Getting schooled on career prep

Tyler Ballweg shares insights from a course that prepares students for life after graduation.

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TylerBallweg_Feature_242x350.jpg#asset:3Why did you decide to take the Taking Initiative course?

I was hoping to gain personal insight that would allow me to set more concrete goals for after graduation, as well as to gain knowledge and skills useful in reaching those goals.

What was the course like?

I went into this class with the naïve hope that just by showing up and completing the assignments I would somehow come away with a plan for what to do with my life. Thankfully, I’ve realized that no class will ever tell you exactly what your goals should be or exactly how you should reach them. I think the reality is that deciding on a career and developing your marketable skills is almost always a process that takes time and effort.

 Almost everyone, whether they take this class or not, will need to go through the process of developing a resume, writing a cover letter, practicing an elevator speech, creating a LinkedIn profile and reflecting on their interests, abilities and goals. But what’s great about the Taking Initiative class is that it guides you through this process and more. Having the ability to ask questions of the instructors was one of the highlights of the class for me. They have a wealth of knowledge that I do not think I could have learned on my own. Another highlight was getting to speak with some very successful UW alumni; they provided career advice and interesting information about the industries they work in.

An “aha” moment for me was finally understanding that the skills employers want, like the ability to think critically and the ability to work with others, are skills that almost any major can provide. 

Did you have any “aha” moments while taking the course?

Before entering the class, I had heard from advisors and others that a person’s choice of major is not really a deciding factor in the career they will have. I had a hard time believing this when I first started the class, but after taking it I can see why it’s true. So, an “aha” moment for me was finally understanding that the skills employers want, like the ability to think critically and the ability to work with others, are skills that almost any major can provide. The key is selling to employers that your educational, professional and personal experiences have given you the skills they are looking for.

How did you feel about the focus not only on interviewing and job-hunting skills, but also on personal reflection?

The focus on interviewing and job-hunting skills was nice. There were not too many assignments, but each one provided an opportunity for you to really practice your skills and self-reflect if you chose to do so. I definitely walked away from the class with tangible skills I will be able to use. I think the focus on personal reflection was essential. Deciding on a career and finding a job are about knowing yourself and convincing employers of your abilities.

Why would you recommend other students take the course? And when should they take it?

This course really makes a lot of sense to take. You are going to have to plan for a career and develop your skills at some point, so it makes sense to start that process, or continue that process, in a setting where you have valuable career-related guidance and knowledge available to you. 

I think you should take the class as early as possible. Having completed at least one semester of college before taking the class would probably be a good idea, though, so that you have had time to gain experience and to reflect on your interests and abilities.

Find more information on Taking Initiative and the L&S Career Initiative here: About the L&S Career Initiative