College years seemingly go by in a blink of an eye. It feels like you are just getting used to being a student at William Woods when suddenly you’re a senior, with the real world coming at you at record speed.
The question of What Comes Next is always top of mind for college students and especially seniors, which is why William Woods subscribes to the benefits of holding a Career-a-Palooza to help pave the way for what is one of life’s biggest transitions.
Having Career-a-Palooza hosted by the Office of Career Services had its origins in Student Alumni Council (SAC) Senior Week. SAC seniors were looking for events that would help them in the real world and turned to Amy Dittmer, Director of Career Services and Student Transition, for assistance. Dittmer helped them come up with LEAD events that were geared towards their transition into the working world and Career-a-Palooza which is open to all students was born from that. However, there has always been one event that is exclusive to seniors, the WWU students who are of course closest to their next phase in life after graduation.
Dittmer still works with SAC seniors to start the planning process each year and meets with the seniors to ask them what they are most interested in learning about before they graduate.
“I’m going straight into a career after I finish at William Woods so I wanted to talk about different company cultures and how to make friends in the workplace,” said Emily Barker, ’19, one of the SAC seniors Dittmer consulted. “I also wanted to see an event focused on the many employment benefits that are part of the professional world, because I don’t know anything about them yet.”
“The grad school expectations LEAD event was something I brought up because I heard from some of my friends at Mizzou that they had to dress up to go to their classes and I was unaware of such a thing,” said Ashley Pendleton ’19, another SAC senior.
Dittmer takes this advice from seniors and then gets to work planning presentations, reaching out to alumni or potential employers to bring to campus to present topics. Career-a-Palooza usually consists of two LEAD events per day. At one time, Dittmer would do a series of events throughout the year, but after talking to students found that they preferred it concentrated into one week so they could spend that week preparing for their future.
And Career-a-Palooza doesn’t only benefit seniors. Skills like networking and interviewing are needed throughout college to secure part-time jobs and internships.
“We consider networking to be so important that our very first event on Monday is called ‘Networking for Introverts,’” Dittmer said. “It is not only telling students how to do things like network and interview, but letting them practice it as well. We make sure students get on-the-spot feedback about their interviewing and networking skills and get to practice with faculty/staff, community members, and potential employers,” she said.
Dittmer thinks this is the biggest benefit to them. Not only is Career Services facilitating an opportunity to network by bringing in potential employers, but students are actually getting to practice skills that will become essential upon graduation.
Some of the employers that came this year’s Career-a-Palooza include Northwestern Mutual, Waffle House, Camp War Eagle, Commerce Bank and the Chamber of Commerce. Northwestern Mutual is the most involved this year, sponsoring the Senior Etiquette Dinner Thursday night and also hosting a LEAD event on company culture on Wednesday. The other potential employers participated in the internship meet-up on Thursday.
This is the first year there was an employer sponsoring a Senior Etiquette dinner. Seniors learned the etiquette of a full place setting including which side the bread goes on, and where the wine goes, all while they got to network with the team of employees Northwestern Mutual brought in.
“For me personally, the senior etiquette dinner is one of the biggest benefits, because I’ve never had the opportunity to sit down with a manager or co-worker for a formal dinner, in a situation where we could learn and correct any mistakes,” Barker ’19 said.
Other events throughout the week included keynote speaker John Hall, a local businessman and author of the best-seller “Top of Mind,” to kick off the week on Monday; an event to learn all about employment benefits; speed interview practice with faculty and staff; a seminar on how to find your company culture fit; grad school expectations, and an internship meet-up. These events were open to all students.
“I think Career-a-Palooza is helpful because it covers information that some people think is just implicitly known and as a first-generation college student there’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t know,” Pendleton ‘19 said. Pendleton has used career services frequently throughout her time at William Woods and hopes other students will use that resource as well as Career-a-Palooza as opportunities to get to learn about topics that aren’t taught in the classroom.
“I want them to get information about these topics but to also know that career services is here year-round to help them throughout the whole process,” Dittmer said.
She hopes one the main things students come away from Career-a-Palooza with is confidence that they can utilize these skills in a real-life scenario.