College Career Forum Offers Students Chance To Get Professional Advice Directly From Alums

March 26, 2013

A successful series of panel discussions in which University of Virginia graduates counseled current students on different career paths and professions is now streaming online.

The College Foundation Career Forum brings together alumni expert panelists from the College of Arts & Sciences to talk about their fields and offer advice to interested students.

Audio from this spring’s forums – which included talks on working in consulting, politics and government, finance, museum careers and entrepreneurial careers – is available on the U.Va. Career Services site.

“This gives students a sense of the range of careers in a given field and of the types of work people do in that discipline,” said Ken Kipps, director of administration for the College Foundation. “I find that in most of the panels, panelists are talking about where they work, what the atmosphere is like, and what it means for the relationship between their work life and personal life. Those sorts of insights are really helpful to students.”

The forums also offer an opportunity for students to hear both from established professionals and from recent graduates who can offer advice about strategies for conducting a job search, Kipps said.

Lisa Gardner, who graduated from the College in 1979 with a degree in German, is a College Foundation trustee who chairs its Career Advisory Committee. She said the career forums are a chance for students to gain valuable insight from alums, but that they are also valuable experiences for the alumni panelists.

“From the alumni’s perspective, what they enjoy doing is meeting the students, talking with them and being able to share about their careers,” Gardner said.

For students, especially those in the liberal arts, identifying and pursuing professional interests can be a daunting task, she said. Hearing advice from alumni on what sorts of internships or experiences to pursue to prepare for a given field can be helpful for future job searches, she said.

“One panel that I sat in on, the alumni talked about the importance of having experience to point to when trying to secure a job, and they gave what I thought were really great suggestions. It wasn’t just about getting an internship, but also about attending professional workshops held by associations for that particular field and gaining experience that way,” Gardner said.

The discussions also show that alumni can be a source of valuable professional advice and counsel to undergraduate University students and a supplement to resources made available through the Career Services office and elsewhere on Grounds, Kipps said.  

This year, the five panel discussions were spread out from Jan. 29 to Feb. 28, as opposed to being consolidated into one day as in years past. The typical format was about 45 minutes of question-and-answer, and then 15 to 20 minutes in which students could approach panelists directly, Kipps said. The events drew about 150 total student participants.

“I think the alumni really like giving back, and they are really excited to talk to students,” Gardner said. “And I think sometimes students don’t fully realize this, but our alums really want to help.”

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