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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

Real World Reality Bites – Your First Job

Entering the “real world” can be scary, exciting, and filled with expectations.  Perhaps, you are setting high expectations for yourself starting the first day on the job.  Having high expectations are great; however, realize that this is your first job and you will make a mistake or two.  And, it is okay.  Employers do not expect perfection.  Simply do your best and work hard.  Be confident in your Wake Forest preparation for life after college.  To ease some of the stress, the OPCD’s career coaches share their “rookie mistakes” and advice for starting the new job after college.

Here are their bites of reality:

Patrick SullivanPatrick Sullivan (’93, Politics), Associate Director, Career Education and Coaching

Talk to people. When you start your first job, it’s easy to go to the extremes. Some people feel overwhelmed with all of their new responsibilities, while others quickly assume that they have the the job all figured out in the first few weeks. The reality is that neither situation is accurate. How can you manage your way out of these situations? Talk to the people around you about their experience. Ask your new colleagues how they overcame their first job jitters. If you see someone who is highly successful in your organization, ask them for advice on what made them so successful.


Shan WoolardShan Woolard (’11, MALS), Assistant Director, Career Education and Coaching

My first job out of college paid well but was not very intellectually stimulating and at many times boring—a big switch from being a college student where I loved being challenged. I talked with my supervisor and expressed my interest in being given more complex work responsibilities. Then I waited and waited thinking/hoping that I would be moved to a different position at the same company. After several months, I finally saw the light that things weren’t going to change, and I needed to start looking for another job. I ended up taking a job that was more aligned with my skills and interests, but also came with a huge pay cut. Despite the decrease in compensation, I loved my new job. I learned that it takes a lot more than money to get me out of the bed in the morning!


Wake Forest University head shots, Tuesday, October 7, 2014. Jessica Long.Jessica Long (’05, Communication), Assistant Director, Career Education and Coaching

Get involved. When new opportunities present themselves at work or outside of work, make a point to be part of them. Whether it’s working on a project or being part of a community event, being involved is a great way to form new relationships and strengthen those that already exist. Being active in the local community scene can also benefit you, especially if you’re somewhere new, by helping you feel more connected to the place you now call your home.


Cheryl Hicks

Cheryl Hicks, Assistant Director, Career Education and Coaching

My “rookie” mistake was not being pro-active enough at my first job.  I did a lot of reacting, which was fine for going through the motions, but I should have done more to prove my wealth as a team member.  I quickly learned to become more solution-oriented and not go to my boss with just the problem.

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Jana FritzJana Fritz (’15 Communication), Presidential Fellow in the OPCD 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was college graduation! The bittersweet day has finally come and gone. A wonderful four years of friendships, memories, and opportunities are behind you.  Although this chapter is closing, what you’ve accomplished thus far will bring about a bunch of new and exciting unwritten chapters (*cue Natasha Bedingfield*).  From someone who is officially “one year out” from Mother, So Dear, I’d like to share some thoughts on the oftentimes bewildering idea of uncertainty that comes with graduation.

  • I am one of many future-oriented, driven Deacs. Like many others, I sometimes feel like I constantly need to worry about the next step. A rookie mistake I made during my first year of young professionalism was convincing myself that I needed to have it all figured out — now. The pressure we tend to put on ourselves to “get it together” can backfire and ultimately constrain us from great potential.
  • This frustration, so common amongst us “planners”, became evident to a wise mentor of mine. So, she told me this: appreciate the uncertainty of youth while it still exists. One day, you’re going to wake up having it all figured out and you’ll only be able to wish you had the unknown that faces twenty-somethings.
  • Here’s how I’ve put that advice to practice:
    • Maintain your orientation to achieve, that’s what got you here today. But, reframe it a bit. Look at a “missed opportunity” as a holding place for another door that’s about to open somewhere else.
    • If you feel like something or someone is a roadblock to your goals, consider it a chance to grow, personally and professionally, and keep moving on to the next challenge.
    • No matter the person’s position or importance, if someone comes into your life, cultivate a relationship with them. A few years down the road, they might support you with that next career shift or important life decision.

Most importantly, remember that although you’re leaving the comfort of Wake Forest University, it will never leave you!

Before Summer Begins, Reflect.

Congratulations! You made it through the academic year. Finals are done. Take a deep breath and exhale. Whew! You did it. Many of you are headed in different directions this summer. You will be starting your first job after graduation, preparing for graduate school, or beginning an internship with a possible vacation sprinkled in with family and friends. But, before you get too far into the summer months, spend some time in reflection. What did you learn about yourself? What was challenging? What was rewarding? How did you develop personally and professionally? These are a few questions to ponder as you reflect upon this semester and year. Summer is a great time for respite and unplugging from reality. But, don’t rest on your laurels for too long. The answers you gather from reflection will help you set the intention and goals you want to accomplish this summer.

