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[Fresh] Fresh@news: The Career Center

This week, Fresh@news has interviewed Kevin Grubb, Executive Director of Villanova’s Career Center, located in Garey Hall. Career and professional development starts in the first year for Villanova students, and the Career Center is a resource we recommend students visit early and often throughout their time at the university.


Fresh@News: What is one of the big challenges for those of you who work in The Career Center?

Kevin Grubb: The answer may surprise some of our parents! Villanova students are highly sought-after; top employers in the country love our students and many are admitted to outstanding graduate and professional programs. The biggest challenge that we face is undoing some of the misconceptions and preconceptions about careers that students bring with them when they first come to our office.

Fresh@News: What do you mean?

Kevin Grubb: In the first year, we often work with students who are considering their academic major. This is an exciting decision, but also a stressful one. There are two myths we work to bust in this process.

Myth #1 is that your major determines your career. While there are some majors that will certainly prepare a student well for a specific career, I don’t think it will be surprising to our Fresh@News readers that we see people’s careers take shape in many different ways after college. A person’s undergraduate major is only one part of that journey. We hear over and over again from employers who are interested in considering students with diverse, dynamic backgrounds to help them tackle their biggest problems. This is very evident when looking at who hires our graduates each year and from which Schools and Colleges they do so (look at a sample listing in the Class of 2016 Outcomes Brochure). In fact, I’m sure many of our students will go on to work in jobs and industries that don’t exist today -- and will be some of the biggest contributors to those new areas in the market.

Myth #2 is that you must know what you want to do “with the rest of your life” right away. Often we speak with students who feel pressure to have it all figured out. There is also often a perception that all of their peers have it figured out quicker than they do. The reality is that having an exploratory mindset is a benefit, and we encourage all students to test lots of ideas about career paths before charting their course. No matter where they start, almost all of our students go onto extremely successful outcomes after graduating. Over 60% of our students have their post-graduation plans firmed up by the time they graduate. Within six months after graduation, almost all of the graduating class will be involved in work, education and other endeavors they seek out.

Fresh@News: Are there students who feel this pressure more than others? I would guess it is Arts & Science and Business students who haven't declared a major?

Kevin Grubb: Actually, it works out differently for different students, but since most students in these colleges don't declare their major until sophomore year, the stress remains a little longer. But, we find that all students, including those in the pre-professional programs such as nursing, business, or engineering, face these pressures at some point during their time at Villanova.

Fresh@News: Let's start with the Arts & Science students.

Kevin Grubb: The challenge for those students is not their employability; they regularly land in highly competitive internships, research experiences and full-time roles after graduation. What we work on the most with them are ways to articulate the value of their degree to a potential employer. It isn't enough to say, "I am an English major" and to believe that the employer assumes the student has strong writing ability. Students need to be able to give concreteness and specificity to their experiences to demonstrate their mastery of a skill. They need to be able to say, “I developed strong communication skills during an internship last semester where I worked on the xyz project which helped the organization achieve xyz goal,” or, “In my xyz course last semester, I refined my ability to write in xyz style, which I noticed is something you’re looking for in the job description for this position.”

Fresh@News: Let's talk about the students in Nursing and Engineering.

Kevin Grubb:  If you want to be a nurse or an engineer, you should certainly go to the College of Nursing or the College of Engineering. These programs are among the best in the nation. But, we do see some students who are in those programs not because they are excited about those fields, but because they think they have to be in a pre-professional major to get a job. Those students often don't have a good experience, and that won’t translate well when looking into a career after Villanova. I’d also add that both nursing and engineering careers offer many opportunities outside of the stereotypical outcomes one might assume, and the Colleges do a great job of exposing students to the possibilities.

Fresh@News: And what about the Business school?

