Sometimes, it takes getting off campus to understand what it is you want to study. Far off campus. Like, 200 miles far. This was our inspiration for developing CareerTrek, a road trip to Atlanta for students to explore career possibilities. Through agency site visits, alumni and employer conversations, museum tours, and intentional reflection, students were able to learn about various career opportunities and paths.
What does this look like?
For our students, the interest was in visiting employers who were making a positive impact on their community, speaking with employees who found their jobs compelling, and discerning their future through conversations around purpose and experiences with various fields. Over three days, students of all academic disciplines and class years visited four employers, toured the Center for Civil and Human Rights, engaged in an alumni and board member networking dinner, and participated in facilitated discussions around career readiness and success. Employers explained their office mission and culture but, more broadly, introduced students to opportunities within their field, spoke of their personal career path, and voiced the rewards and struggles of a position within their field. Students contributed engaging questions and expanded their network as they gave some intentional thought to their future.
What did students think?
In general, students gave an overwhelmingly positive review of their CareerTrek experience. It may be because the food, museums, and weather were so fantastic in Atlanta, but the following quotes seem to prove a bit of learning also took place:
“CareerTrek was very helpful. It was a great opportunity to practice networking and begin to understand the importance of maintaining those connections…it also allowed me to begin discerning what I want out of my first career.”
“I was glad that I heard [the employers] speak with such passion and dedication to their work. It helped me realize that passion and dedication, personally, are both ‘musts’ in whatever career path I choose.”
“Although I came into CareerTrek with an idea of the career path I would like to pursue, I came away with more than I could have imagined. I felt I learned something valuable from everyone we spoke with.”
“I learned a (metric) ton of info about career development in general, from cover letter advice to what to look for in an entry level job.”
Generally, students appreciated the employers and alumni for their honest assessment of life in their particular field. These volunteers were willing to provide career assessment and job search advice that really resonated with the student participants. Though they heard similar advice time and again on campus, it was hearing this from a different audience, from those in their future field, that really made it stick.
This year, the program is expanding to include two Treks to two different cities. The experience will be similar in format and structure but, based on student feedback, will be elevated to include: a graduate school tour and information around programs and admissions; a larger breadth of employer visits; and mini workshops around topics such as letter writing, networking, and interview preparation.
How can I?
In total, programmatic costs were around $2600, including: two nights of lodging, three days of food, museum admission, employer gifts, and travel between Asheville and Atlanta for eight participants and two chaperones. With equity in mind, our office fully funded this program, leaving no cost to the student participants.
CareerTrek was an invaluable experience for students and a wonderful way to engage alumni and board members in another city. Start one on your campus!
The theme for the July #SACareer series is Summer of Innovation! where contributors share innovative programming being developed or executed on their campuses. Tune in all month to be inspired!
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at email@example.com.