To help set the course for a meaningful and productive summer, follow these three simple steps:

1. Be Intentional. First, leave the past in the past. Move forward. Think about what you will do differently as a result of past failures. So, you accepted the offer for a new job, grad school, or internship. What do you intend to learn and gain from the first few months on the job, grad school, or the internship experience? What do you hope to gain? How are you going to be intentional in your skill development and network building? Consider answering these questions before getting too deep into the summer months. You will have a better grasp of what you intend to learn, develop, and accomplish.

2. Write SMART Goals. They will be your guide to the results you want by the end of the summer. Here are a few questions to consider before developing your SMART goals: What do you want to accomplish this summer? When you look back at the end of the summer, what do you want to be able to say that you have done or learned? Are there new skills you would like to develop such as delivering public presentations or research? I recommend setting 2-3 goals for the summer. Consider focusing on areas such as the skills you want to further develop, the project(s) you want to accomplish, and the people you want to meet and network with to learn more about the industry. Need help writing goals? Use the SMART goal worksheet as a guide. Share these goals with an advisor, counselor, or mentor so that s/he can help you develop a plan for achieving them.

3. Reflect. Spend some time reflecting on your courses, extracurricular activities, and experiences from the spring semester. Reflect upon your intention and goals set for these areas. To help guide the reflection process, print or download the reflection exercise worksheet. Upon completion of the reflection exercise, you may need to adjust your goals based on the information gathered about yourself, courses, and activities from the past semester. If needed, repeat step two and revise your goals. Goals do not have to be static. They can be modified as plans change.

Remember – Be intentional. Be goal-oriented. Be reflective.

Best wishes for a restful, productive summer!

The Gap Year Defined.

Considering a gap year? Looking for some inspiration? We interviewed Wake Forest freshman, Abby Trombley, who took a gap year before she came to college. After getting 8 college rejection letters, Abby decided she needed a fresh start. What better way to energize than to embark on a year of unknown possibilities? Check out our video interview with Career Coach, Amy Willard, to hear from Abby firsthand. If you want to hear more about her story, Abby’s blog can be found here. Buy her book on Amazon today!


In the Nick of Time

Zach Garbiso April Post

Zach Garbiso ‘14, Assistant Media Planner, NEO@Ogilvy

Oftentimes, seniors feel like they are the only ones without a job at graduation.  Guess what?  You are in the majority.  Companies don’t hire based on graduation date.  They hire based on need and available positions.  If you don’t have a job secured yet, fear not.  Most seniors secure jobs within six months of graduation.

Zach shares his experience and perspective on finding a job in your desired city.  He didn’t have a job secured before leaving his fellowship last year.  He decided to move to NYC in order to better network and apply for jobs.

What would you have done differently your senior year to prepare for life after graduation?

One thing that I did while I was a senior was really tap into the Wake Forest network in NYC, which is where I wanted to end up after I graduated.  Doing so really benefited me because I was able to make connections with people in the industry I was interested in breaking into, which resulted in my ultimately getting the job I have today. While you’re at Wake, take advantage of the resources offered to you, and really focus on expanding your network.

I think that Wake does a fantastic job of giving students the opportunity to really create experiences that can make them stand out in the job search.  However, what makes certain university students stand out as more desirable candidates is the ability to shape their experiences into an appealing story that demonstrates their worth for a company.  All that to say, focusing on shaping those stories in your resume, and really honing in on how to convey what makes you different by taking advantage of the OPCD’s mock interview process is key.  You can even reach out to a mentor, or someone you’ve worked really closely with in the past and ask him/her to ask you interview questions and give you feedback.

What advice do you have for seniors who are still seeking employment in April?

Looking for job opportunities in April seems right to me.  Most students looking to go into the media/publishing/advertising/public relations industries will need to continue looking well into April, and maybe even later.  The best thing that seniors can do is to put themselves out there and reach out to as many alumni as they can, to talk to them about their experiences, their industries, and their professions.

What I’ve come to learn from being on the other side of the process is that the student really dictates the conversation. That being said, whenever you schedule an informational interview with Wake alumni, I would encourage you to sit down before the conversation and come up with three objectives that you would like to get out of that particular meeting.  Another piece of advice I have about networking is to always follow up.  If you and the said alum agreed to any action items to be taken after the call, include those in your follow up. Not only does it give you a great reason to follow up, it reminds that alum that s/he has agreed to help you with something.

