At Career and Professional Development, we employ around 20 student assistants in various roles. One of those roles is that of Peer Career Advisor (PCA). Our PCAs each work 10 hours per week for our office, advising their fellow students on resumes, cover letters, job search strategies, and other career-related topics. They are invaluable to our office, and the work we do! This month, we are celebrating our three senior PCAs who are graduating in May. Below is a bit about each of them, as well as their advice to other students.
Major: Public Relations
Hometown: Herndon, VA
Plans after graduation: Working as an Account Coordinator at LEWIS Global Communications in Washington, DC
Neeka’s most impactful experience while at VT was working for Career and Professional Development. Neeka joined our team in January 2016 as a freshman. She says, “Working here has allowed me to meet the most amazing mentors, figure out my career path, and make lifelong friends!”
Neeka says that the best thing underclassmen can do for their own career development is to “start early and be open to different opportunities! It is never too early to start mapping out your future career. Sign up for interesting classes, take career assessments, apply to a variety of internships — a combination of these will hopefully lead you to what you are meant to do.”
Major: Human Development
Hometown: Leesburg, VA
Plans after graduation: Pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health at Virginia Tech
Callyn says that her most impactful experience at VT was “applying for an on-campus job that was not related to my major or future career. This brought a whole new perspective and set of skills that I would not have gained just through my classes. It allowed me to build strong connections with advisors and peers who I would not have had a relationship with otherwise.”
Callyn recommends that underclassmen “take self-assessment personality / career tests, explore different majors and careers, reach out to alumni and professionals in your future career fields on LinkedIn, get your resume reviewed during drop-in hours at the Smith Career Center, and take elective classes you are interested in that are outside of your major.”
Major: Public Relations
Minors: Business Leadership; Public and Urban Affairs
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Plans after graduation: Pursuing a Master’s degree in College Student Affairs Administration at the University of Georgia
Katie’s most impactful experience at VT was watching the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ Pass in Review her sophomore year. Katie says, “It was homecoming, and so the class of 1966 was there. I got to learn about their history of being at VT and how it’s changed, while also watching my classmates who have decided to fight for my freedom after graduation. It really showed me I was at the right institution that is developing such strong leaders and encourages service so well.”
Katie’s advice to underclassmen is to NETWORK! She says, “Get involved with organizations and communities you’re passionate about. These can help lead you to amazing connections for your professional life or even help you in really narrowing down what your post-grad trajectory is going to be. You never know what may come of it, and in the meantime, you get to meet amazing people and do things that bring you joy. Any experience is good experience and will help you develop into the professional that you’re going to be one day, and helps you meet other professionals too.”
As your student progresses through the spring semester, they may be on the lookout for summer programs or internships that can help them gain valuable experience. Unfortunately, many college students excel on their application and resume but may lack an interview-appropriate outfit to wear. Fortunately, many students had that need met thanks to the Career Outfitters program hosted by Career and Professional Development at Virginia Tech.
This program provided students the opportunity to shop, free of charge, for new and gently used professional attire including men’s and women’s suits, suit separates, shirts and blouses, shoes, and accessories, all of which were donated for this purpose. Our most recent event was held on February 1, 2019, and attracted over 500 students, all given the opportunity to look and feel their best in their “new-to-you” professional attire.
Student coordinator Kaitlyn Flora has been handling many aspects of this program, from collecting donations to hosting the semi-annual campus event. Kaitlyn shared her experience saying:
“It has been a lot of fun serving as the 2018-2019 student coordinator. It gave me the opportunity to meet many great students and help them find their personal style in the workspace. My goal for this program has always been to connect with the individual students and help them find the clothing that makes them feel confident, a vital feeling when walking into an interview. There is a lot of preparation that goes into an interview, but we want to take the worry away about what to wear and help students re-focus on the main goal; to score that dream job or internship.”
Has your son or daughter outgrown a suit they had in high school? The Career Outfitters program happily accepts these as well as other professional wear for our students. We are typically in need of smaller sizes but all sizes are welcome! If you are interested in donating professional clothing, please see information about how to make donations.
Spring Break: An Opportunity for Your Student to Recharge and Revise Their Professional Edge
Spring break is a great time for your student to relax, refresh, and get ready for the rest of the semester. Since students have this time off, spring break could be an opportunity for a career-related project. This is a great time for your student to update or create a LinkedIn profile, update resumes, practice interviewing, or expand their network.
With LinkedIn, students are better accessible to employers. Think of LinkedIn as a “professional Facebook.” This platform can connect students to employers, professionals working in their desired field, or peers on the same career path. LinkedIn allows your student to fill in information from their resume so that employers are able to see their experience, education, skills, and so on. LinkedIn is also a great tool for your student to expand their network. You may also help your student build their network by connecting with your friends and colleagues. Check out this short video on how to get started with LinkedIn!
