Hamline J-term class offers career prep
The end of the holiday break signals the return to school for some students. But at several of our colleges, it means January term — a four-week session between semesters where students can take advantage of an intensive class on campus. And for a group of Hamline University students, the focus has been on their future career success.
Taught by Career Center career counselors Christine Francis and Joan Ostergren, Piper to Professional: Essential Skills for Career Success is a four-credit course that is geared towards juniors and seniors — one of dozens of classes offered at Hamline during J-term. Offering them the chance to develop professional skills as they seek internships and employment, the class is capped at 20 students and is gaining in popularity. “We saw a need for more career development,” said Francis. “Students don’t know what they don’t know. We want to provide students with practical skills so they can be competitive in the job market.”
Those practical skills go beyond resumes and cover letters — which they do plenty of reviewing and revising during the course; students work hard to develop a personal brand and professional skills that set them apart. “We do focus on financial literacy as well,” Francis added. “Many students don’t know how to start a simple budget or how to evaluate different compensation packages.”
The course also works with students to develop their professional online presence through LinkedIn and their interview and networking skills. Students will go through mock interviews with professionals and receive feedback, and there is a site visit to a local business and plenty of guest speakers.
Senior Ben Williams took the class in 2015 and knows first-hand the benefits of the course. “I learned so much! Before this class, I was at a point where I knew that I needed to start looking to make future plans but was sort of floundering around not knowing what to do,” he said. “The class helped to take all of that anxiety towards the future and turn it into skills that will help me achieve that.”
Williams points towards his confidence in job interviews and learning how to move from student to professional in helping him land two internships. Last summer, he interned at Metro Transit and credits the class for the internship. “I used the resume and cover letter and my new interview skills and got some amazing results from it,” he said. “In my interview, I was told 82 people had applied for two open intern positions and only 10 were brought in for interviews. They picked me because they were impressed with the materials I had submitted. I don’t think I could have beaten out the other 80 applicants were it not for what I learned in this class.”
This January, student Law Thao hopes to develop his personal brand. Thao, a junior studying digital media and nonprofit management, wants to learn how to market himself better. “So far, this class has challenged me to understand what kind of person I am,” Thao reflected. “It is helping me find my strengths and weaknesses. I am gaining a stronger resume and it is giving me the confidence to apply to outside jobs and internships.”
According to Francis, increasing students’ knowledge and confidence is a big part of the class. “There is quite a difference between students at the beginning of the course and the end,” she said. “Students really feel that confidence and realize how applicable these skills are. These are tangible results.”
As for Ben Williams? This J-term, he is interning at a public accounting firm. Part of the Piper to Professional class teaches students how to network and requires them to conduct two informational interviews. Williams took those skills, used a family member’s business contact and set up an informational interview to try to secure an internship in public accounting. “About two weeks later, I got a call from Grant Thornton LLP saying that my resume had been passed along to them and they wanted me to interview. The interview went well, thanks again to skills from the J-term class, and a few days later I had an offer for an internship starting in January. This shows the power of networking. I was very happy to have secured two separate internships within four months of taking the class.”