Becoming a professional

Sarah Hillenbrand

The Grand Valley State University Career Center hosts many events throughout the year to help students prepare for life after graduation, including resume and cover letter workshops, networking events and other professional development activities. On Friday, the center will host the second annual Student to Professional Conference, which aims to condense the many workshops into a day-long event.

“It came about from us wanting to offer one professional conference to streamline and promote services we offer,” said Janean Couch, assistant director of Career Services. “We want to help students make that transition to the workplace.”

The conference has workshops throughout the day to help students prepare for life after college that include job and internship strategies, how to interview, how to use LinkedIn, understanding a job offer, “branding” yourself, and many more. The end of the day leaves time for networking.

“There’s a variety of different topics aimed to help make students aware,” said Susan Proctor, employer development manager at the GVSU Career Center. “Many don’t know activities they need to do to be successful in the professional world. (We’re) getting them prepared for that next step, whether it’s grad school or a career, and helping them build a vital network of professional individuals.”

The keynote speaker for the conference is Blake “Shy” Carter — a GVSU alumnus who is a songwriter, producer and singer — who will be talking about his story and sharing tips with students on how he made the transition from GVSU to the music industry. Among other successes, Carter co-wrote the song Stuck Like Glue by Sugarland in 2010, which sold almost three million copies.

“We’re really excited to hear him share his story,” Couch said. “We’re excited to be holding this conference for the second year and hope we have good attendance.”

Couch added that for students to be successful in their own job searches, they should first have confidence in their own skills.

“We want students to gain knowledge about themselves and do an assessment of their skills and communicate that to employers in a cover letter, resume or face-to-face communication and network for the job search,” she said. “The networking reception is one of those things that is a little scary for some people, and this gives people a chance to practice that.”

Both Couch and Proctor agreed that the best way for students to prepare for graduation and looking for a career is to get involved by doing an internship, taking advantage of leadership opportunities, joining campus organizations, or using other resources during their time in college.

“Study something you’re passionate about and then find career opportunities that have that skill set within a major,” Proctor said. “Gaining knowledge and experience helps to get that dream job, and this is just one event or tool that students can use. It’s never too early to think about and start preparing for those next steps.”

After gaining the necessary skills and experience, Couch said the next step for students to stand out is being able to communicate those skills.

“The best way to stand out is to know how to communicate your skills and be confident in them,” she said. “When you’re confident, it’s an added benefit to you to communicate skills and figure out what you want your career to be.”

While good communication is crucial in a job interview, Couch added that being able to show skills on paper is just as important.

“Having a good resume is important because it is the basis of how you present yourself to the public and is the foundation of applying for a job and representing yourself on paper,” she said.

The Student to Professional Conference will take place Jan. 24 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Students are encouraged to register beforehand and can stop by between classes if they cannot attend the whole day, Proctor said. For more information, visit

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