As your student gains experience and skills, their resume should be continuously updated. With the effort they are putting into school, your student may not have a lot of time to update their resume during the academic year. Spring break is a great time for your student to polish their resume! Take the time to update content, have a consistent format, and use language that is descriptive and intriguing a potential employers. For a comprehensive guide, see our Resume and CV guide.
Interviewing can be uncomfortable for anyone, especially for students who may not have as much experience with it. The best way to improve at behavioral interviewing is to practice. Over break your student may want to review our Interviewing skills guide to prepare and practice interviewing with instant feedback on Interview Stream.
We hope you enjoy spring break with your student!
Is Your Student Career Ready?
Transitioning from college to a career can be challenging for your student. “What skills should I have?” or “How do I know I am ready for a career?” are questions students are often faced with when making this transition. Career and Professional Development has identified seven professional competencies that students can develop to create their own professional edge and be successful in their career.
Leaders show honesty and confidence through their everyday interactions. Being a leader means you have a positive attitude, motivate other people, and reach your goals through effective decision-making and collaboration. See quick tips on how your student can be an effective leader. Encourage your student to get involved in on-campus organizations to develop leadership skills.
Being able to express your thoughts and ideas in oral, written, visual, and non-verbal ways helps others understand and benefits the speaker and the listener. When two parties have an understanding in communication, work can be completed in a more efficient way. This skill is crucial in the world of work. Watch this short video for do’s and don’ts of workplace communication.
Creativity and Problem-Solving
To effectively solve problems, your student should think critically and develop solutions creatively to best meet their goals. Having problem-solving skills and creativity are key characteristics employers seek.
Teamwork and Interpersonal
Using collaboration to work on projects or complete deadlines is a skill that is transferrable across industries and employers. Each team member has a unique perspective that contributes to the goals and success of the team. Students use teamwork skills in everyday interactions and in the classroom. Translating this skill to the workforce is key. For tips on how to be an effective team member, watch this video!
Professionalism and Productivity
Employers look for employees who can be productive, develop healthy working habits, multi-task, and meet deadlines. These traits can be seen in employees who show up to work on time, put in their best work, and do what they say they will do. Having a professional attitude when dealing with problems is an important piece as well. Work with your student to ensure their development as a productive professional. Encourage your student to get involved in networking events happening on campus.
Everyone is different, and that’s a good thing! Keeping this idea in mind in the workplace can be beneficial to the relationships your student builds within a career. Employees who have a global perspective are open-minded and respect the differences and opinions that other people have. Encourage your student to get involved in events on campus or volunteer to broaden their horizons.
With the wave of technology constantly evolving in our world, your student should work to apply technology to improve their job performance. Encourage your student to learn and practice programs and applications that are specific to their industry. Your student has access to Lynda, an online training resource. See more information about Lynda at Virginia Tech.
Renewal and Growth; Keys for the Cooperative Education and Internship Programs at VT
Virginia Tech was one of the first U.S. universities back in 1952 to use experiential learning principles and cooperative education to incorporate actual work experiences into the College of Engineering programs. Now the VT Cooperative Education and Internship Program has over 60 years of experience helping students grow into their fields, and a large percentage of former co-op and internship students are employed full time, usually with higher than average starting salaries, at their time of graduation!
Today, students come from an array of majors including accounting, hospitality and tourism management, architecture, industrial design, the liberal arts and humanities, food science and technology, and many more. When VT students participate in this form of experiential learning they are responding to employers’ needs. We know many employers report they seek students who are well prepared in their academic disciplines and have work experience in their fields when they graduate from college. Very importantly, our VT Cooperative Education and Internship students are also being guided by a faculty mentor. This person helps to ensure they are having an experience that will meet the quality expectations of the Eight Best Practices in Experiential Learning as published by the National Society of Experiential Education.
Last year to increase accessibility to these experiences, Virginia Tech opened a new part-time internship program to allow a student to take courses at VT (either online or on campus) and also participate in a part-time internship of from 4 to 31 hours per week. VT students get to choose where they want to work, and most employers are eligible to participate.
Currently, the Co-op and Internship Program manages these experiences through two courses each semester, one for students who want to pursue full-time work experiences (CEP 4084) and one for students who pursue part-time work experiences (CEP 3084). The sequence of these work experiences is flexible and Virginia Tech students can choose to go out for a semester of work in their disciplines; a semester and a summer; or for a single experience during the summer. While our students are working abroad and throughout the United States, they can still be counted as students at Virginia Tech by having one of these courses on their transcripts while at work.
During the 2017 to 2018 academic year the Cooperative Education and Internship Program worked with 496 students who worked full time and 49 students worked in our new part time internship class for a grand total of 545 students! These students worked with over 155 different employers during the year and some of the employers who hired the most VT students included DuPont, GE, WestRock, USG, International Paper, NASA, Cargill, Exxon Mobile, as well as many other large and smaller organizations. One of our former co-op and internship students said it best in this video: Luke_Farinholt.mp4
If you are interested in speaking with the Program Manager, Dr. Kathryn Jordan, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 540/231-6241. She will be happy to answer your questions and get you or your student started toward a work experience as well.
