Students Sharpen Skills with Help of GWU Career Development Office

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Events Offer Preparatory Exercises to Enhance Networking, Communication Skills

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—The adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” can be somewhat intimidating.   While students spend four challenging years earning a well-rounded liberal arts education at Gardner-Webb University, many aren’t sure how to achieve the demand for networking that can ultimately lead them to a post-graduation job opportunity.   Fortunately, university officials understand the importance of teaching soft skills and helping students connect with potential employers in a meaningful way.

Gardner-Webb University’s Office of Career Development helps students assess their strengths and analyze their skill sets as they work to determine the career that is best for them.  Lisa Yerrick is the director of career development at GWU, and believes it is never too early for a student to begin thinking about their future career.

“We want students thinking about what they need to develop from the time they come in as a first-year student until they are ready to start looking for jobs,” Yerrick shared.  “We want them doing self-assessments right away and answering questions like, ‘What do I want to do? What am I passionate about? What do I get excited over? What kind of people and environments do I want to work with and in?’ So it’s not a service that you stop in to take advantage of in your senior year.  It’s a long term approach now.”

Erin Cook is the assistant director of career development.  She and Yerrick recently hosted a career networking event on the GWU campus in which several employers from various sectors (private, public, non-profit, etc.) participated.  The purpose of the event was to provide students with a chance to practice their communication skills and engage in beneficial training opportunities with local employers.

“One of the things we wanted to do was debunk some of the stereotypes that are out there and really help to collaborate and brainstorm with students on ways they can be proactive and not reactive,” Cook said. “We definitely see students with a ‘deer in the headlights’ look because they have a lot of skills that need to be developed and that can be intimidating.”

The networking event gave participants an opportunity to interact with local employers and administrators from a wide range of businesses, agencies, and organizations, including the Cleveland County Health Department, the Cleveland County Chamber of Commerce, the Forest City Owls, Personnel Services Unlimited, the Cleveland County YMCA and many more.

“We approached students with the idea of this being a chance for them to learn how to network,” Yerrick said.  “We encouraged them to come in with an open mind.  We talked to them about the elements of being able to introduce oneself to strangers and gather information.  We talked to them about the importance of developing an ‘elevator speech’ in which they present who they are in 60 to 90 seconds.  Then we let them loose to practice.”

Utilizing a “speed networking” concept, participants had two minutes with each employer before they moved along to the next person.  “This exercise in particular gave students an opportunity to experience a variety of people, a variety of personalities and a variety of expectations about what effective networking is, which will definitely help them if they take part in the upcoming job fair in Charlotte,” Cook added.

The Metrolina Career Fair is an annual event held in Charlotte, N.C. and is scheduled for Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Johnson & Wales University Student Center.  The event is free for all students and alumni from the Metrolina Career Consortium, a network of small private universities that includes Queens University of Charlotte, Belmont Abbey College, Catawba College, Gardner-Webb University, Lenoir-Rhyne University, St. Andrews University and Wingate University.  Complimentary transportation will be provided from Gardner-Webb for any students interested in attending.  Those interested in registering should call the Office of Career Development at 704-406-2170 to RSVP.

“We were strategic about hosting our networking event in preparation for the upcoming job fair in Charlotte,” Yerrick shared.  “My number one piece of advice to students is, ‘Do not wait!’  While it is important for seniors to begin thinking specifically about some things, we need students to starting thinking much earlier.  The job market has changed.  Our economy has changed, the political climate and everything has changed.  So we have to change our approach and we have to be more strategic now than ever before.”

MetrolinaColleges.org is an online service of the Career Consortium of Metrolina Colleges. CCMC consists of career development professionals from private colleges and universities in the Charlotte area of North Carolina.

Located in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb University blends a liberal arts core curriculum with more than 55 major and minor professional programs of study, a comprehensive academic experience that flows from our Christian commitment to intellectual freedom, service and leadership.