Career confidence—A new indicator of success

by Lisa Gavigan ‘83, P’15, Director, Career Services

The Filene Center is where Wheaton students begin building their professional network. Through a host of services provided by professional and peer advisors, students find paths to academic and career success.

A new space

The new year brought many changes at Wheaton—not least among them the re-opening of the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services in the Diana Davis Spencer Discovery Center Dedicated to Free Speech and Innovation. The Filene Center is home to academic student success advisors, career advisors, accessibility assistants, peer academic tutors and eight career peer advisors in the new Gertrude Adams Career Design Studio.

The career peer advisors, or as we affectionately referred to them, the CPAs, range in class year and academic discipline—including quantitative finance, elementary education, biochemistry, neuroscience, psychology, Hispanic studies and political science. Located in a prominent corner of the Filene Center, the CPAs welcome drop-in student appointments on weekdays and during evening hours to accommodate busy student schedules. Together, with our four professional career advisors, Career Services has the expertise, the resources and the alumni connections to help students in all areas of their career exploration and professional development.

Internshipsmore than a line on a resume

Wheaton has a long history of supporting experiential education. The Wheaton Edge summer funding program is just one example of our commitment to providing students access to summer research, internships and/or volunteer opportunities. Funded experiential learning allows students to experience the workplace, network with professionals, apply their knowledge and develop their skills.

Students who take advantage of these opportunities increase more than their professional network; they improve their chances of securing a well-paying job after graduation. Nationally, we have seen a steady increase in students participating in significant summer experiences. Over the past decade, at least 60% of all graduating students had at least one internship while 27% have had two. (Figures courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers

While some level of experience (1-3 years) has become an expectation of employers, there are other factors that play into the success of newly graduated job seekers. Summer experience in their field of interest helps students identify the type of work environment they prefer. They are able to ask themselves whether they are more productive in a large corporate space or in a small, informal start-up. They can consider whether they work well independently or prefer more oversight. Summer experiences also help students recognize and apply their skills—leading to a level of career confidence and a more intentional, assured job search strategy.

One thing we do know is that not all internships are created equal. Some internships come with a salary, while some do not. Some are on-site, while others are virtual. Internships that are paid, and often paid well, are also very competitive and can lead to full-time job offers. Internships at accounting firms or large-scale social media outlets can pay up to $8,000 per month. But employers expect to get what they pay for—college students with a higher level of work experience and applicable skills. The recruitment schedule for these highly competitive internships begins in the late summer prior to the actual internship start date. Students must be motivated to participate in this lengthy process. Most non-paid internships are sponsored by non-profit organizations such as schools, hospitals and local government agencies—where students can make practical use of their summer funding. Encourage your student to understand the requirements of their particular internship funding and follow up with Career Services to complete their applications. For many students, funding requirements must be complete by April 30th—even if they have not yet secured an internship. 

What has changed?

The world’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic changed many things, not least among them, the way we view employment. You may be reading this article from a new home office or you are sitting in your car getting ready for a Zoom meeting. Even for those with years of experience on their resume, the job market and the way in which our jobs are structured have been an adjustment. Interns and new job seekers require a whole new set of job search and workplace skills which now include virtual networking and interviewing, developing working relationships with people they have never met in person and learning how to structure a remote workday.

Though the past two summers have seen the impact of the pandemic, internship offerings for the summer of 2022 are back on track as worksites open and employers are more adept at offering hybrid or fully remote opportunities. Our career advisors have been hard at work readying your students to take full advantage of the hundreds of thousands of internships and entry-level jobs available this year. Since winter break, more than 700 new employers have added to the existing bank of 8,000 jobs and internships posted for Wheaton students on our platform, Handshake. Through Career Services, students have had access to approximately 1,400 employers and career events—both virtual and live. These enlightening career events offer information on corporate finance, national education recruitment, professional networking for diverse populations, and have included career conversations about specific career paths and job functions. 

Building confidence

Career success at any level requires experience, a network, skills, knowledge and the confidence one has after thoughtfully considering and connecting these elements. Wheaton provides students with the means to develop all of these important aspects of professional identity so they will be confident and ready for successful careers as young alumni. 

The first annual January Jumpstart took place this past winter and was made possible due to the joint partnership between Career Services and Alumni Relations. The two-day virtual program connected senior students to 26 Wheaton alumni representing more than 14 industries. Topics addressed issues relevant to our seniors, including: 

  • tips on resume prep, job searches and interviews
  • workplace perspective on navigating first-year employment, marginalized identities and international students in the U.S.
  • preparation for varying employer recruitment styles
  • COVID-related workplace changes
  • functional skills employers are looking for in entry-level candidates
  • how to evaluate company culture through reading a job posting
  • how to read in between the lines of job descriptions

In addition, students were introduced to LyonsLink, Wheaton’s new alumni-student networking tool. This professional networking platform is aimed to ensure that every student and alumni has the access to the community and connections needed to succeed both during their time as students and as alumni post-Commencement. LyonsLink connects individuals based on career interests, location, Wheaton activities, majors, interests and hobbies. From seeking career advice to promoting their business, LyonsLink offers fantastic options to students and alumni as they navigate their career journey. 

A Wheaton education prepares students for post-graduate success starting the day they arrive on campus as first-year students. The college ensures that they are given access to a strong network of teachers, advisors, and, of course, alumni—all of whom are here to support them. 

Career Services helps Wheaton students develop career confidence on a daily basis—in their classrooms, through our workshop offerings, and in our one-on-one meetings. Working with us, they identify their strengths, explore career and experiential options, build their networks and seek challenging career opportunities, one year at a time. We look forward to celebrating their successes!