Imagine two U-M students. Both attend class, do well and make friends. But one follows her interests outside the classroom: she joins student organizations, holds leadership roles and spends a summer interning in the field where she hopes to work. When it's time to apply for jobs, the second student will be ahead, explains Kerin Borland, Director of U-M’s Career Center.
Taking advantage of all that U-M has to offer can help students identify their interests and start to tell a story about themselves. While Borland encourages students to begin preparing for their careers early, she points out that the process involves many aspects of the college experience.
The first step? Students should think about what they enjoy doing. From there, they can begin to explore career fields that might fit their interests, as well as courses and ways to get involved on or off campus that will help them build the skills they need.
Parents can help first and second-year students think about their interests broadly—from current events to classes to hobbies—and then encourage them to act on those interests. At U-M, students have over 1,200 student organizations to choose from and a wealth of opportunities to volunteer, study abroad, work part-time or participate in sports or the arts.
As students progress and begin thinking about their future direction, parents should keep the conversation dynamic. The Career Center’s parent website offers further suggestions, along with resources to help learn about the job market students are facing.
The Career Center has also introduced the i-plan (short for “integrative plan”) to help students think about their futures by considering:
- Their story: how their experiences have shaped who they are and where they’re going.
- Their community: how they’ve gotten involved while at Michigan. That involvement can help build students’ confidence as they approach professional communities to learn about and secure their first jobs.
- Their presentation: the polished resume, cover letters, personal statements and interviewing skills through which they’ll communicate their accomplishments and the contributions they’ll make in a professional setting.
“A career choice is often the first decision a student makes that is truly his or her own,” Borland says. “Parents can be an important sounding board, especially if the lines of communication are open early. With current information about today’s job market, parents can be helpful and supportive as their student develops into a talented new professional. ”