Gaining Experience Over Break
While your student is enjoying their winter or summer break, often they focus on spending time with family and friends or getting well-deserved rest. However, they can also include spending time getting real world know-how which will allow them to gain experience over their break. "Like what," you ask? Don’t worry! We’ve compiled a handy list of helpful suggestions of things they could and should do over their break to gain a professional edge.
- Conduct informational interviews
Semester breaks are an ideal time to reach out to contacts in locations, fields and organizations of interest. Informational interviews are a great way to learn more about careers in their field. If they haven’t decided exactly what they want to do, they can use their time to talk to people in a variety of occupations to learn more about job requirements and their day-to-day activities.
- Job shadowing
For college students, trying to gain experience can be a tough process as the landscape tends to be quite competitive. If they identify any people eager to help, encourage them to consider asking them if they could shadow them or a colleague. Job shadowing can enhance an eventual internship and the job search process. Accurately understanding what their desired industry or job entails is one of the most important parts of growing a successful career.
- Seasonal employment
If your student is struggling to fill their resume, adding a seasonal job is a great way to add some additional experience. Alternatively, if they have interests in multiple industries, but have no experience, adding a seasonal job can help bridge the gap. They should view the seasonal job as an opportunity to gain more experience and obtain transferable skills that can be utilized in the future.
These options will give your student a rare inside glimpse into how a company actually operates — and a chance to test-drive it, relatively risk-free. Let your network, friends, and family know about their plans because they may be able to connect them with a contact in their field(s) of interest. That person may even end up being a great professional mentor for them. Don’t forget that their break is also a good time to schedule an appointment with a career and professional development advisor. Other than the brief time the university is closed, our office remains open over break, and we are happy to talk with them in person, via Zoom or over the phone. Also, while they are gaining all this additional experience, don’t forget to have them update or get started on their resume. They can refer to our Career Planning Guide for resume examples. This resource is available in print in our office and online. Make sure to encourage them to make the most of every moment – they’ll be happy they did once they get ready to enter the professional world.
In celebration of National Career Development Month, Career and Professional Development would like to spotlight the career journey of one of our graduating Peer Career Advisors, Caroline Ward. Caroline began working for Career and Professional Development her sophomore year, and intends to pursue a master’s degree in health administration upon her graduation in December.
What led to your interest in the health field?
I have always liked environments that are busy and full of energy. As an extrovert, I find myself drawing my energy from all that is going on around me. Although I have unfortunately spent a decent amount of time in the hospital due to my hip and my back problems, I realized over time that I actually appreciated and was fascinated by the environment I was in. I also admire the constant changes and advancements in the health field, whether it be with technology, policy, or strategy. Healthcare is something that we will always need, and I want to be a part of it in order to make it more sustainable and attainable for everyone.
Why health administration (and not nursing, medicine, etc.)?
I have been a communication studies major my whole time at VT, and I wanted to try to find a way to combine my communication skills with the world of healthcare. I looked into different minors here and found the medicine and society minor. The classes I have taken have allowed me to understand and evaluate different societal positions on medicine, as well as discuss ethical dilemmas in healthcare. After graduate school I hope to land in a human resources or patient advocacy role within a hospital where I can utilize my communication skills and strategize the best way to aid my fellow staff and the hospital’s patients.
Tell us about your internship this summer.
I interned for Inova Health System this past summer, specifically within the Inova Well Department. It is a division of Inova that focuses on various wellness strategizes for our employees, clients, and community as a whole. I got to do so many different things that included researching and talking with six different national vendors in regards to a potential partnership with Inova Well for our biometric screenings and shot clinics. This allowed me to participate in conferences calls with the heads of sales departments across the country all on my own and really improve my professional communication skills. I also got to work a lot with our newly acquired virtual reality headsets and showcased them at various events to employees. I definitely loved working with the VR headsets because it allowed me to provide a quick and easy way for employees to practice mindfulness before they began their busy and often stressful shifts at the hospital. I value and appreciate human connection, and Inova provided me with an atmosphere where I was consistently talking, meeting, and helping employees and clients, as well as learning from them.
What do you think is the best service offered by Career and Professional Development?
It is honestly difficult for me to choose the best service because I have utilized nearly all of them, but I think one of the best services is definitely the mock interview service. Students can sign up for a mock interview with a full-time advisor and will receive feedback following the interview. The student will even be told to come professionally dressed, and the advisor will help them with outfit tips. Interviews are something many students dread but practicing for interviews can make them much less daunting and increase students’ confidence when entering a real interview. I have used it myself and received so much insight on how to prepare for interviews as well as follow up after an interview has concluded.