Helping Seniors With the Transition Out of Grinnell

This is an example of a pro-active advising strategy. The simple act of sending an email communication such as this can send many direct and indirect messages to your advisees. First, it provides straight-forward, factual information about things seniors should be pursuing in their final semester or year at Grinnell in order to be prepared for life after graduation in May. Second, it sends a less-than-subtle message that you, as their adviser, believe that this kind of planning is important, and that the tools to do this while they're still an enrolled student are readily available to them. This allows students to rise to their new (rather frightening) obligations to look beyond Grinnell to the life they must create for themselves.

Keep in mind that, for the first time, these students' next steps in life aren't a matter of applying to a few (or a dozen) places and one will pan out. Prior to this time in their life, determining next steps has been relatively straight-forward; but now every opportunity (and yet no concrete opportunities) seem possible. This very fact can be daunting for so many students that they put off the crucial steps they must take.

Below is an example of an email you might consider sending to your senior majors.

From: Karla Erickson, Sociology

Subject: Post-Grinnell Planning and Preparation

Dear Sociology Seniors---

I am writing to you because you are either my advisee or are someone I have worked with extensively over your four years here. I am writing to offer support, encouragement, and if needed, a nudge in moving toward your post-Grinnell plans. Below I outline some resources that are available to you and some "best practices" as I think of them, for making the transition from Grinnell to the next step in your life and career deliberately and with intention. Feel free to share this with other seniors not included in this email. The ideas below represent my views only about recommendations for a rewarding search. I know that this is an anxiety-producing transition, but it can also be a fabulous experience, both in the transitioning itself, but also in the planning and taking control of your future. I hope it will be so for all of you. Here are some ideas:

1) Treat your post-Grinnell preparation like a course. Set up a series of deadlines for yourself, and tasks, assignments and goals to be completed. Approach it with the same focus and discipline you would a course for which you are graded, ultimately this is substantially more important than a grade. Tasks to include will be big and small:revise resume, develop credential file, conduct informational interviews with people in the field, search databases, prepare applications, use alumni network to make connections and identify opportunities, talk to family, talk to recent grads, meet with CDO, spend time researching in the CDO, library and online, meet with profs, meet with other seniors. . . And the list goes on.

2) Maybe you do not want to decide right away. Maybe you want the summer "off" with a less demanding job to figure out what to do with yourself next year. That is fine and can be a necessary step for many people. However, what is not fine is failing to make use of the resources that are available to you now that will be much more difficult to access from wherever you make your post-Grinnell home. So whether you aim to have this all figured out by April or early in 2008, there are some skills you need to exercise, and resources you need to make use of now, before you graduate. I have included examples below from the most recent campus memo, these opportunities tend to be ongoing, and so you should plan to do most of them at some point in this semester. Treat this process as an exploration, not only goal oriented, but educational. If by conducting this search you learn several things you do not want to do, that is just as useful as learning what you do want to do, so keep an open mind. Never, ever will programs like those listed below be made available to you in your life after Grinnell, you will have to do this work largely alone, and that takes a lot more effort, so do some of it now while you have infrastructure and institutional support near at hand.

3) Think broadly. Undergraduate majors are not determinative of your future, there are very few avenues that you have foreclosed by choosing to be a sociology major. You may already know that you don't have what it takes to be an opera singer, but beyond that, there are still many interesting possibilities that lay before you that are not immediately connected to Sociology, but will still use analytical and intellectual tools that you have been developing. 4) Start talking to people. The biggest mistake I see seniors make is that they get quiet, and hold in fear and anxiety and that then builds. Contact recent grads about their advice for someone in your position, spend time at the CDO, use the files outside my office (Soc files) to browse, if not for specific opportunities, then just to think about a range of possible futures. I don't know how many of you attended Professor Johanna Meehan's convo 2 weeks ago, but I would agree with her that in this search, you are not looking for the one right answer, you are exploring the connections between your self, your skills and the sorts of opportunities that exist. I think you are looking to develop not a plan A, B and C, but rather a working list of possibilities to which you are open and curious.

5) Talk with each other. You are not competing directly with each other for these possible futures, so you might as well pool resources, share strategies and help each other through.

6) That's all for now, but feel free to sign up to see me or contact me by email if none of the times on my schedule are a possibility for you. Know that if you work with me through this process, I will want you to do some of the things on this list, but I will be an enthusiastic supporter of wherever the process takes you! Call on your other professors, coaches, and staff too - this search need not be bound by discipline. And finally, one of the invaluable, and it really is impossible to put a price on it, of a Grinnell education is that you are forever embedded in a network of Grinnell students who have come before you and, it turns out, are doing pretty amazing stuff with their post-Grinnell lives. Even if it is challenging for you to use networks, networks are what get people into positions, for better or worse, and as networks go, the Grinnell network is one you can feel confident and proud to make use of, so please do not let that resource go to waste. 

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