When do most companies hire for positions?

In my experience, generally most companies hire for positions on an as-needed basis.   When you get a job really depends on timing.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t the right candidate, or that you’re awful and will never get a job.  It’s really easy to question yourself when you aren’t getting any phone calls or emails saying “Hey! You’re great! We have the perfect position for you!” but you really shouldn’t let it get to you.

If you have the ability to be picky, to choose the right job for you, do it.  While I know it isn’t always feasible, if you can hold out for a little bit longer until you get an offer you’re excited about instead of taking the first position that comes your way, you’ll be better suited in the long haul.  It’s always best to stay in one position within one company for a while before making another jump, and the best way to accomplish this is to avoid taking your very first offer if you’re hesitant that it isn’t the best fit for you.

You moved to NYC before receiving an offer on a job.  Do you recommend seniors, if they don’t have a job by graduation, move to their preferred city in order to job search?  Why?  What made it easier?

Absolutely. It may be really, really scary and intimidating at the time but moving to your preferred city after graduation (even if you don’t have a job lined up) is the correct thing to do.  It’s easier to set up meetings and network with people in person, it shows that you’re dedicated to the city, and it gives the employer an idea of how committed you actually are to that industry and that particular position.  While moving blindly to a new city isn’t an easy thing to do by any means, there are ways you can make the transition easier.

Give yourself a timeline. Say to yourself, “I’m going to move to NYC and for the first three weeks, all I’ll do is network.  Then I’ll give myself a month to apply to very specific jobs that I’m interested in and think would be a good fit for me.  After that month, if I still don’t have an offer that excites me, I’ll go back to networking and expand my job search to other, related fields that I’m interested in pursuing.”  Throughout that process, you’ll meet a lot of different people and before you know it, the perfect opportunity could end up falling into your lap.

Is Having Credit Good?


Here’s why:

1. Allows you to borrow money.  If you have a credit (good) history, then you can borrow money for a car loan or mortgage for a house.  If you borrow money, pay it by the due date.  Or you will decrease your credit score/rating.

2. Determines loan amount and interest rate.  The better your credit score the more you can borrow (good and bad) and the lower your interest rate.

Here’s how:

1.Pay your bills on-time.  Any bills your have (e.g., phone or electricity), pay them early or by the due date. 

2. Obtain at least 1 credit card.  Perhaps, apply for a credit card at store you frequent such as Target.  Only make minimal purchases in order to easily make on-time payments without paying late fees (interest rates).  This allows you to build your credit history. I’m not telling you to go out today and get a credit card.  You have to consider your personal financial situation.

If you don’t pay your bills or credit card in a timely manner, then you will negatively effect your credit rating.  Late payments account for 35% of your credit score.  See below for additional percentages account for your credit score:

What is a credit score anyway?

So, you may read or hear the words…credit report, score, or FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score. Your credit score is based on your credit history, such as how much money you owe (30%), how long you’ve owed it (15%), how many new accounts you have (10%), how often you miss or are late with payments (35%), and what type of credit accounts you have (10%). Changes in any of those factors will cause your score to go up or down.

Here’s where:

1. Check your credit history and learn more about credit with

You can obtain a free annual report.  Oftentimes, it’s a good idea to check to ensure identity theft or fraudulent charges have not been acquired in your name.  Equifax, Transunion, and Experian are different credit agencies to check your credit score.


Test your save or splurge knowledge and win “dessert on us” with a Brynn’t gift card!

How to participate:

1. Register at CashCourse.

2. Participate in the quiz of the week.

Quizzes are located at the bottom of the home page under Resources.

Quiz schedule:  April 25-May 1: What’s Your Credit Score IQ?

Save or Splurge?

You have $20 in your wallet. Do you spend the last of your cash on something you want or save it?  Probably, spend it. If you didn’t have $20 in your wallet, would you use a credit card to pay for it? May be not. It is so much easier to spend the cash burning in your wallet. However, a credit card may be just as easy, but it comes with payments and possible interest charges. Here are a few things to consider before spending your last stash of cash or whipping out the credit card in your wallet:

1. Be intentional. Ask yourself – Do I really need what I am purchasing?  The little purchases add up to a large sum.  What is the investment?  Will this purchase last long term?  Think before you spend your cash.

2. Think long-term gain. Is the purchase only a short-term gain? Immediate gratification. If you saved the cash, what will you be able to purchase in the future?  It is easy to follow your impulse to gratify your “need” than to think long-term. However, it will pay off. Stay focused on your goal.

