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|In the Spotlight: New Beginnings|
An Interview with Katie Snyder, Career Counselor
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO)
As a member of the Freshman Focus Team (FFT) at Cal Poly Career Services, Katie Snyder works primarily with first-year freshmen to help them with career exploration, development, and planning. In this interview, Katie shares her experience with career programming for first-year students and general tips for working with the incoming class of freshmen, as well as some advice for other new professionals based on what she has learned in her first year of full-time employment.
MPACE: Katie, can you tell us more about the Freshman Focus Team and your role?
Katie: As a Freshman Focus Team (FFT) career counselor, I work with freshmen to help them resolve uncertainties about their choice of major, explore how their interests and strengths can translate into a meaningful career, and introduce them to career possibilities and resources that can jump-start their career planning. Most student affairs professionals know the benefits of a freshman utilizing their campus career center early on, but the challenge is that many freshmen do not know or think that career services can help them quite yet – and some students may know the benefit but are too intimidated to make that first appointment.
Instead of patiently waiting for first-year students to seek out our services, FFT is constantly looking for ways to develop freshman-friendly programming that engages students early on, meets students where they are (both literally and developmentally), and ultimately provides a framework for them to see Career Services as an approachable and supportive campus resource. We really are shifting the campus landscape for students, parents, faculty, and employers to recognize that meaningful career development can occur as early as freshman year.
MPACE: What are some examples of freshman-friendly programming that FFT has developed?
Katie: In addition to offering typical career center services, our FFT counselors have implemented some fantastic programming that engages first-year students early on. We start the spring before our freshmen even arrive by participating in Admitted Student Panels, but the real fun begins during SLO Days (summer orientations) and our nationally-acclaimed Week of Welcome (WOW), where last year we introduced over 3,500 incoming freshmen to Career Services through early programming events such as Change of Major workshops, StrengthsQuest workshops, supporter panels, and office tours.
We continue to engage freshmen throughout the year by partnering with faculty to present career-related topics in their introductory classes, developing freshman-focused workshops such as a 4-part Pizza and Personality Series and a 3-part Freshman Internship Series, and offering events in the residence halls such as etiquette dinners, Cookies with Career Counselors, and a Freshman Career Resource Fair. Perhaps my favorite FFT program is our two career groups – the Major and Career Exploration Group and the Jumpstart Your Career Group – both of which are exclusive to freshmen. These weekly groups provide peer support, resources, and career-related stress reduction to students ranging from the early stages of self-awareness and career exploration all the way to career readiness and the job/internship search.
Through all of these meaningful services and intentional programming, FFT was able to engage with 92% of freshmen during the 2015-2016 year!
MPACE: As we approach the start of the academic year and welcome a new cohort of incoming freshmen, what tips do you have for career counselors who would like to do programming and counseling with freshman students?
Katie: Although it may depend on your particular college and student population, I would be more than happy to provide some general tips:
MPACE: Speaking of newcomers, you are a new working professional. How has the transition from grad student and intern to full-time professional been? What advice do you have for other new professionals and/or recent grads?
Katie: After the initial month of wondering how people got through a week of full-time work and wanted to do anything other than watch Netflix on the couch all weekend, I finally got into my groove and learned my optimal working style. Here are a few observations and tips I would tell other new professionals:
Katie Snyder, M.S. is a Freshman Focus Team Career Counselor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-snyder