Graduating, to many students, means closing the door to education and opening a door that leads to an uncertain future. With the hope of better preparing undergrads for post-grad life, a group of seven Grand Valley State University alumni held an event called Life Beyond the Classroom on Jan. 26.
GVSU students were able to hear from seven panelists — four in Allendale and three in Detroit — about their journey through school and what happens after graduation.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs, Alumni Relations, the African American alumni association and the Latino alumni chapter teamed up to bring GVSU students the panelists.
The goal was for students to walk away with valuable information about internships, networking, being a professional online and finding your passion.
All of the panelists said that internships are a great way to get involved with your possible future career. John White, GVSU 2011 alumnus, said that internships are important ways to gain real world experience.
“It’s an opportunity for you to interview with the company that you work for and see if you’re a good fit for them,” White said. “More importantly, it’s an opportunity for you to really see if the field that you think you want to work in is really what you want to do.”
Networking was also a focus of the discussion. The panelists suggested keeping business cards of people you meet, building friendships and mentorships and always being positive when meeting new people.
Kenyatta Hill, a 2006 GVSU graduate, encouraged students to have an elevator speech ready at all times. An elevator speech is a quick introduction, a little background and what someone is passionate about. Hill said that she thinks elevator speeches are a way to make good, excited and hardworking first impressions.
“You never have an opportunity to make another first impression,” Hill said. “You don’t know how much time you’re going to have with that person so you want to have a strong thing about who you are.”
Another topic the panelists agreed will help benefit students after graduating is the creation and the ability to maintain professionalism online and through social media. Many panelists told stories about how there were applicants who were perfect for the job, yet went and posted an offensive or inappropriate status or picture on their social media.
Sandra Cleveland, who graduated GVSU in 1992 and Skyped in from the GVSU Detroit Campus, cautioned students about posting certain things. But, she also encouraged students to use social media sites, such as LinkedIn, to network and reach out to people that normally wouldn’t be available.
“It’s really important for you to get your message out and find out the message from other individuals,” she said. “They will put down (what) their passions are and that gives you a segue into it and hopefully you can build relationships and connections through that route.”
Something students need that all seven panelists agreed upon was passion. When students work in a field they’re passionate about, it can help make difficult tasks easier.
“When you go to work, it’s not just a job it’s your passion, it’s fun,” said Remele Penick, 1999 graduate. “If you don’t have a passion, it’s not going to be something that will be worthwhile. You’re not going to be able to leave a legacy, and that’s what you want to do is leave a legacy where you go so they remember your name.”