Navigating a Career after WKU
We want to ensure that our students make a successful transition into meaningful work after earning a degree from WKU. During your time with us, we have hosted Career Connection events each semester which either invite a panel of speakers to talk about their experience, or help you connect with the services offered by WKU's Career Development Center. We have also helped students find and complete internships, study abroad experiences, and other types of experiential learning that are highly valued among employers. Within this page, we provide updated references from both employers and the job coach for Potter College of Arts and Letters, Anna Meany, in addition to providing a starting point for navigating state, federal, and nonprofit employment.
Located on the 2nd floor of DSU (Room 2001), the center helps students with "career exploration, career engagement, career preparation, and academic career guidance." While in-person appointments are typically the way students engage with the Career Studio, the center provides a Zoom waiting room Mon-Fri from 9-4 when Social Distancing practices are in place. If you prefer to make an appointment rather than dropping in to the waiting room, you can schedule those appointments using handshake or by emailing Anny Meany directly.
Today's job market requires taking a bold approach toward developing your online profile. In addition to a traditional resume, developing polished profiles on job sites such as indeed, linkedin, aiprecruiter, WKU's Handshake are essential. In this presentation, Anna discusses ways you can make the most of your internet networking profiles.
To find employment within surrounding state governments, we encourage students to create a profile for Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. If employment with a state law enforcement agency is of particular interest, Kentucky State Police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are popular choices. Below, students will find helpful advice from state employes working in Juvenile and Family Services, Community Corrections, and Law Enforcement.
"When heading out on the journey of securing a career, start by taking a good look at the qualities you will bring to an organization and make sure you know how to effectively communicate those things. Each of us bring something to the collective table and we have to advocate for ourselves in regards to benefits we bring. If your qualities are not the right fit for a certain job, don’t take that as a loss, but see it as a win. You are one step closer to the position or organization that you belong with. You are the missing piece to someone’s puzzle, keeping searching until you fit and they fit with you. Once you land something, make it your own, work hard at it and develop a sense of pride around it, no matter what the position is. If you take each opportunity head on and look for the lesson in everything you will enjoy a successful career along the way. Build on the knowledge you gain at all stages and never forget the core values that you stand for and that you can contribute. Prioritize you vision for contributions to the world and you will never be disappointed in the outcome of an interview or the paycheck that comes with it. Good luck on your journey, hope to see a few of you along the way.” Erica Hargis, Director, Division of Probation and Parol, KY Department of Corrections
“Employers are looking for leaders who are self-sufficient, goal oriented and can lead with a positive attitude, but that is also going to work well with their existing team of employees. So know the expectations of the job you are applying for. Be yourself, be Positive and always Dress for Success!” Lisa Winsett, Division of Probation and Parol, KY Department of Corrections, District 3, Warren County
“If you’re interested in state employment, you can easily start to look for jobs through the https:/kentucky.gov/employment website. Follow the links to search for current openings and from there you will be able to set up a profile. In your profile, you can upload your resume, which will be sent to the potential employers of your choosing. After applying for a job, it is imperative that you reach out with a brief email or phone call to express your interest in that position. There should be contact information for the agency in the job posting. At times there can be 100 potential candidates for an open position. By making brief contact after submitting your application, you can stand out from the rest and will increase your chance of getting an interview. If interviewed, dress to impress and come prepared with printed documentation of your qualifications (ie: cover letter and resume). Be prepared to answer questions of how you have handled difficult situations in the past. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to brag on yourself! Potential employers want to know why YOU are the best candidate for that position. An interview is your time to shine!” Katy King, Division of Probation and Parol, KY Department of Corrections, District 3, Warren County.
"For the graduating class of 2020- The Department of Family and Juvenile Services congratulates you on the completion of your degree. With traditional commencement ceremonies canceled or postponed, it is important to stay focused and enjoy every moment. This isn’t just a phase. It’s your future, your dreams and your life. Embrace the moments, chase your future, and you will achieve your dreams. Take time to adjust and learn to market yourself in a way that appeals to potential employers. The current status of the country will impact industries in different ways; take time to tailor your experiences and make it personal. Employers want to hire someone that is committed to the job they are offering. Seek a position that you are passionate about and bring your whole self to the interview, not just the polished professional that may desperately need a job. Your interview is an opportunity to show the hiring manager your passion and commitment. Bring a sense of humor, a desire to learn about the company, and an interest in forming a connection with the person in front of you. While it’s always a good idea to showcase your skills to a potential employer, do not forget to make a point of expressing your enthusiasm. After all, skills can be taught, passion cannot. We encourage you to watch for Kentucky Court of Justice employment opportunities at https://kycourts.gov.
