It’s a Long and Winding Road to Career Discovery!
By Kate Szumanski, Office of Undergraduate Students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University (@KateSzumanski)
Experiential learning or experiential education are “hot” trending topics in higher education and with good reason. Colleges and universities are doing more and more to promote the values of first-hand experience, coupling it with intellectual exploration and academic structure to build rigor and reflection for students as they navigate a brand-new world and strive to make sense of it.
In the Office for Undergraduate Students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University, we recognize that experiential learning opportunities allow our students to develop knowledge and skills through professional work (internships), research projects, service learning, study abroad, and field trips to the real-world. Furthermore, these types of meaningful experiential learning opportunities help students make informed career choices as they discover their own path and build inroads to launch their professional lives.
In addition, we know that these types of learning experiences make our students highly desirable job prospects among employers of all shapes and sizes. These experiences help to create career ready young professionals who become sought-after internship and job candidates.
For many college students, the path to career success is obscured by lack of knowledge, experience, professional skills, and an overwhelming sense of confusion or fear.
Many high-achieving students have been told throughout their lifetimes that they can do and be anything, and while this is true in many respects, it’s also incredibly overwhelming and difficult to sort out and unpack. Eventually, you have to narrow things down. Ah, the great paradox of choice! Things were simpler when our store shelves were populated by two Ketchup brands.
Now, with a dizzying array of choices, we’re stymied at times, afraid we’ll choose incorrectly, waste our time and money, and be left with yucky Ketchup.
The path to career realization winds, snakes, and branches off into various sections previously unpaved. While great beauty exists on these unfinished pathways, great apprehension exists, too. Where will this path take me, and do I necessarily want to go there?
How to make sense of this, and where to go from here? We need to better educate students regarding the complexities of careers and career decision-making. We need to emphasize the importance of experiential learning, professional-skill building, and career readiness so that students discover, see, and map out the path to a career that helps them realize their unique life goals. If students understand what it means to be career ready, and if they marry that understanding to real-life experiences, then they will be well positioned to succeed.
With tuition costs rising across the nation and an ever-increasing competition for jobs on the horizon, there’s no time to delay or remain on the well-traveled path.