Career Planning and Major Exploration
What’s Your Wagner Plan?
Some students come to college with their future virtually mapped out — however, most do not. The value of a liberal arts education is that all students, no matter their major, gain a broad base of knowledge and skills that can be applied in several career fields.
The Wagner Plan is Wagner’s nationally renowned curricular model that combines elements of experiential learning and interdisciplinary inquiry in a learning community format across the four years of an undergraduate program of study. In asking “What’s Your Wagner Plan?”, we at the Center for Academic and Career Engagement hope to encourage students to customize the elements of The Wagner Plan to their specific interests and goals. There is a four-step process of comprehensive academic advisement and career development that allows students to truly make the most of all that Wagner College has to offer:
The process of identifying your values, interests, skills, and personality type and then matching what you learn about yourself to potential careers should begin as early as your freshman year. The more you learn about yourself, the better you will be at finding satisfying career opportunities. This process should involve:
- Identifying your interests, skills, values, and personality type through self-assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and the Strong Interest Inventory and in a Career Coaching conversation
- Reflection on your First Year Learning Community experiential learning component, specifically what you liked or disliked about the experience from a career perspective, and whether there were any jobs or careers that you hadn’t considered before
- Becoming involved in clubs and/or student organizations at Wagner where you can connect with peers and upper-classmen
- Exploring study abroad and other off-campus study options
- Networking with professionals, faculty, alumni in exploratory and informational meetings
One thing that college students eventually come to realize is that their majors do not determine their future careers. In fact, national statistics show that more than half of college students change their major at least once while at college, and more than half of college graduates end up pursuing careers not directly related to their majors. Wagner finance majors have worked in arts administration, and biology majors have worked on Wall Street. Many CEOs of large international corporations majored in engineering and computer science. English majors are regularly accepted to medical school, and physics majors frequently attend law school.
That’s why The Wagner Plan includes General Education requirements and experiential learning opportunities — Wagner students can actively explore new ideas and disciplines independent of their majors/areas of specialization. Familiarizing yourself with potential major and career options requires taking advantage of all of the opportunities that a Wagner education offers, including:
- Learning about different major and career options
- Considering questions of vocation — what is your meaning and purpose in life
- Studying abroad through the Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Program
- Becoming involved and taking a leadership role in a student organization
- Conducting informational interviews with alumni mentors to learn about career options
- Building your professional documentation and a portfolio of your work (writing samples, recommendation letters, etc.)
- Learning about graduate school opportunities and requirements
Once you have identified your interests, skills, and values through the process of Self-Inquiry, chosen your major, and explored some career fields, it is time to reflect on the information you’ve gathered and to make some decisions. Reflection is a critical step in the process of determining what is right for your future. Family members and friends may make suggestions, but ultimately it is up to you to determine where and how you will make meaningful contributions to the world, and in turn, find fulfillment and a sense of satisfaction with yourself and your life.
Making decisions about your career path allows you to design strategies for achieving those goals. Your goals may change in the future, but for now it is important to make some choices and gain some experience. Draw upon the resources of the Wagner community — faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends — by conducting informational interviews or job shadowing, engage in an internship, study abroad, or become a member of a student organization. The more experience you gain, the better prepared you will be to make some initial decisions about your future and begin to pursue them. This process of reflection and decision-making should involve:
- Setting career goals based on knowledge about yourself and career-specific information
- Applying for and completing internships
- Studying abroad through Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) or a semester-abroad program
- Reviewing graduate school options, the qualifications necessary to be accepted, and the steps necessary to meeting those qualifications
- Conducting informational interviews with professionals and alumni mentors to further narrow your career choices
- Gaining and refining skills through leadership/membership in student organizations
- Developing your skills in writing (résumés, cover letters, personal statements) and oral presentations (interviews)
Once you know what you would like to do, the next step is clear: take action. Fortunately, you do not have to proceed alone. CACE has many resources to help you as you start developing your professional profile. These resources include:
- Self-reflection tools that help you to identify your interests, skills, values, and personality type
- Advisement on your self-reflection and career planning
- Assistance with résumé and cover letter composition; access to Reference Guides relating to career readiness
- Internship and job listings
- Connections to alumni and other professional mentors through whom to conduct informational interviews
Clearly, there are many things a college student must do to start building his or her career. The important thing is to set reachable goals and to begin meeting them. Start thinking about these issues as early as possible. Learn as much as you can about your options. Connect with people who are engaged in and/or knowledgeable of your selected field. Get experience of the world, experience inside and outside of your major, and consider what skills you have acquired and what you have learned about yourself through each of these experiences. Students who think about their careers early and take advantage of as many of Wagner’s resources as possible ultimately find their career options to be more plentiful and accessible when they graduate.
And remember: our staff can provide assistance with any of the above tasks or processes. You can make an appointment with us by clicking here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also just stop in–we are located on the 3rd floor of the Union, right next to the Hawk’s Nest.