SuccessWorks helps Letters & Science students translate majors into careers
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Students who study science and history develop critical thinking, writing and lab-based skills that are valuable to employers.
But sometimes students need guidance on how to match those skills with the right job, and present those skills to a potential employer.
That’s why SuccessWorks, in the College of Letters & Science, invites students to engage early in the career exploration process.
The College of Letters & Science is home to the largest, most diverse body of students at UW–Madison, with more than 18,000 undergraduates, and SuccessWorks is helping them get an early start on career preparation. Last year, almost 60% of the students who engaged with SuccessWorks were in their first or second year.
“Letters & Science majors provide so many career possibilities,” says Angie White, interim executive director of SuccessWorks. “A Letters & Science degree gives students the critical preparation they need to thrive in a rapidly changing global workplace, teaching them communication, critical thinking, leadership and problem-solving skills, all of which we know employers are seeking.”
SuccessWorks is just one way UW helps students with career planning. Each school or college at UW–Madison has a dedicated career services office with comprehensive career services for students and connections to a vast network of employers. There are around 20 career services offices, including offices that serve all students and alumni regardless of school, college or major.
Concrete tools to translate skills into careers
Among the tools SuccessWorks provides to students are:
- Career communities: Students explore one or more of the eight “career communities,” in areas like communications, entertainment, and arts; healthcare and human services; scientific research and development; and technology, data, and analytics. “We provide programming, advisors, and opportunities to do deeper dives within career communities,” says White. “Students can get advice from professionals in each career community.”
- For-credit and noncredit career development classes: More than 7,000 students took the course, “Jobs, Internships, and How to Get Them,” last year when the course was a pilot on Canvas.
- Alumni mentors: “About 1,000 alumni volunteers mentor students individually and in groups, based on students’ career interest areas, students’ majors, or their identities,” says White. “That helps students explore careers from the perspective of people in the field and get mentoring and advice about how their major could translate into a potential career.”
- “Major Skills & Outcomes” sheets: The documents distributed to students showcase career possibilities for all 65 undergraduate majors in the college. They highlight specific skills students develop in that major’s courses; where graduates of that major land jobs; and the top employers of UW alumni from that major.
- Programs at employers: “We also work with employers to help students gain experience through internship programs, job shadowing, mock interviews, and employer site visits,” says White. “We have lots of ways to prepare for job searches, including advising appointments, resume reviews, and career fair prep, where we bring employers in to help students with their elevator pitches.”
SuccessWorks helps Letters & Science majors identify and highlight employer-sought skills in their resumes and interviews. They vary major to major; biology students can emphasize their research and data analysis skills, while history majors might focus on writing and critical thinking abilities. White argues that the soft skills L&S majors develop make them exceptional job candidates.
“L&S students develop an appreciation for diversity, inclusion, belonging, and what takes to be a citizen in a global workforce,” White says. “They learn how to relate to and work with different kinds of people.”
Recent graduates share their experiences
Several recent L&S graduates who leveraged SuccessWorks’ services to prepare to apply for, interview for, and land jobs shared how L&S helped prepare them for careers.
Avery Pilot, ‘19, is a content manager for a sales enablement team that handles marketing sales and automation at a technology company. Pilot, who grew up in Maple Plain, Minn., majored in history at UW–Madison because she loves learning about how people have interacted with architecture throughout history. She met with SuccessWorks advisors to prepare for her job search process.
“I met with SuccessWorks advisors twice, once to look at career opportunities that matched my skill set as a history student who worked in several libraries,” she says. “The second time, I looked over and optimized my resume with an advisor and performed some practice interview questions.”
Pilot appreciated the resume review, which she says helped her launch her job search with confidence and got her resume past the keyword filters used by recruiting sites.
“I also appreciated the reassurance that my history major would ‘work’ in a career outside of academia or education,” she adds. “SuccessWorks helped me highlight my organizational skills and process-oriented nature, which helped me land jobs I’ve enjoyed in marketing operations and content management.”
Pilot describes herself as preferring to work “behind the scenes” and says it wasn’t until she met with the team at SuccessWorks that she realized such roles exist. In her current role, she organizes and distributes content like press releases, industry news articles, training materials, and product updates to her organization.
“I mainly distribute content through a weekly newsletter and an internal website that I manage,” she explains. “I also get to dabble in technical writing, sales automation platform management, and training facilitation. It’s a lot of fun to organize content and put processes together behind the scenes to help support a team of people who interact with customers.”
Emma Fischer, ‘22, an applications scientist at Promega in Madison, majored in molecular & cell biology and used SuccessWorks to go over application materials, look for opportunities to gain experience, and prepare for salary negotiations.
“I received great feedback and suggestions on my resume,” Fischer says. “I also used SuccessWorks to learn about where to look for internships and how to set up professional profiles.”
Fischer says SuccessWorks made it easy to schedule an appointment and get personalized help.
“I really appreciated that I was able to schedule an appointment for one-on-one help across an incredible breadth of resources,” Fischer says. “Not only was the help personalized, but I was able to schedule a visit with the same person (thanks, Maureen!) each time, which helped foster a professional relationship.”
When Fischer received a job offer to join Promega, where she worked as an undergraduate intern, she talked with her SuccessWorks advisor about the appropriate salary and benefits and how to negotiate.
“This helped prepare me to pursue a productive, professional conversation with my future employer,” Fischer says. “I think SuccessWorks is an incredible resource that really helps L&S majors prepare for post-graduate jobs, through in-depth personalized appointments, relevant assistance, and timely help. The staff is extremely friendly, welcoming, and helpful, creating an environment students are excited to return to time and time again.”