" />

Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

Amy Willard

Tracking Your Spending Habits

Tracking your spending habits may seem like a daunting task. However, it is the first step in knowing where and how much you are spending daily, weekly and monthly. I challenge you to experiment for a week. You will be surprised on what and how much you spend your money. It is important to track every purchase even the small ones such as a pack of gum.

Here are 3 simple steps to follow:

1.  Save it. Keep your receipts. They will help you remember what you purchased from day to day. They will be useful references when tracking your purchases. Place the receipts into a folder, envelope or shoebox.

2.  Track it. Write down your purchases in a journal or log. Do not include your fixed expenses such as rent. If you prefer, input your expenses into a spreadsheet or online worksheet. Try Wells Fargo’s My Money Journal as a guide. Create your own using Excel.

3.  Calculate it. You want to review what you have spent each day. It is important to calculate your expenses. Total your expenditures at the end of  each day and week for a 7-day total.

What next? Come back on Thursday for budgeting tips and take the quiz for “dessert on us” from Brynn’s.


Celebrating National Financial Literacy Month

Are you fiscally fit? Do you know how much money you spend each week or month? Are you aware of your budget? Do you have a budget? How are you going to repay student loans?

It is wise to start thinking about tracking spending, creating a budget, and preparing for student loan repayment now. You may be surprised by how you easily could save or pay off debt with the money you’re spending.

Be frugal. It doesn’t mean you have to be tight with your money. Be intentional with your spending. Do you really need that Venti Cinnamon Dolce Latte (my favorite) from Starbucks? Probably not.

Be creative. Can you recreate your favorite coffees or teas at home for a fraction of the cost? You will save approximately 80% of your money. Instead of spending >$5.00 for a beverage, save $4 and spend only $1. Small purchases add up to a lot saved.

Experiment for a week. Track everything you purchase. Yes, even write down the pack of gum bought at the convenience store. You will find that you may be spending money freely without giving it much thought. Once you start tracking, you’ll notice a shift in how you make decisions on purchases. You will start asking yourself, “Do I really need that pack of gum?”

Don’t know where to start? Luckily, WFU offers CashCourse, a free and unbiased reallife money guide. Get started now, register for a free account. Plus, participate in the weekly finacial literacy quizzes to test your knowledge and a chance to win “dessert on us” with a Brynn’s gift card!  At the end of april you will be entered to win a $25 VISA gift card.

How to participate:

1. Register at http://www.cashcourse.org/. 

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? 

April 11-17: Test Your Student Loan IQ 

April 18-24:  Save or Splurge? 

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

Here’s what you get with CashCourse:

  • A Budget Wizard to build your own monthly budget with your real income and expenses
  • Videos offering quick lessons on financial basics
  • Calculators to help you demystify your debt or set a savings goal
  • Worksheets to help you organize your life, build a budget, and master your student aid
  • Articles on real issues you’re dealing with now, as well as topics to prepare for your future
  • A Financial Experts Wall, where you can submit questions to CashCourse experts
  • Quizzes and courses to test what you know and show you where to go for more information

Want more? Follow the blog for tips on how to become more fiscally fit and build your financial muscle.

Real World Reality Bites – Your Senior Year

Entering your last year in college can be exciting, sad, and daunting.  It’s also a time to take advantage of what Wake Forest has to offer you – one last time.  Perhaps, it’s rolling the Quad after a big win, running in Hit the Bricks, or dancing for Shag on the Mag.  These nostalgic events are important.  To ease some of the anxiety, the OPCD’s WFU alums want to share their advice for soaking up what Wake Forest (and North Carolina) has to offer you before leaving the familiarity of college and starting this thing called life after college.

Here are their bites of reality:

LBLauren Beam (’07, Communication and Religion), Assistant Director, Mentoring Resource Center and Alumni Personal and Professional Development

Free Time.

