Final Installment of "Here to Career" Workshop Series Leaves Students with a Lasting Message
By Aria Bracci | Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Stop doing what you should. The phrase hung in the air of the Butterfield basement on the rainy evening of March 10, but it held a lighter tone than one might expect as “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield floated from the mounted speakers. Students were gathered for the final session of HFA’s Here to Career workshop series, and the phrase resonated not as a command, but as an encouragement—as long as they stayed focused and passionate, they were already on the right path.
Whitney Blaine, that night’s speaker, was, before a room of almost 30 UMass students, referencing her 2015 book, fully titled Stop Doing What You Should: A Millennial’s Guide to Navigating Your Most Rewarding Career, a guide that every pre-registered attendee received a free copy of and whose title concept encapsulated the tone of all six weeks of the series.
For the students attending these workshops, the main takeaway—aside from the numerous guest lectures, helpful handouts, and complimentary dinner—was the recognition that students pursuing fields in the humanities and fine arts already, by nature of their interests and talents, are thinking creatively. Their search for internships and jobs, therefore, must necessarily take on a similar tone, and the six sessions of Here to Career served to assist in this process.
Each week, students—both HFA and outside majors, pre-registered and drop-in—were invited to convene, eat, and discuss their futures. Dylan Larke, Director of Career Preparation and Programming for HFA, facilitated this six-week program, guiding UMass students of various fields and ages in a collective search for fulfillment moving forward.
With weekly topics ranging from cover letters to social networking, Larke worked to ensure that all aspects of self-promotion and success were accessible for attendees, incorporating break-out groups and step-by-step career planning, which he referred to as “action plans.” These plans, which included updating resumes and brainstorming dream positions, relied on a mindful balance of realism and optimism that Larke was committed to instill in the students. “They’re a way to tie together the first week and the last week,” he said, acknowledging steps that might otherwise be missing in reaching goals.
Each week, attendees were also able to hear the experiences of one to four visiting UMass alumni, some of whom students acknowledged were not currently working in the field that they studied. While this was occasionally true, Larke appeased this critique by emphasizing breadth of talent. “What we’ve been honing in on is that we all have transferable skills,” said Larke. “There are so many different avenues, different career paths, that we can go in.” And on the bright side, the reason that some alumni were unable to attend was because they were booked for performances, a promising point for students to hear.
Some lessons were more concrete. During the fifth session, titled “Mock Interviewing & Maximizing Professional Networks,” that week’s alumni addressed successes in their own experiences, but also pitfalls and tricks they wished they had known when they first embarked into the professional world. Afterward, these alumni assisted in mock-interviewing the students.
Other than the UMass graduates and author Blaine, the series also featured university staff. Katie DeBeer spoke on behalf of the Office of Alumni Affairs, and Caroline Gould from Career Services spoke for two consecutive weeks about professional introductions. Larke also cited several assistants and his co-facilitator, Pierrelene Louis, as integral pillars to the program’s breadth and depth.
“We have received very positive feedback every week,” said Larke, as students—some weeks in as groups as large as 34—have flocked to the sessions, citing its helpfulness and upbeat atmosphere. Valerie Higgins, a Linguistics-Spanish and Linguistics-Anthropology double major, received a certificate of completion on the night of the last session, having attended all six workshops and smiling widely. “A lot of the other majors, they’re all really targeted to specific end goals,” she said, “It’s nice to get that same sort of perspective, but through the lens of my own major.”
One couldn’t help but feel hopeful in a room full of creative thinkers reaffirmed by similarly talented minds in their fields, sharing tips and tricks to navigate a world that sometimes seems to favor an opposing type of thought. Clearly, they’ve already stopped doing what they should. What they need to do is keep doing what they shouldn’t. The rest is still unwritten.