How to Help a Student Explore (Faculty/Staff)

As in the liberal arts, exploration is at the core of a meaningful and successful career journey. While many students feel they need to identity a specific career objective and the major to match early in their college career, the reality is very different. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average college graduate will hold more than a dozen jobs in her lifetime in multiple career fields. Given all that change, what will best serve students as they launch their careers is not certainty and narrow expertise, but the ability to think broadly across disciplines, adaptability, and a strong sense of one’s own interests, skills, values, and strengths.

College is not only the perfect time for a student to explore and identify her major interests, but also the time to develop the skills that employers cite as most important in their workforce — leadership, critical thinking, strong oral and written communication skills, and collaboration. Wellesley College presents an ideal environment for a student to explore, develop, and practice all of these abilities. In addition to an exceptional academic education that helps students to discover and refine their passions and skills, students gain critical practice in leadership through student organizations, research and athletics, collaborative skills through their residential experience, language and cultural competency through time spent overseas and intellectual engagement through all these areas that supports their critical thinking and ethical prioritization and decision-making.

As a faculty or staff member at Wellesley, you play a critical role in supporting a student along her career journey.

  • Encourage exploration. Hearing from a respected professor or advisor that uncertainty about one’s career journey or curiosity about a number of fields and paths is normal and expected can be a great relief to students. Encouraging a student to keep an open mind, pursue experiences and opportunities outside of their normal realm and to generally embrace the liberal arts can all reinforce a student’s instinct towards genuine career exploration while at Wellesley.
  • Identify skills. Many students can quickly identify their general professional interests (policy, tech, publishing), but have spent less time considering how they want to work in those fields. In policy work, for example, advocacy, fundraising, law, and program management can all draw on similar interests and support similar outcomes but require very different skill sets. Helping students to understand the breadth of options open to them and to articulate their preferences can be an illuminating process. It can also help students to determine the skills they’d most like to develop while in college and the aspects of the professional world they’d most like to explore through coursework, civic engagement, internships, or by other means while here.
  • Connect her with alumnae. Alumnae are a powerful voice in helping students to understand and prepare for the career journey ahead. In addition to connecting students to alumnae whose major and/or career interests match her own, it can also be powerful to introduce a student to an alumna whose journey has been non-linear, but who has ultimately found a great (if unexpected) professional fit. Most alumnae we speak with were surprised to find that careers work more like a jungle gym and less like a ladder and are eager to share that wisdom with current students.
  • Tell her your story. Like hearing stories of alumnae, learning about one’s mentor’s career paths can also be reassuring to students who often assume that faculty and staff intentions have always been to pursue vocations in higher education. Certainly for some this is true, while for others the journey has been more varied. Understanding how your own values, skills and interests led you to this position and about your own periods of exploration, doubt, certainty and decision-making can help her to appreciate the importance of fit and, at times, experimentation, in choosing a profession or position.
  • Refer her to Career Education. As mentors to Wellesley students, faculty and staff here are among the many voices that a student should have on her personal advisory board. Remember that staff in Career Education also serve in that role and are always eager to engage with and support students and alumnae, no matter their class year or where they are in their career journey.
    • Every student is assigned to a Advisor for Career Exploration who stays with her all four years and who is here to help her gain clarity around her interests, skills, strengths and values and help her to find direction on her career path.
    • Our industry-specific Advisors have expertise across six major professional disciplines and are here to offer insight, connections and specific advice to students and alumnae who wish to delve deeper and begin to pursue or more deeply explore a professional path.
    • Our internships, civic engagement and fellowships teams all offer support and opportunities for experiential learning that can help students learn about professional paths and gain valuable experiences that can clarify their career interests.
    • Our alumnae team is here to offer lifelong career support to Wellesley College graduates.