Taking the first step in finding a life calling

Sean Repuyan, Features Editor

The first step is almost always the most important in nearly everything. Whether they be baby steps or giant leaps, they are the guiding force behind an effective experience in higher education. 

A typical college student graduates in four years. That means within those four years, it is anticipated the student will have indulged heavily in their intended major, grown their interests and values and decided what they want to do with their degree. However, many students find it difficult to even decide a major, let alone plan a goal for their future. 

The Career Center for Life Calling helps students decide a path by providing tools and resources, allowing students to make progress toward success and achieve their goals. 

Executive Director Zachary McGrain says it is important for students to understand that “it is not a linear path to life calling success.” 

“There will be hurdles along the way,” McGrain said. “But we support all students through the path of career development and are not here to overwhelm you. Although we cannot provide the answers, we are helpers by trade.” 

By honing in on a student’s individual interests, skill sets and values, McGrain and other career center coordinators attempt to help students answer the big question and match them with corresponding roles in internships and possible careers. This enables students to grow at their own pace and to feel fulfilled both professionally and personally. 

A useful platform heavily used to help students find opportunities in their potential industry or workforce is Handshake. 

“[Handshake] is the front door to all things career development,” McGrain continued. “It is not the solution for all, but it is a good outlet to keep students focused on progress and the action steps they need to take.” 

With a system of nearly 4,000 employers using Ashland University as a recruiting tool, Handshake is a starting point for building a bridge between career recruitment and AU. In the same breath, the career center provides different career events on campus such as workshops, panels and career fairs. 

Students can schedule appointments to participate in mock interviews and individualized career coaching, receiving feedback and strategies from coordinators.

These ‘cornerstone services’ help students understand takeaways other than financial impact, learn to adapt and manage multiple priorities., McGrain continues. He carefully explains that whichever industry or world a student chooses, they need to be communicative, innovative and able to understand the fundamentals of teamwork.

As a student, McGrain was unaware of many options and opportunities presented to him through organizations similar to the career center on campus. Now he wishes he had taken advantage of the kinds of tools and resources the career center helps provide to students. 

“I thought I knew what I wanted,” McGrain continued. “I walked into a classroom for student teaching and I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this.’ And that’s the sort of stressful realization that we’re hoping to prevent.”

Over the past few semesters, student employment on campus has dwindled, leaving many positions and roles that have been easier to fill available and unfulfilled, especially within the career center. Exact numbers and variables surrounding those issues are uncertain, however McGrain believes issues most likely rest on the current pandemic and the ability for students to adjust to and balance hybrid courses and social activities. 

In a student’s life, McGrain refers to the career center as an unbiased third-party, changing and navigating with students. 

“However, we are biased to your success,” McGrain concluded. “Be engaged, hit a routine and ask questions. Every experience is worth something; whether you loved it or not, the best thing is to learn from it.” 

Executive Director of the Career Center for Life Calling. SUBMITTED BY: ZACHARY MCGRAIN
The Hawkins-Conard Student Center where the main office of the Career Center for Life Calling can be found on the first floor. (THE COLLEGIAN)