In February, the Western Oregon University Service Learning and Career Development office (SLCD) hosted an internship and volunteer fair. The fair’s slogan, “Experience the difference…experience can make,” emphasized one of SLCD’s primary goals: helping students gain work experience.
The mission of SLCD, according to the office’s website, is “to provide access to transformative experiences, education and counseling that advance student career development and benefit society.” One way that SLCD fulfills that mission is through services such as the annual Internship and Volunteer Fair.
This year’s fair went “really well,” according to Adry Clark, SLCD director. “Students were asking good questions, they seemed excited to meet people, and employers were very pleased.” Forty-two organizations were represented at the fair, ranging from the Benton County Sheriff’s Office to Catholic Community Services to Performance Health Technology. Some organizations offered internships, other volunteer positions; all offered students a new perspective on their plans for the future.
In addition to organizing job fairs, SLCD invites organizations to post job openings on Wolflink, a website accessed through the WOU Portal system. During the seven years since Wolflink was adopted, the number of organizations posting opportunities has increased significantly. “There are incredible internships and jobs listed,” said Clark. She hopes that interest in Wolflink will continue to increase since the site is a great benefit to students seeking work experience.
Many students, however, never take advantage of SLCD’s services. Last year, a survey of recent WOU graduates revealed that 30 percent had not even been aware of SLCD. “Some expressed regret that they never found our office or sought assistance with their transition from WOU to career,” said Clark.
SLCD assists students in career planning not only by bringing them into contact with potential employers but also through individual training and counseling. Emphasizing skills in etiquette, interviewing, and resumé-writing, the counselors ensure that students are well prepared before they meet potential employers. Counselors also address the personal aspects of career development. A few of the questions Clark encourages students to ask themselves are “Who am I?” “What’s my work going to be?” “How am I going to contribute to this world in some way?” Some of the answers, she said, will come through the careers they choose; others will come through an understanding of their own strengths and skills.
Counselors help students identify personal strengths and abilities and encourage them to put their studies into the context of work and everyday life. “I think a lot of students get an education and they have no or very little idea how to translate that to a career…I think we have to teach students how to do that,” said Clark. She and the other SLCD counselors train students to apply knowledge gained through education to the practicalities of personal and professional life.
In order to train students effectively, SLCD partners with various departments to incorporate career development into classes and educational programs. “We’re all as a community working towards the career development of students,” said Clark. “We’re not just relying on the student to figure it out.”
Ultimately, SLCD’s services emphasize experience and personal development, which are accomplished both in and out of the classroom. Students come to college to study a particular subject and explore the variety of opportunities it offers; SLCD expands those opportunities to include practical experience and to help guide students into the career paths that will be most rewarding for them.