Work Like A Laker conference kicks off strong


Herman Miller’s Courtney Simmons discussed the importance of evaluating the values of a workplace. (GVL Katherine Arnold)

Katherine Arnold

A question on many graduating student’s minds is how they can successfully navigate the professional world. How do we navigate in that professional atmosphere, while keeping other important information like interview best practices and networking in mind? Starting March 8, the Work Like A Laker conference (WLAL) kicked off a two-week series of events dedicated to helping students learn more about careers and teaching them how to prepare for their future.

From resume workshops to panels for specific majors like writing and STEM, the WLAL conference covers a wide variety of themes and topics pertaining to the job search. The events are split into four categories: preparation sessions, professional development, industry information and the virtual GVSU Career, Internship, and Summer Job Fair itself.

On Tuesday, March 9, “Researching Employers and Evaluating Workplace Culture” from the professional development section was hosted by the Career Center to discuss the importance of considering workplace culture and equity when interviewing for companies.

The panelists for the event featured Jessica Campbell, Program Coordinator of the Center for Women and Gender Equity; Juanita Davis, Assistant Director in the Office of Multicultural Affairs at GVSU; Mark Saint Amount, Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center at GVSU; Courtney Simmons, Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Herman Miller; and Koleta Moore, Assistant Dean of Student Engagement for the Graduate Program Operations in the Seidman College of Business.

Over the course of the panel, the panelists answered questions relating to the general importance of employer research, what can be learned from the languages and images employers use, who works there and in what roles, and finally, interview questions and follow-up strategies.

“If I am looking for a potential company or organization, I will just ask: ‘What does your diversity and inclusion look like? And how are you upholding your policies and writing?’” said Campbell.

Many companies may mention a dedication to diversity and inclusion in their policies, but for students, it is important to think about what these policies mean to them. Does their conception of inclusion match a student’s? What other values are important?

“While you are interviewing to prove your worthiness to the organization, you also have the right— and really, the responsibility— to interview them and determine whether they are worthy of having your talent there,” Simmons said. “Don’t take for granted the things that you value in a company. One thing that I have learned that I value is how a company values leadership development and the systems they have in place for encouraging that development.”

Another professional development event was the Virtual World of Work, hosted Thursday, March 11. During this event, students had the opportunity to speak to representatives from a variety of organizations and companies to explore their career opportunities and network with professionals in a facilitated setting.

“Many students might not be sure what you want to do with your major, and that’s okay,” said Kristie Scanlon, the Career Center facilitator of VWOW. “These types of programs are really meant for you.”

For students who weren’t sure how to start networking or are looking for a way to connect to employers directly, this casual digital network event was an instructive introduction. It allows students to talk with employers all in one place, where many questions are on the table.

Representatives from Bronson Healthcare, Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Hello West Michigan, Open System Technologies, TGG Solutions, and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services were present. Every student had the opportunity to spend 15 minutes with three employers of their choosing, to hear about what that company does, and to ask questions freely about their company values.

“At events like these, students are able to rotate through a few sessions and learn about the companies and what their opportunities are,” Scanlon said. “This is a great way for students to network and learn about the world of work.”

Many more events are still coming up the week of March 14, culminating in the job fair this Thursday, March 18.