Perspectives Online

Clear trajectory: Workshop helps put CALS freshmen on career paths


Nathan Roth, Talecris Biotherapeutics director of pathogen safety, leads a session of the workshop to help freshmen choose a major and identify their career goals.Photos by Marc Hall

“Just who will I be?” That’s a question most freshmen have on their minds as they embark on their first semester at N.C. State University. So it’s fitting that “Just Who Will I Be?” is the title of a recent fall workshop series for freshmen, hosted by the Career Services office in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University.

Sponsored by Talecris Biotherapeutics, the workshop ran twice, in September and October, with each three-day series consisting of an hour-long session per day in Scott Hall on the NCSU campus. The goals of the workshop were to help freshmen choose a major and identify their career goals -- or make sure that the path that they have already chosen is a good choice for them.

“We want CALS students to take a proactive approach to career development,” said Melissa Kahn, CALS career adviser. “Each year, we have seniors who come into our office a few weeks before graduation and are panicking because they don't have a plan for after graduation. Of course we help them get on track, but every single one of them always says ‘I wish I had started this sooner. If only I had been working on this throughout the last 4 years, this transition would probably be much easier.’”

The workshop encouraged students to start thinking about their career plans early and to be more proactive, said CALS career adviser Melissa Kahn, shown here leading freshmen in a workshop session.
Therefore, she said, the workshop aims to encourage freshmen to start thinking about their career plans early and to be more proactive.

Kahn led the workshop sessions, with help from her fellow CALS career educators, as well as graduate assistant Jenna Hartwell. Additionally, a Talecris Biotherapeutics representative attended one session of each of the workshops to tell about his own career path, give advice and share information about internship and job opportunities at their company.

In addition, Talecris provided snacks for each session and notebooks for the participants. These particularly came in handy, Kahn said, as a place to “keep everything organized” – from internship ideas to interesting job titles to networking contacts.

The first session of each workshop focused on the process of making career decisions, Kahn said. “Students choose majors and career paths for many different reasons, and we wanted to make sure that they are really exploring their options and know what they are getting into. I once had a student (at another school) tell me that he had chosen Accounting as his major merely because it was first on the list. This is a big decision and students need to have all the information before they fully commit to something.”

The session also provided a list of job titles and occupations that students might get with a CALS major.

CALS ambassador Michael Cerretti talks with “Just Who Will I Be?” workshop participants.
In session two, participants took part in a free online assessment that measured their character strengths and then shared the results in the workshop. “They were able to discuss what their top strengths are and learn to appreciate their own as well as others' strengths,” Kahn said.

During this session, the career educators also talked about their own experiences with student clubs, volunteer work and college internships.

The third session involved concrete planning for the next 4 years, Kahn said. “We help the students decide what their goals will be for each academic year and each summer between now and graduation.

“One of main goals is for CALS students to take a proactive approach to career development, and planning out action steps for each year makes this feel realistic to students.”

—Terri Leith