This spring semester has been a wild ride. We fully transitioned from in-person classes, meetings, and daily activities to being members of “Zoom University” in less than one full week of time. With this major change, we saw that several of our major in-person events had been canceled–the spring formal, the luau, and even graduation. However, the college decided that one of the most important business events on campus could not be canceled. I wasn’t able to attend but was curious about the behind-the-scenes work that needed to be done for Career Connect Day to be brought online. Luckily, Kelly Davis (Assistant Director of Career Services and Study Abroad) was willing to answer all my questions about the event!
I first asked about the history of this important day. Kelly explained:
“In 2011, Menlo College brought back “SBA Day,” or “School of Business Administration Day” which had previously been instituted when the school offered more than business and psychology degrees. This day of professional development was rebranded “Connect Day” in the spring of 2018 by our current Director, Dylan Houle, and consisted of a series of workshops led by Menlo faculty and external partners. The Career Fair was on a separate day that year, and classes were not canceled. Last year in March of 2019, the Career Fair was moved to the afternoon of Connect Day and the full name became “Career Connect Day.” Under the direction of Provost Lum, classes were canceled which significantly bolstered attendance numbers.”
I then wanted to know just why Career Connect Day had been brought to the Menlo College Campus. Kelly tells me that:
“The purpose of Career Connect Day is to provide students with professional development opportunities to learn from experts about various skills, industry trends, and ways of approaching the workforce. We aim to provide the chance for all Menlo students to learn something new, have a new tool in their toolkit whether it relates to networking, approaching their job search, or having a bit of extra knowledge in an industry of their interest.”
She also explained that the school “aim[s] to assist students in understanding what “life-long learning” really means and what it can look like: once you have a job, your learning doesn’t stop. You build expertise and build on your expertise by opening yourself to other learning opportunities.”
There were also many departments in the school involved with CCD, such as the Office of Internships, Career Services & Study Abroad. It was explained to me that:
“We request session proposals in the Fall which are evaluated by a committee composed of Menlo faculty, staff, and students to select a diverse set of sessions. We engage Menlo faculty, staff, students, alumni, and our employer partners as session leaders. It is a great way to provide our partners with opportunities to meet our students, and for our students to meet our partners. In this way, CCD benefits our partners, Menlo College, and the Menlo community as a whole.”
I also wondered just who would be attending the virtual CCD, in terms of business partners at least. I was informed that the College had presenters from Facebook, Uber, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Robert Half, as well as representatives from smaller companies. The school wanted to make sure that the industry focuses varied this year in their Sustainable Careers Panel, and students heard from four people with varying backgrounds who were able to speak to working on environmental efforts through the perspectives of a small not-for-profit organization, a venture capital firm, a local government, and an educational institution.
I had gotten curious as to why the school pulls this entire day off and brings these companies, and why they want students to attend so badly. I decided to ask Kelly this question directly instead of leaving things for interpretation. She tells me that there are three main reasons she recommends students participate in CCD.
- No one ever stops learning – it’s important to discover what you want to learn more about and the ways you learn best. That’s what professional development is, and CCD provides the perfect opportunity to understand what that means for you. It will be an invaluable asset that you can bring to any employer or graduate school program.
- It is important to learn from different perspectives. Even if you feel you know a topic well, or believe you are an expert at a certain skill, hearing a new perspective never hurts. Being able to process different arguments and evaluate what you believe as a result is a key component to critical thinking, one of the most sought after skills by employers. Practice at CCD.
- CCD is a prime networking opportunity when you have access to presenters who are eager to talk to you about your common interests. You can also network with other students – get a sense for what they’re thinking through the sessions you attended together, and see what kinds of conversations develop.
After learning about the history of CCD and why the school offered it, I was curious as to how the Kelly Davis and the Career Service team were able to miraculously pull off a fully online transition in less than 2 weeks, providing 12 live sessions. While they did an amazing job of pulling this off, I was told that there were some differences between online and virtual that would have just made an in-person experience better- the first being the ease of networking. The school had previously used FloMo because of how well the courtyard served them between sessions. However, with more time there could have been a different plan as Kelly tells me “if we need to use the virtual format again, our goal is to have a replacement for this natural space for conversation, which we might be able to replicate by composing a chat room.”
While they couldn’t plan for everything in two weeks, the CCD team sure came close. The team was able to adapt to situations where speakers were not able to mobilize as quickly by providing the option for speakers to pre-record their sessions and have an additional 3 sessions posted, and have been able to reschedule 4 sessions to the month of April as part of our “Virtual Workshop Series.”
As a final statement from Kelly, she wants to say “I am extremely grateful to our partners who have demonstrated and who continue to demonstrate their commitment to our students, including to those who couldn’t make an event happen virtually this time around. As in all things at this time, we must remember compassion.”
I myself, want to give the biggest kudos to the CCD team and Menlo staff. While this transition has been hard on everyone, the staff was able to bring us into an online world in a short amount of time, while also still showing the care for students that Menlo promises. Thank you all.