[Fresh] Thinking about careers

John Immerwahr (john.immerwahr@villanova.edu)
Fri, 20 Oct 2000 12:24:59 -0400

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Interview with Nancy Dudak, Director, Career Services Office

Fresh@News. Should first year students be worrying about their career
choices already, or is it too soon for them to be thinking about these

Ms. Dudak. We definitely don't think students should be worried about
careers, or feeling pressured about career choices, but it is never too
early to start thinking about these questions.

F@N. What should first year students be doing at this stage?

N.D. The most important thing is for students to commit themselves to
their academic work. Students should take interesting and challenging
courses, work hard, and learn as much as they can. Making a full
investment in academics really pays off. Prestigious employers value
hard work and success, as demonstrated both by good grades and also by
strong letters of recommendation. When the academic work is strong,
students will have more options when it comes to choosing a career and
getting a job. Strong academic work also pays off if graduate school is
a necessary part of career preparation, since strong students will have
much more access to the better graduate programs.

F@N. What can the Career Services Center do for new students?

N.D. An excellent first step for first-year students is to make an
appointment (or stop by) the Career Services Center for an initial
visit. We like students to begin by taking the Strong-Campbell Interest
Inventory, an on-line instrument. It takes about 20 minutes and it
generates a profile of the student's potential career interests. The
student then meets with one of our counselors to review the results.
Based on the results, we might want to discuss how the student's
interests relate to various careers, and we might also discuss some
ideas about the choice of major, internships, co-curricular activities,
or summer work opportunities.

F@N. What kind of summer work and other activities help build a
student's resume?

N.D. Employers want to see that students can work hard, interact with
customers and supervisors, and survive in the adult world. And the job
doesn't necessarily have to be directly related to eventual career.
Even service-sector jobs (like working in a restaurant) can give
evidence of job-related skills. I would, however, advise students to
get some variety in their summer work experience, rather than going back
to the same employer every summer. If that isn't possible, try to show
some increased responsibility each year. As students get a little
further along in their academic careers, internships are also very
important. Co-curricular activities can also be significant, even if
they are not directly related to the career choice. Employers are
looking for students who work hard, manage their time well, and have
leadership potential. Being involved with a social service or volunteer
organization can help demonstrate those traits.

F@N. Are there some misunderstandings about careers?

N.D. The biggest one that I hear is that that your choice of a major
dictates your career for the rest of your life. That really isn't true
at all. Except for the most specialized careers, virtually any major
can be an asset. A second fallacy is that there are no jobs for
humanities majors except teaching. The question, "What are you going
to do with a Philosophy major?" sometimes reflects a lack of
understanding of today's job market. We find that employers
increasingly value the skills students learn in the humanities and are
willing to give them the specialized training that they may need. In
fact, our Liberal Arts graduates are doing very well and in many ways
have more diverse employment choices than students from the professional
schools. We do find that their starting salaries are somewhat lower
than students from some of the professional schools (sometimes as much
as three or even five thousand per year lower), but the salaries tend to
level out after a few years.

F@N. How are Villanova students doing in the job market?

N.D. Great! With today's strong economy it is a wonderful time to be a
college graduate looking for a job. About 60% of our students are
placed (either in a job or in graduate school) by graduation. By the
fall, over 90% of our students have a placement. Employers like our
students; they see them as bright and hardworking, but also as practical
and down-to-earth. As one employer said to me, "I like hiring Villanova
students because they don't have their head in the clouds; you start
with good kids, give them a good foundation, and you don't ruin them."

F@N. What advice would you give to parents of our first year students?

N.D. Use your skills as a parent to talk to your students about career
interests, without putting pressure on them. Encourage them to think
about and explore the relationship between academic choices they are
making and possible career interests. Parents should also encourage
their students to start to make contacts with friends of the family who
are in interesting fields, and to draw on the family contacts for
information and leads for summer work and eventual post-college
employment. Sometimes students are reluctant to pursue leads from their
parents because they want to "make it on their own." Encourage them,
if you can, to realize that you are only providing access, the rest is
up to them. Reinforce the necessity of working hard in college. Tough
courses, good grades, extracurricular activities, and pre-professional
experience create the profile of the Villanova student who is valued in
employment organizations and graduate programs. Parents might also want
to explore our web site, just to get some idea of the possibilities:

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