One of the most exciting times in a college student’s life is graduation. What’s not often mentioned, however, is the anxiety and uncertainty most graduates feel when transitioning into the workforce.
Many men and women hope to venture into a fulfilling, lifelong career immediately following graduation. The truth is, most individuals will have six different jobs before their 30th birthday, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
College career centers are going beyond the classroom to help students prepare for the future. These centers know that learning to navigate transitional phases, and being open to new opportunities, are powerful skills that can be explored through meaningful mentorships, networking opportunities, and hands-on experience.
Bestselling author, George Anders, writes in his latest book (You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education), “When you collect your diploma, you don’t yet know what kinds of jobs you do best, what type of work satisfies you the most, or where the best career opportunities reside.” College career centers help demystify the post-graduate experience by offering students a glimpse into the future.
Among the schools dedicated to maximizing students’ understanding of life beyond college is Randolph-Macon College (R-MC). The Virginia-based institution makes the college-to-career transition a smooth one by offering students a unique and innovative addition to the traditional college classroom.
The Edge Career Center (The Edge) provides a comprehensive four-year program that helps individuals identify and embrace their career passions and goals. Along with gaining necessary knowledge and skills, students are instilled with the confidence they need—whether they’re applying to graduate school or diving into their chosen careers.
Each year, the college hosts The Edge Career Boot Camp. Students spend two full days with R-MC faculty, staff, alumni, and local business leaders, who are dedicated to helping students learn in an encouraging and supportive environment.
Throughout the immersion program, students gain confidence by further developing their individual strengths, talents, and skills. Activities include comprehensive workshops led by esteemed leaders, along with breakout sessions. During these sessions, students learn how to communicate more clearly and effectively, create their elevator pitches, tell their unique stories, and prepare for interviews.
Facilitators even conduct simulated interviews, and walk boot campers through the etiquette of business meetings over a meal. The jam-packed, wide-ranging program prepares students for the future in ways they’d never be exposed to in a typical college classroom setting. New graduates leave the program filled with optimism about the future.
R-MC Success Stories
Many schools, including R-MC, utilize internships to prepare students for future careers. The Edge Career Boot Camp, led 2017 R-MC graduate Lauren Orga to complete an internship at Ferguson Enterprises Inc. in Newport News, Virginia. “At Ferguson, I applied what I had learned in the classroom and built relationships with professionals—all while learning more about the industry,” Orga said of the opportunity. “Because of the experience I gained from my internship, the courses I have taken at Randolph-Macon, and what I learned from The Edge, I will be prepared to enter the job market.” R-MC students going on to graduate school are equally confident and prepared.
New grad Robert Redenz—who majored in biology and minored in chemistry—knew he wanted to become a dentist since his very first year at the college. Redenz is following his dreams and will be attending VCU School of Dentistry in Richmond, Virginia. Josh Quinn—who serves as The Edge Career Center’s associate director of professional development and medical careers—went above and beyond by helping Redenz complete every step of the tedious application process.
While many students choose their career fields as freshmen, others enter higher education with unclear goals for the future. This indecision sometimes continues after graduation. College career centers can help bring clarity to students who are uncertain about their goals.
Even those with clearly defined goals often grapple with the possibility of not securing a job. A New York Times review of Anders’ book noted the rise of publications promoting marketability in students’ chosen fields. It’s no surprise that these books, which “soothe the post-graduation panic that some [students] may be experiencing,” are written by change makers and mentors, like Anders, who strive to empower graduates.
Knowing the importance of empowerment, R-MC gives students the support necessary to change paths when needed. Recent graduate Amanda Metell initially studied pre-medicine, but later realized her heart was leading her elsewhere. She began research in the field of chemistry with the mentorship of Chemistry Professor, John Thoburn.
Quinn helped Metell modify her resume and apply to graduate schools. She was well-prepared for the next stage in her education, and is now pursuing her Ph.D. in chemistry with a full scholarship to the University of Virginia.
Despite changing tracks, Metell had her pick of several graduate programs. “When I realized how much more experience I had than other graduate-school applicants, I felt so privileged to go to a college where I can conduct research with state-of-the-art instrumentation,” she said.
College career centers offer and promote extracurricular activities. Students are encouraged to branch out and gain team-building skills through various activities in fun and supportive environments.
Extracurricular activities require teamwork, and often build confidence, which carries over to students’ careers. Orga played soccer throughout her time at R-MC, and Redenz enjoyed being on the varsity swim team. During his senior year, Redenz was a four-time winner of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Swimmer of the Week award, and was even named ODAC’s Swimmer of the Year.
College career centers encourage and empower students to discover who they want to become and what they want to accomplish. Students graduate prepared for their future careers, and with the confidence they need to handle whatever life has in store.