This post was originally published by Sarah Madigan ’16 on the CCPA blog.
At the onset of sophomore year, after an engaging summer as an Academic Enrichment Intern with CitySquash in the Bronx, NY, I found myself considering questions about my career path. When, exactly, should college students search for legitimate summer internships and jobs? How relevant should these internships and jobs be to the student’s career path? Should they be paid, or unpaid? How do students determine if they are even on the right career path?
Luckily, as I was asking myself these questions, I learned about the Sophomore Summer Success Seminar, nicknamed 4S, an initiative piloted this year by the new Center for Career and Professional Advising (CCPA) and the Office of Academic Resources (OAR) to guide and support sophomores in intentionally exploring career interests, searching for summer internships/ jobs and in actively shaping their professional image. The seminar was led by Liza Jane Bernard, Associate Director at the CCPA, and Lionel Anderson, Assistant Director at the OAR.
I immediately signed up. Unprecedented on Haverford’s campus, 4S opened to the sophomore class and capped at 22 students. Our hour and a half sessions took place once every two weeks for five weeks. The material we covered ranged from ascertaining our values and interests to preparing for job interviews. I now have a Linkedin profile. I can tell you all about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (did you know that your own values and inspirations are in fifth place? Biological/physical needs, safety needs, social needs, and the need for esteem come before your own fulfillment, in that order). I am strongly reconsidering my Facebook or even having one. I learned that my non-negotiables when considering a career include living near family and friends, having an opportunity for advancement, intellectual challenge, a premium on creativity, contributing to social change, and, yes, high income potential.
But let’s back up. Week by week, this is how 4S unfolded…
WEEK 1: Values, Interest & Skills
Here, I realized my non-negotiables. We held a “Values Auction” during which we had to bid Monopoly money for an element about our future careers; you would not take a job without these elements because they correspond to your core values. It was so interesting to observe my peers’ priorities: some would bid their entire lot of money just for one non-negotiable, like being able to travel, because they felt so strongly about it. We also worked with the online resource, CareerBeam, accessible through the CCPA’s website, to define our interests, talents, and values and how they align with career choices in a series of quizzes and surveys. Some results struck me as completely insightful, but, as any online quiz will give you, there were some very out-of-the-blue results. While keeping an open mind about exploring career options, CareerBeam made some suggestions that I (and others) knew were not for us. We thus learned about the balance between knowing your values and goals and keeping an open mind about career paths, versus the importance of deciding that something is absolutely not for you because only you know yourself the best.
WEEK 2: Networking
This was the “LinkedIn” week. I’d thought I was too young as a college sophomore to join LinkedIn, but sophomore year is an important year to focus on professional development. You’re about to declare your major; you’re planning your sophomore summer (hence the first half of the seminar’s name). LinkedIn may prove very pivotal for you depending on how you use it. So we learned how to display ourselves online professionally, because, like any online profile, LinkedIn is what you make it. People have gotten incredible jobs through mutual connections and networking on LinkedIn, which speaks to the importance of who you choose to connect with and how you shape your profile. Mine, for example, awaits further additions, but that is okay: Liza and Lionel emphasized that a LinkedIn profile is not a résumé; it lives and breathes because you can update it at any time. Use its accessibility to your advantage. Don’t be shy about networking with solid professional connections.
WEEK 3: Yourself, on Paper
We covered résumé and cover letter writing. For homework, we sent in a draft of our resume and a cover letter, designed for a job posting that had piqued our interest, to Liza at the CCPA.
By the time the seminar finished, the CCPA had edited and commented on these crucial documents. A comment on my résumé invited me to contact the CCPA with any further questions or to set up a meeting, which really speaks to their commitment beyond 4S. I’d like to reiterate this point: Liza and Lionel made it clear that the discussions we started in 4S were open to further discussion long after the conclusion of the seminar. Indeed, when talking about our career path development, it is essential to keep conversations with advisors continuous and maintain the support system that we are forming at Haverford through the CCPA, the OAR, professors, Deans, etc. I really appreciated the loyalty Liza and Lionel showed and continue to show us. That said, they hope 4S will be a medium to reach a body of students at the particular crossroads presented in the sophomore year.
WEEK 4: Personal Statements, Thank You Notes, and the Interview
4S welcomed Kristin Lindgren, Director of Haverford College’s Writing Center, who emphasized the importance of knowing how to write personal statements and thank you notes. She gave us a really cool method for writing personal statements that involved figuring out how to align our values with our accomplishments and our goals, an organizational method that cleared up a lot for me. The second half of the session pertained to interviewing for jobs. 4S offered useful tips for conducting yourself during interviews, even covering the importance of making conversation with the lobby receptionist before your interview or exactly how much time you should give yourself to get to an interview (there’s such a thing as being too early). So, 4S noted the many nuances of the interview process. Later, for practice, some members of 4S opted to conduct a mock online interview using CareerBeam, a resource available for everyone on Haverford’s campus to use through the CCPA website. I did this myself; it involved recording my own interview responses in front of the computer by speaking to my webcam as if it were my interviewer. And then I watched them. I cringed a little: it turns out that I have trouble making eye contact with the interviewer. The awkwardness was a striking wake-up call.
WEEK 5: Personal Branding
Our final session revolved around the importance of your professional image, especially online. Guest speaker Jen Rajchel, Assistant Director of the Tri-Co Digital Humanities program, stressed that from LinkedIn to Facebook, you must be aware of what is out there about you. Google yourself. Do an image search. Facebook is making posts from the past more accessible, so any embarrassing or potentially incriminating status you published in 2008 is still there and so much easier to find now. But you have control over this; craft your online presence to impress future employers. Use it to your advantage.
4S was not for credit, but, contingent on full participation and attendance, Liza and Lionel offered to be a professional reference for each member of the seminar, a highly valuable connection. You can never start establishing professional references too early.
I feel lucky to have been a participant in the pilot 4S. That said, I would like to thank Liza and Lionel for everything that they have done. I encourage all future Haverford sophomores to apply for the seminar because it is so unique on campus and really gives you a head start professionally. It provides a space for you to think about the future in a constructive, unintimidating way. And to every other Haverford student, visit the CCPA and the OAR! You’ll immediately feel motivated.
By Sarah Madigan ’16