Kevin Grubb: Our business students are a very successful group, but here there can be some misconceptions around choice of major. Accountants, for example, are always highly employable, and sometimes students will major in accounting because they think it means they have a lock on a career for the rest of their lives. If they do well, they will have the security of having a job before they graduate. But, accounting is not for everyone. I see some accountants who come back to us after their first year saying, "I am not happy with my job, can you help me change fields?" To be clear: our accounting program is outstanding and an accounting career can be fulfilling. It’s just important to enjoy the subject matter in addition to feeling good about the career outlook for the field of accounting. Finance is also a large program with heavy recruiting activity, and it’s common to think you need to be a Finance major to work on Wall Street. But, in fact, the investment bankers are famous for hiring students from a variety of majors - they regularly hire arts majors and engineers as well. Many business students find the sophomore classes of Financial Management & and Reporting and Competitive Effectiveness helpful in their ultimate choice of major and career. Ultimately, there are lots of opportunities for our business majors across the disciplines.

Fresh@News: A lot of the students seem to be going for double and triple majors. Does that give them a head start?

Kevin Grubb: One thing we see there is that students think that having two or three majors and a stack of minors and concentrations will make them more employable. Not only can all of those requirements give them a false sense of security, it often prohibits them from taking some interesting electives later on, or from fitting in other career-enhancing experiences like studying abroad. We find that employers aren't interested in labels as much as they are in specific skills and passions. Employers are much more interested in students who can connect their transcripts with their passions and interests than they are in students who have several different majors and minors.

Fresh@News: So, what should students do?

Kevin Grubb: The important thing is for students to find an area that they are highly interested in and to do well in that area. Though a student’s GPA isn’t everything, it is much better in the job market to be an English major with a 3.7 GPA than to be a Finance or Engineering major with a 2.2.

We also suggest they lessen the pressure on themselves if they don't have a clear idea about a career when they first arrive at Villanova. In some ways, it is a great thing to keep the doors open for a while. Often, career ideas will emerge from upper division courses, from the student's internships, service projects, or overseas study. Parents are often amazed how the still-finding-their-way first year students emerge four years later with goals, plans, good contacts, and great first destinations to start their careers.

Fresh@News: When should students come to your office?

Kevin Grubb: We recommend students getting started on thinking about their career ideas in the first year. There are professional development programs in each of the Schools and Colleges that introduce first-year students to the Career Center and to career planning. In many cases, we’re coming right to them! And, in other cases, there are academic requirements that have the students visit us. Of course, much of the answer to your question lies in what’s on the student’s mind and what they think possible paths might be. Overall, the phrase “early and often” comes to mind, as we know of employers who are building early career programs to welcome first year and sophomore students onto their teams. They are often called “externships” or “leadership programs.” Positions like those known to us, as well as other career events on campus, are all going to be in Handshake, our career management system for all Villanova students and alumni (see our Handshake guide for students on our website for more details).

Fresh@News: What advice do you have for parents?

Kevin Grubb: Three things come to mind.

First, during the first year, encourage your student to take challenging, interesting courses and to do well in them. Good grades keep the options open even if the choices aren't clear. It's discouraging to see a student who decides to go to professional school but doesn't have the grades to be competitive. Hold your student accountable, but be mindful of adding lots of pressure to make premature decisions about careers and majors. It is important to let your student discover interests, and that may take a little bit of time.

Second, help them to understand where they might fit in within an organization. Talk about your own work or suggest your student speak with a relative or family friend in a field of potential interest. Sometimes the best way to proceed is to help students do some "informational interviews" with people in different industries and roles. This is a good opportunity for students to learn how to present themselves, and often those conversations can lead to a contact for an internship or job. Our office can help with exploring possible Villanova alumni connections working in fields of interest for informational interviews, too.

Finally, encourage them to communicate in person regularly. Verbal communication is sometimes a lost art with the explosion of technology. Simple conversations with professionals are even more intimidating when students don’t have the practice. When a student is nervous about interviewing and networking, we often recommend the student speak to as many people as possible in the week before the event, just for practice. And, of course, our office is available to conduct practice interviews with students all year long.




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