Over 135 students chose to spend their Feb. 2 faculty development day at various workplaces in the Chicago area.
Through a program called Externship Day, interested students shadowed Wheaton alumni from different fields across Chicagoland. Externship Day is an annual event that is co-sponsored by the Wheaton Alumni Association and the Center for Vocation and Career (CVC).
After applying to the program and listing their top three shadowing choices, students were paired with alumni from specific backgrounds in order to explore career fields the students are interested in pursuing.
Associate director of student and young alumni programs Laura Tanaka explained that the program is “a great opportunity for career exploration and trying out a particular industry for the day.”
Tanaka shared that the healthcare field is a consistently popular choice for Externship Day, as students are eager to tour a medical setting and interact with healthcare professionals and patients.
IBM, Slalom Consulting and LinkedIn were other favorite options and were open to students from different majors and varying levels of experience. Publishing companies and nonprofit organizations also served as popular options filled with Wheaton alumni.
Senior Dana Henderson commented that Externship Day “was an incredible experience and one of my favorite days of my semester so far.” This year featured 60 more workplaces than last year, and almost twice as many students were served. Many alumni agreed that they were happy to learn about a way to give back to the college and act as a career resource for students.
Tanaka was pleased to note that several recent graduates offered externship openings this year. She remarked, “I love that they have made it a priority to give back to current Wheaton students.”
The biggest benefit of Externship Day is the flexibility and wide range of choices. Interim director of the CVC Dee Pierce pointed out, “It’s not a summer long commitment, and it’s more accessible to students who are interested.” She agreed with Tanaka that the purpose of both an internship and an externship is career exploration, and it’s up to the student to do one or both.
Some good questions when visiting a workplace, Pierce suggested, might be “Do I like this industry?” and “Is this a work environment that would be appealing to me?”
Sophomore Kurt Pazdra had similar questions when job shadowing Chris Easley, a worship teams manager at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton. Pazdra, a Bible and theology major, witnessed the business aspect of managing a church and preparing for the weekend. He even worked alongside Easley to prepare slides for an upcoming sermon. “The externship gave me a deeper understanding of the career I’m heading into,” recalled Pazdra.
Students do not necessarily have to travel to the city to connect with alumni and prospective employers. Pierce encouraged students to use Wheaton in Network and learn more about particular fields through conversations with alumni. Wheaton in Network is an online resource for students to connect and dialogue with alumni, faculty and even parents of other students.
The CVC offers many events for student to take advantage of on-campus, including Canvas, a series of five events that introduce students to different careers, vocational skills and experienced alumni.
Another newer opportunity is Taco Tuesdays. On the first and third Tuesday of the month, up to 20 students can sign up to speak with alumni from the same field but different companies. This past week, students were able to meet sales professionals.
Students interesting in signing up for the next session can email the CVC at firstname.lastname@example.org.