help with this process. Perhaps one of the more helpful and important tools is the Career Center’s Career Planning Guide. I encourage you to download the document, print it out and ask your student, Where is your copy? [Go to http://www.luther.edu/career/, scroll to the bottom, and select download, the Four Year Career Guide Checklist (PDF)].
The guide is designed to help students, advisers, mentors, coaches, and families plan and prepare for productive, purposeful engagement across a student’s four years at Luther. While some tasks may be completed before a student is in a particular year, it is nonetheless helpful to begin planning a course of action for the coming year.
Incoming first-year students should determine when they will complete the Fit and Well Course. In that course, they will complete the StrengthsFinder assessment and learn more about thriving at Luther. How will they plan to develop an effective relationship with their academic adviser and discuss plans about exploring or confirming a major? When will they complete their first resume? And, when will they visit the Career Center?
For new sophomore students, an exciting opportunity awaits this fall. More details will come regarding our new sophomore year initiative. But, in reference to the Career Center’s planning guide, sophomore students should be working toward finalizing their decision on a major and mapping out how they will complete the respective coursework. How will they gain work experience and develop skills through applied learning experiences? Will they engage in mock interview experiences? And, when will they update and expand their resume and update their LinkedIn profile?
Junior students should continue to work closely with faculty to review remaining academic requirements and discuss career aspirations. Will they conduct informational interviews and job shadow experiences? The answer should be yes. Continued engagement with applied learning opportunities is paramount, and these can be achieved through internships, undergraduate research, volunteer service, or study abroad. Holding leadership positions of consequence is another way to develop the key skills that propel students toward their goals. Juniors should also attend fall and spring career fairs, career-related panels, and on-campus employer recruiting sessions. Further, they should continue revising their resume and developing cover letters and begin to build a professional network. Finally, if juniors are considering graduate school, they should be identifying potential programs and schools and should attend the fall graduate and professional school fair. Competitive fellowships and scholarships are additional opportunities for students. Many of these processes begin right away during the senior year, thus exploration should occur during the junior year.
Finally, senior year. As you can see, the depth and breadth of preparatory experiences through the first three years expands. The senior year is when the fruition of a student’s dedicated efforts should be realized. Confirming remaining degree requirements is a critical task during the last year as is deciding on a senior research project or paper. Seniors should join professional associations in their career field; many associations offer student memberships. Seniors should consider attending and presenting at conferences or events and continue to explore applied learning opportunities. Student considering graduate or professional school will need to be engaged in the application process and making decisions related to opportunities that may be presented. If students are exploring a job, they should develop a search strategy and be working with the Career Center. Customizing their resume and cover letter is a critical skill and their earlier efforts with resume building and cover letter writing should pay dividends. Students should be prepared to identify potential employers, companies, and organizations and to conduct research on them. They should review the Luther CareerConnection system and invest some time each day in their job search. Developing a 30-second introduction for networking situations is a priority as is continued practice with interviewing.
This may appear to be a lot of information, but you will be well served by printing out the Four-Year Career Planning Guide and having a conversation with your student. While students may be focused on their coursework and co-curricular experiences, they also need to be attuned to the aspects of the career search process. We want to see students from all class years engaged in the career planning process so that they can make the most of their Luther education and degree.