September 28, 2009
Steve Langerud, the University's director of career development, thinks that students need to re-frame their approach to finding a career. "Instead of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?' I ask, ‘where can you do what you do well and care most deeply about?'" he says.
It's a strategy that Langerud has used before. He recently served as assistant dean for University of Iowa's College of Law, where he helped students and alumni find rewarding work in the face of intimidating personal debt. "They ask me if they can work somewhere where they don't have to sell their souls," he told the National Law Journal in 2007. His work as an organizational development consultant—a business he still operates—gave Langerud the credibility to answer that question. In his work, he has spoken with countless people who were discontent with their careers because those individuals had only asked themselves what they wanted to be and not what they wanted to do.
"My job, I think, is to prevent a mid-life crisis by getting students to think about these things now," Langerud says.
To that end, Langerud can expect plenty of support at DePauw. In 2008 President Brian W. Casey said that the University would "rise and fall on the strength of its intellectual life." Casey began an ongoing conversation with the faculty, encouraging them to seek ways to spread intellectual curiosity beyond the walls of the classroom. These discussions, Langerud believes, also speak to the strength of a liberal arts education: clarifying to students the depth, breadth and value of their talents.
"There are professional bloggers and experts on green energy now, jobs that couldn't have existed until recently," Langerud says. "A liberal arts education teaches students to make connections between their education and the things they'll learn in their professional lives—the Internet and writing, or climate issues and health—and adapt as the market changes."
The number options available to liberal arts students shouldn't be paralyzing, however. "Some students are interested in so many things that they have a hard time deciding on a career path that they feel will last the rest of their lives," Langerud says. "They think to themselves, I don't know what it is I want to do, so I'll wait until I do to talk with somebody. But when they are most confused is exactly the time when we should sit down and talk. We can help students discern that path and develop a plan."
In order to accommodate students with busy class schedules, Langerud and Assistant Director of Career Services Erin A. Mahoney '86 welcome Tuesday and Wednesday walk-in appointments at the Career Center (304 Harrison Hall). So far, Langerud says he's been pleased with the number of word-of-mouth referrals, and he hopes that every DePauw student visits the Career Services Center at least once.
The Career Services Center has also planned a series of Thursday brown bag workshops, walk-in appointments and fairs at the Memorial Student Union Building. On Thursday, Oct. 8, representatives from more than 40 organizations will be in attendance at the Career Exploration Day Fair, held in the Student Union ballroom from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. More information about upcoming workshops and events can be found on the Career Services Web site.
Langerud offers three tips for students who are looking to succeed in the job market:
1) Use social media to create a professional identity.
One of the most difficult transitions is from student to professional, but social media makes it easy to establish yourself within a new profession.
- Establish a LinkedIn page. Professionals don't exchange résumés - they connect on LinkedIn. You can present the same information as your résumé with a more easily digested, dynamic and professional tool that's always a mouse click away.
- Determine which books and magazines professionals in your field are reading and read them! Be aware of the key issues, trends and developments that will help you identify leaders in your field.
- Identify and actively participate in professional blogs. It is a quick way to establish yourself and learn about a profession.
2) Develop professional relationships with your new DePauw family.
Nepotism is good! Specifically, use alumni as resources to develop professional relationships. Although some students are reticent to approach alumni because they feel alumni may be too busy, important or intimidating, nothing could be further from the truth! Here is what we know about all people:
- Everyone loves to talk about themselves.
- Everyone is proud of their work ... and wants to talk about it.
- Everyone wants to help a young person.
Your approach should be to engage alumni and other professional contacts so that they can do these three things for you. The outcomes include learning about a new professional field, establishing a new relationship that you can turn to for support, and finally, accessing job or internship opportunities that you simply would not have without this relationship.
3) Get some experience!
Aristotle said, "What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing," while Woody Allen noted that "80 percent of success is just showing up." Experience is where Aristotle and Allen meet. At DePauw, we just know that experience matters.
DePauw offers students a menu of experiential opportunities to "show up and do" that is unmatched by other colleges. Whether through internships, Winter Term service trips or independent research projects, DePauw students are pushed to explore their passions, reflect on the meaning of their experience and create their own path. Furthermore, these experiences are what graduate schools and employers look at as proof of a liberal arts education.Back