By Bethany Huot
The last two semesters The Pub Club organized and held two Undergraduate Career Workshops to help the UGs on our research floor learn about and apply a Community of Minds approach to Strategically Manage the next phase of their careers. The idea arose from the fact that we have many UGs nearing graduation and beginning to ask the question, “What’s Next?”
So, what exactly did we do and what were the outcomes of our Workshop Events?
Our main objectives for these events were to introduce our UGs to the concept of strategic career management and demonstrate the value of a Community of Minds approach towards doing this. Co-coordinators, Bethany Huot and Miranda Haus, came up with the following activities to achieve these goals:
- Use TheCOMonline.net as a Career Management resource
- Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to identify their skills, interests, and values
- Write a draft profile summary to be used on professional sites
- Ask questions regarding their career options
- Use a Community of Minds approach (small group discussions with graduate students and postdocs) to address their career-related questions and receive input on their profile summaries
- Refine their profile summaries based on input received during the workshop
Prior to the workshops, students were asked to read two posts: “What’s Next?” and “Career Tips Over Breakfast with John McDowell.” They were also asked to fill out the three surveys on AAAS’ Individual Development Plan. They were then asked to use the information they gained to write a brief, 1 – 3 sentence, statement that could be used for an online, professional profile summary, such as LinkedIn. Finally, they were asked to print these statements and bring them to the workshop.
During each workshop, Miranda and Bethany tag-teamed facilitating. Bethany opened by explaining The Community of Minds concept and how we can use this to thrive rather than merely survive. We then compiled a list of specific questions the UGs had regarding the next phase of their careers.
Miranda took our UGs on a guided tour of the AAAS IDP surveys, demonstrated how the information can be used to identify career options that match our interests and values as well as find information and resources specifically relevant to these options.
Following the IDP discussion, we broke into small groups comprised of UGs, graduate students, and postdocs. In these small groups, UGs were able to receive advice specific to their questions and also feedback on their profile summaries. After this, we re-grouped and Miranda explained that informational interviews, similar to what we just did, were a powerful tool for both gathering information and networking to achieve our career goals.
So what were the results of these Workshops? Well here is what our UGs had to say in response to our post-Workshop survey.
What did you find most helpful?
- I think that the options the graduate students and post doctorates provided me were extremely helpful. They told me about undergraduate grants, contacting faculty that could assist me in my research pursuits, and further supported my desire to learn novel information.
- Where to look to find more research and programs.
- Asking past Grad students about their experiences.
- The open discussion format, where undergraduates were able to ask any questions we had without any judgement.
- Getting feedback on our interests forced me to think more about why I want to pursue a career in science.
- The IDP website was a great tool to help me identify potential careers that aligned with my own interests.
- I found that the most helpful part about the Undergraduate Q and A was the opportunity to receive advice from several different people at once–the group discussion style allowed me to receive different responses to each question.
- Being able to speak with colleagues who have gone through the same phase of life I am about to (getting my first ‘real’ job) really helped.
What was the least helpful (after all, we are always looking to improve!)?
- The least helpful thing to me was when other students had vastly different research or career desires. This made it difficult to relate my plans with what we were talking about; however, there was still an overall supportive theme that helped each undergraduate student.
- It may have been better if there was a larger variety of graduate majors.
- The career quiz (IDP surveys).
- I think the career interest survey was interesting but I didn’t get a lot out of our conversation about it. Maybe try to organize the conversation about it differently next time because I do think the survey itself was useful?
- Although the entire experience was helpful, the survey website being specifically for scientific and research careers was not entirely applicable to me, as I am not sure of whether my next job will be scientifically based.
What question or answer were you most surprised to hear?
- I think that hearing how even graduate students don’t know exactly what they want to do was a relief. With a desire to pursue medical school, I have not definitively decided what type of doctor I would like to become. Therefore, it was nice to hear that many people, who are even older than I am, might not have everything figured out yet.
- Others with more education and work experience also struggle with what’s next.
- That choosing a grad school is not a clear-cut path.
- That even as graduate students and postgraduates, many were still trying to work out their career ‘passion.’
- I was interested in the connection made between library sciences and computer science. I hadn’t thought about the utility that computer science may have in my career, so it was very helpful.
- When asked if employers were willing to teach and train you as you enter into a job, I was surprised to hear that employers will train entering employees on even the more basic assays. I was under the impression that I needed to have every skill listed on a job posting to even consider applying. Now I know that if I show interest in learning new skills from the employer that is just as good as having the skill to begin with.
What stands out to me in these responses is evidence of the value of TheCOM approach! Through these simple, 1 h workshops, our UGs were able to identify that they were not alone. That we all wrestle with the same questions. However, when we take time to cultivate relationships with those around us, we just may gain both the answers and support we need to strategically pursue our goals, thereby maximizing our ability to achieve them.