There are many dreams in a person’s life, what makes the difference between a dreamer and the achiever is how they implement their strategies. Keep up the spirit and be proud to showcase it. Again, congratulations on this amazing achievement." Ashley Clark, Clinical Supervisor, Department of Family and Juvenile Services, Administrative Office of the Courts.
Two pieces of advice:
- Know what position you are actually applying for. I can't tell you how many cadet and dispatcher interviews we have done and the applicant literally had NO idea what the job entails. You don't have to know every policy, procedure, or nuance of the position, but be clear of the essential details for each position you apply for.
- Know something about the company/agency/entity you are applying with. Review the mission/values statement, number of employees, types of positions within, history of organization, fun fact, something.
In sum, do your homework. Treat your job search like you are a high school super-star
athlete looking to select a college and you want to maximize your chances of getting
the best offer you can get. You might 1) visit their website, 2) ask people about
the organization, 3) review any statistics that are available, 4) read the biographies
of the personnel and be familiar with the jobs they do. Ask yourself: If this is a job that I will retain for at least 4 years, what do I need to know in making the best choice for myself? Penny Bowles, Deputy Chief of Operations, Bowling Green Police Department
Before starting to apply for jobs or a new career, clean up your social media! Sure, what you do on your social media is your business; but that’s of course until you make it everyone else’s. Posting things to social media is a lot like squeezing out toothpaste. Once it’s out, it’s out. Review your privacy settings and if it's questionable, maybe leave it off the Internet. Remember that who you are becomes a reflection on that agency. So to thine own self be true, but to thine own self also be sure. Tim Gray, Public Information Officer, WKU Police.
There are numerous opportunities for graduates to work for NonProfit Organizations. Those opportunities are often discovered by
- Introducing yourself to those employers providing services/working with client groups which you find a particular connection. For example, for those interested in victim advocacy work, students should identify the surrounding organizations which provide support for childhood victimization, sexual victimization, and intimate partner victimization to name a few. Students interested in social service occupations should identify community organizations (such as LifeSkills Inc in the Bowling Green Area) which provide behavioral and social support services generally, or in service to specific groups (Family Enrichment Center, Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Bellwood and Brooklawn, a few examples).
- Next, regularly check the websites and social media accounts of those organizations you find of interest to stay up to date on position openings.
Below, students will find helpful advice from executive directors for three such NonProfit Organizations.
- Trust your gut. Remember that interviews are two way streets. The potential employer is interviewing you but you are also interviewing them. Determine in the interview if they are who you want to align yourself with or not.
- Ask questions. I get very frustrated when at the end of an interview, they have no questions for us about our organization. Even a question as simple as, what is your favorite part of your job (or least favorite) shows you have an interest in seeing yourself in this position?
- Come prepared. Check out the business website, read the job description (and have questions about specific tasks delegated to the job), be able to show you took the time to research and prepare for the interview.
- You'll never regret being overdressed (business professional), but will almost always regret being underdressed.
- Follow the instructions. If a place says no phone calls.. it's probably because that person isn't able to take many phone calls. If there is a form online to submit your application, do that.. if you want to follow up after the fact with a contact at the business you know, then great, but don't let that be your first step! Show them you can handle being given instructions.
- Try to remember the name of your interviewer and send them a thank you email. Take that time to respond to a question you didn't know or maybe felt you could have a stronger answer for than what you gave in the moment.
- Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Have goals, but be flexible and let your life ebb and flow, learn from your mistakes, and be proud of your successes. Tori Henninger, Executive Director, Barren River Area Safe Space, Inc.
"Now more than ever I believe it is important to follow a passion in a career path. That choice often comes with privilege, but loving what you do will have a significant impact on sustainability. Nonprofit and support services are often viewed as low paying jobs, but their stability doesn't rely on the economy doing well." Alayna Milby, Director of Community Engagement at Hope Harbor, Inc.
Six Words of Wisdom
- Make sure you choose a career, not a job
- There are things more important than money
- Don't measure your worth by dollars
- Money will come as you get older
- Maintain professional boundaries, this work can be emotionally difficult
- If you don't love your path, change it. Lynn Hulsey, Director of Programs, Family Enrichment Center
Finally, many graduates seek careers with the federal government in field such as law enforcement, corrections, the courts, CIA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and so on. The following are tips for those students in particular.
- Follow the federal agency(s) website of your interest to maintain the most up-to-date advice from those specific programs, and USA Jobs generally.
- In particular, note any specializations of field of study or advanced degress that might be of preference early on so that you can model your degree program accordingly.
- Consider how your behavior now, might impact job opportunities later. In particular, as these are competitive opportunties, we recommend that you focus on mainintaining exceptional grades, a clean record and professional digital presence via social media and the like.
- Finally, complete an internship or other experiential learning experience. In addition to pursuing an internship through our departmental internship program, we also provide a list of Internship opportunities provided by federal agencies on our internship page.
*The majority of this information was pulled from this link.