Enjoy all of the free time you have while you’re in college (yes, you heard me right – you have free time!). I often hear Wake Forest students say that they are “so busy” and I know that they have a lot on their plates. However, you will never have more free time during the day in your life than you do while you’re in college. Take advantage of those hour long breaks in the mornings or afternoons between classes and other activities – go on a walk with a friend, invest in meaningful relationships, stop by a professor’s office hours just to chat, take a nap, read a book for fun! Once you get into the “real world,” you’ll find that you’re at work from 8:00am in the morning until 5:00 or 6:00pm in the evening. If you get married, have kids, and/or own a house, those responsibilities quickly take up all of your evening time after work. Before you know it, it’s 9:00pm, you finally have a few moments to yourself and you’re exhausted. You’ll look back on college and say “that was so easy! I miss all that free time!” Take advantage of your current situation and enjoy it!


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

Take a Chance. 

Take a chance. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go skydiving. Or maybe you’ve been thinking about taking studio art class despite not having formal art training in the past. Maybe it’s something simple like trying some kind of new cuisine, or exploring Winston-Salem in a way that takes you out of your comfort zone. Regardless of how you do it, take a chance.

Jana FritzJana Frtiz (‘15, Communication), Presidential Fellow for the OPCD

Take Advantage.

As a Wake Forest undergraduate, you have had the unique opportunity to be completely surrounded by bright, exciting, and talented young people, professors, and administrators.  This opportunity may only happen once or twice in a lifetime…so take advantage of it! Go to lectures in Wait Chapel; take that one class that sparks your attention; create a meaningful relationship with a professor or mentor.  Don’t look at senior year as a year of “lasts”, but rather your chance to take with you all of the life lessons this place has taught you.  You may be leaving campus in May, but remember that you can create your own little Wake Forest wherever you go.  This community stays with you for life!


Jessica LongJessica Long (‘05, Communication), Assistant Director, Career Education and Coaching

Enjoy Wake Forest.

Enjoy your senior year. It’s your last year in college and you’ll be entering the real world soon. Take time to enjoy Wake Forest and all it has to offer. Check out the events calendar and do something on campus or in the Winston Salem community that you’ve never done before. Spend time with your friends and take time out of your busy schedule to do things you like doing. You’ll look back and be thankful for the memories you made during your last year of college.


DeeDe Pinckney (’09, Communication), Assistant Director, Marketing and Communication

Explore Beyond the Bubble.

Escape the bubble! Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville and much of NC has lots to offer. Don’t define your entire college experience by only what’s on campus. Plan a day trip or two and experience the world beyond Wake right in your own backyard. Why wait for post exams to roadtrip with friends? You can never have too many fun memories with your college besties. Graduation may take you all in different directions and the memories you create now will make for great stories in the future.

TIP: Update Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile

Don’t miss the opportunity to highlight the skills you developed during your summer internship! Before you get too far removed from your internship, you’ll want to update your resume by highlighting the new skills developed and projects accomplished during the experience. A resume plays an important role in the hiring process for internships and jobs. Often, the resume is the first impression an employer receives on you. So, you want to market your professional brand and skills to potential employers. If you kept a journal, review it for specific skills and tasks completed on key projects. It will help guide what you want emphasize on your resume. Remember, you want to highlight skills relevant to the internship or job to which you are applying. A position’s job description is another great reference when updating your resume. Review the job description for sought-after skills and highlight the skills you possess on your resume. It is not uncommon to have a few different resumes to match each position you wish to receive an interview. You want to be the qualified person employers are searching for in a candidate.

Similar to your resume, your LinkedIn profile can be a first impression of you. Did you know that when you Google your name your LinkedIn profile is one of the top ten links found on you? Use your resume to update your LinkedIn profile with the skills and projects obtained during your internship. This will ensure your profile matches your resume. LinkedIn is not only your online resume, but a resource for connecting and networking with alumni and employers. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, learn more by viewing the video below.

For assistance, come by the Office of Personal and Career Development during resume review hours to receive tips and advice on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Review hours are: Monday through Thursday 1 – 4 p.m. Exceptions: extended hours 1 – 5 p.m. on September 17; and no reviews on September 2 and November 27-28. The last day of reviews for the semester will be December 5.

Visit the Career Development website for additional information and tips on resumes and LinkedIn.

TIP: Telling Your Story: Market Your Skills

Learn how to easily communicate your value to interviewers, using work, academic, and personal examples.