3. Create a “Needs & Wants” list. This will help keep your focus on items you truly need versus those that you want (i.e., would like to have). You can begin to save for the items you want on your list. If you want to take a vacation, then label an envelope with “VACATION” on it. When you have the urge to spend money on a short-term gain, then put that money into the envelope. You’ll be surprised at how much will save for that vacation you want to take – a long-term gain.


Test your save or splurge knowledge and win “dessert on us” with a Brynn’s gift card!

How to participate:

1. Register at CashCourse.

2. Participate in the quiz of the week.

Quizzes are located at the bottom of the home page under Resources.

Quiz schedule:  April 18-24: Save or Splurge?

Navigating Student Loan Repayment

Tom BenzaStudent Financial Aid Expert Contributor – Tom Benza, Associate Director

Student loans are an important factor to consider when creating and managing a budget. Knowledge is power. Find out how much you owe (and the monthly payment), when you need to start repaying the loans, and what options you have for repayment (e.g. IBR – Income Based Repayment).

Here are 5 steps to take when entering student loan repayment:

Step 1: Student Award History Report. Stop by the Student Financial Aid office located in Room 4 of Reynolda Hall and request a copy of your Student Award History Report from the front desk counselor. This report details each grant, scholarship, work-study, and loan awarded to you while at Wake Forest. The report also includes contact information for Federal Stafford and Perkins loans, WFU administered student loans like the Denmark, Wallace, and Hutchins loans, and the Need-Based Private loan. If you have any questions about your award history, you can schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor.

Step 2: Log into NSLDS*.  The National Student Loan Data System, is the Department of Education’s central database for student aid.  NSLDS receives data from schools, guarantee agencies, the Direct Loan program, and the Department of ED programs. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants so that recipients of Title IV federal aid can access and inquire about their Title IV loans and/or grant data. This site will provide information on your federal loan balance, loan interest rates, and loan grace periods (grace periods vary from 1, 6, or 9 months after graduation depending on the loan).

Step 3: Know your loan servicer. All federal Stafford loans are awarded through the Department of Education’s Direct Loan program, but when the loan enters repayment, Direct Loans uses loan servicers to administer repayment. Examples of loan servicers are Sallie Mae, Great Lakes, Fed Loan Services, etc. For more information on federal loan servicers, check out this site. For information on WFU administered loans such as Perkins, Denmark, Wallace, Hutchins, review your Student Award History report or contact Student Financial Aid:

Step 4: Understand Repayment Options: There are a myriad of repayment options available to federal student loan borrowers. This Federal Student Aid site on repayment gives a comprehensive breakdown of federal repayment plans as well as a good estimator to help calculate what your monthly repayments would be under different plans. If you’re interested in loan consolidation to take advantage of certain income based repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness, visit the Federal Direct Loan Consolidation site.

Step 5: Communicate with your loan servicer. If you have a problem making your payments, do not ignore the problem. One of the biggest mistakes a student can make is not addressing repayment head on.  Federal student loans are flexible and there may be financial hardship programs that can help a student get through a rough patch. Ignoring mail or emails from your loan servicer is a recipe for disaster. The Student Financial Aid office can assist students with repayment questions after the student graduates. If you’re more comfortable speaking with a financial aid counselor you worked with while at Wake, reach out to the counselor with your questions.

Test your student loan knowledge and win “dessert on us” with a Brynn’s gift card!

How to participate:

1. Register at

2. Participate in the quiz of the week.

Quizzes are located at the bottom of the home page under Resources.

Quiz schedule:  April 13-19: Test Your Student Loan IQ


*The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) central database for student aid. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, the Direct Loan program, and other Department of ED programs. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants so that recipients of Title IV Aid can access and inquire about their Title IV loans and/or grant data.

Budgeting Your Expenses

Once you track your spending habits, you’ll be prepared to create a budget. Also, it provides clarity on your needs versus your wants. It is important to distinguish the two categories. Needs are rent, meals, and electricity (e.g. utilities). Wants are luxuries such as lunch at Chipotle. Are you spending too much on the wants or got-to-haves?

Whether living at home or on your own, a budget will help you stay on track. First, you need to know your monthly net income (amount received after taxes and deductions), scholarship or stipend amount. Second, think about your expected monthly expenses. For example, rent…This is a fixed expense; it doesn’t vary from month to month. Some expenses fluctuate, like groceries. These are called variable expenses. Third, research areas where you can spend less such as having a roommate to share the cost of rent, and taking your lunch to work as opposed to eating out. Buying lunch everyday can quickly add up, so can a Starbucks latte in the morning.

