That’s career coach Leigh Nagy Frasher’s advice for rising college freshmen when they first meet the summer after high school graduation. She says they often come to their first meeting with her feeling anxious and sharing this advice helps them to relax and focus on goal-setting. To her, their college experience and career exploration is a process – complete with tactical components like perfecting a resume and career exploration through internships, informational interviews and classes.
Each Eastside graduate is matched with a college coach and a career coach upon graduating from high school. Our college coaches guide alumni through their college experiences: navigating academic requirements, meeting financial aid deadlines and budget goals, and providing moral support. Career coaches offer constructive career guidance while alumni pursue a college degree: helping them identify career possibilities, explore professions through class choices and internships, and begin to build a network of advocates and establish crucial professional connections.
The student-career coach relationship begins in high school with a series of “Career Launch” workshops for our high school seniors that introduce the process of career exploration and help students practice critical job search skills. Topics include an introduction to design thinking for career exploration, how to explore industries and communicate with professionals, informational interviews, a job shadow day, mock interviews, and resume reviews. These skills workshops and career exploration activities are incredibly valuable experiences for students who will be the first in their families to pursue professional careers, and thus lack the social capital and networking opportunities their more affluent peers enjoy.
“Our younger alumni who went through the career launch workshops in high school have no problem getting out there and networking,” says Leigh. “They already know what to do.”
At the initial meetings over the summer before freshman year, she helps alumni complete a self-assessment by asking them questions about themselves, encouraging them to tell her stories about their lives and looking for consistent themes that will inform later discussions. They reduce the themes to several topics and motivations, brainstorm possible career paths and formulate ways to explore these options through internships, volunteering or informational interviews.
Unsurprisingly, each case is different. Some alumni are in frequent touch about the many decisions they are making, while others reach out less frequently. While some students know what they want and stick to it, others try many new classes and consider several majors before deciding on a path.
Leigh continues to check in with alumni with increasing frequency as their college graduation nears.
“Every time we talk, we’re talking about career protoypes,” says Leigh. “The classes they take and the internships they land are all contributing to these conversations. In the winter and spring of their senior year of college the conversations are more tactical: we figure out how to get there.”
Together they update and revise a job search strategy as well as work through some of the more technical aspects of the job search process including formulating a networking plan, leveraging campus resources, and updating a student’s LinkedIn profile and resume. She also initiates senior action plan meetings which are designed to ensure graduation requirements are met and to identify campus events like job fairs that students should be making the most of. All these steps lead to the biggest reward of all: the job offer that proves the hard work is worth it.
And that job is the next in a series of successes that will continue to ripple throughout this community. You can click here to read success stories about some of the members of Eastside’s Class of 2012 who are just the latest to take the next step in their journey.