Here are 4 budgeting resources to help you stay on track:

1. CashCourse—A free online financial resource for Wake Forest students. Learn to manage money and financial literacy through a variety of fun interactive tools such as videos, calculators, and worksheets. Manage your budget using the budget wizard by tracking your expenses.The information will help you make informed financial decisions throughout your college years and into your professional life. Available when you want to manage your money!

2. Mint—See all your balances and transactions together, on the web or your phone. Mint automatically pulls all your financial information into one place, so you can finally get the entire picture. Mint automatically updates and categorizes your information, and suggests ways to help you save. Mint sends automatic alerts—like bill reminders—to your mobile phone or email. Set a budget and create a plan to reach your personal financial goals. You can track your progress online or stay up-to-date with monthly emails.

3. Bank RateA comprehensive, objective financial literacy site providing information on financial news, money management and calculators for budgeting.

Personal Finance—Budgeting Calculator

Student Loans—Student Loan Calculator

4. Hands on BankingAccess free online financial courses that are self-paced with information and tools, such as calculators, glossary, worksheets, money management tips, and helpful links. The program provides the essentials of financial education, real-world skills, and knowledge through interactive lessons based on age appropriate groups.

*Many financial institutions provide their own mobile apps for banking-on-the-go for either checking your account or watching your monthly budget/spending plan.

Test your budgeting knowledge and win “dessert on us” with a Brynn’s gift card!

How to participate:

1. Register at

2. Participate in the quiz of the week.

Quizzes are located at the bottom of the home page under Resources.

Quiz schedule:  April 4-10: What’s Your Budgeting IQ?


Not sure how to plan or budget for student loan repayment after graduation?

Visit next week for expert advice from Tom Benza, Associate Director of Student Financial Aid.


Giving It the Old College Try: A Sophomore’s Approach to Making the Most of a Career Event!

Hayden Lineberger Compass Final

My name is Hayden Lineberger and I am from Winston-Salem, NC. I am a rising junior majoring in Business and Enterprise Management with a concentration in Marketing. My minor is Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise. I hope to work in brand marketing for a large consumer packaged goods company. I have applied to several companies for a summer internship position in marketing and hope to build my business skills through the experience.  

Tell us about your visit to MullenLowe and HanesBrands.

HAYDEN:  MullenLowe is a full service prestigious advertising agency known for television, print and digital advertising, web design, and social media. They are headquartered in Boston, with offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Winston-Salem. HanesBrands is the world’s largest manufacturer and marketer of basic apparel. They make and market some of the strongest brands in America – Hanes, Champion, Maidenform, and L’eggs.

I learned about these field trip opportunities through Wake Forest’s Handshake platform. I was fortunate enough to visit both MullenLowe and HanesBrands and learn about the scope of work that these industry leaders perform. At both offices, the Wake Forest students toured the companies and were given an insider’s perspective on their businesses. We were able to ask questions and develop networking connections for future internships and jobs.

Why did you decide to attend this event?

HAYDEN:   I decided to attend these events as both companies are in my possible career field of marketing. I could see myself working for either of these companies after I graduate, and therefore, thought that the trips would be a great opportunity to learn more about the companies and the different marketing jobs and clients that they have.

What would you like to confess about attending the MullenLowe – HanesBrands visit?

HAYDEN:  I would like to confess that I really enjoy the networking aspects of these field trips. It is invaluable to make these contacts for future career opportunities. I always try to get a business card from the people I meet, and follow up with a thank you email.

Would you do anything differently? Did you make any mistakes at the event? If so, what?

HAYDEN:  If I had to do one thing differently, I would have asked more questions than I did – I was afraid to talk too much.

Did you consider the event a success for you? Why or why not?

HAYDEN: Both of these events were a tremendous success for me. At no other time in my life have I been able to take advantage of similar opportunities to network with high level executives.

Hayden, you’re only a sophomore but you are already taking advantage of great career development opportunities. How would you advise someone who is unsure of their career goals, but wants to try something like this?

HAYDEN: I think it is very beneficial to go on these field trips as it exposes you to different industries and helps you decide if the career might interest you.  You can ask questions that also help you gain a better understanding about the different jobs within the companies. There is no better way to gain exposure to an industry then to visit a company and speak with employees.  The time commitment is minimal and the benefits are huge.

Interested in learning more about some of the skills Hayden gained? Join our “How to Succeed on a Job/Internship” Workshop with coach Cheryl Hicks. This event will be taking place on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 at 4 PM in the Innovation Station. Register here!