Watch the video to learn more about how to articulate your internship experience in an interview.

Stumped about how to communicate your potential value to an interviewer? A key to interviewing effectively is articulating how your skills relate to the specific job, and sharing stories of times you’ve demonstrated them. You see, to a potential employer, the best evidence of how you will perform on their job is how you’ve performed in the past. Providing specific examples will help them “see” you in their job and can sell them on hiring YOU. Start by reviewing the job/internship description, noting the skills and abilities required. Then, use the STAR formula for creating and telling your stories:

S or T : Situation or task you faced

A: Action(s) you took

R: Positive results of your actions (quantify when possible here)

Prepare for the interview by telling your stories to friends, OPCD counselors, and anyone else that will listen, until you feel comfortable sharing them in everyday conversation. Give enough detail so that your listeners fully comprehend the circumstances you were in, but limit your story to three minutes or less. Ask for feedback on your content and delivery, as well as the abilities evident in your story. I promise, you’ll be amazed at all the skills others see.

Make your preparation for future interviews easier, by beginning a STAR journal to record your experiences and important projects.

TIP: Completed the Internship! Now What?

Congratulations! You completed your summer internship working in an industry you selected as a potential career path. You now have experience in a field that you can speak about during interviews. Now what?

The experience you gained this summer is too important to dismiss. So, I don’t want you to simply check the internship box and move on…Too frequently, we rush to complete a task without giving it much thought. It is easy to return to school and forget about your internship experience. You will miss a vital step in the learning process of your experience – Reflection. What do I mean by reflection? Reflection is making time to ask questions about the experience and discovering how you will move forward as a result. I recommend you review your goals, scan your journal for projects and tasks completed, reflect on the people you met, and areas of strength and improvement. This review will help you develop yourself as well as capture stories you can use for future internship and job interviews.

Schedule time now before temptation surrounds you to put it off for another day. Reflection will not be a priority once you set foot on campus. To help guide the reflection process, use the following questions:

1) As a result of this internship, I learned the following about myself:

2) What is the most important thing I learned about myself?

3) What did I like and/or not like about the internship? Therefore, I’m going to…

4) What are 2-3 things I consider my strengths? How am I going to further develop my strengths?

5) What skills did I develop? How can I apply these skills to academic coursework, extracurricular activities, future internships and post-grad life?

6) What new skills, knowledge, and abilities did you learn? How can I apply these new skills, knowledge, and abilities to academic coursework, extracurricular activities, future internships and post-grad life?

7) What is an area of improvement? How do I plan to develop this area?

8) What are 2-3 things am I interested in learning more about in the industry? How am I going to seek this information?

Get started by printing or downloading the internship reflection worksheet. Upon completion of the reflection exercise, you may need to adjust your internship and job search and career goals based on the information gathered about yourself and the experience. For additional information on reflecting on your internship, visit the career development website. If you need help, schedule a meeting with a career counselor to discuss how to apply your new knowledge in your career search.

Visit the Professional Confessional next week for a video on how to develop and tell your story to market your skills in internship and job interviews.


TIP: Staying Connected: Follow-Up and The Importance of a Thank You

Set yourself apart from other interns by staying connected and following up with your supervisor and key contacts (your network). It is important to continue to build your professional brand and reputation after your internship. A great example is to send a handwritten thank you note expressing your appreciation for the experience, guidance, and growth. You will make a great impression if you send a note to everyone who impacted your experience. Also, if you find an interesting article related to their industry, share it with them. It shows you have interest in news and trends related to their company and industry. The more you give to them; the more they will be willing to give back to you.

Read further as our employers share their thoughts on the importance of staying connected, following up, and sending thank you notes at the conclusion of an internship.

CSX logo

Lauren Dealexandris, Director of Intermodal Finance

Follow up is important throughout your career for several reasons. The contacts you make during that important first career experience may become future references, networking connections, or a potential hiring manager. We seriously consider our interns for full time positions, so that impression counts. In addition, it is an unbelievably small world and you never know when paths will cross again, so it is wise to build instead of overlook or burn bridges. Finally, this type of correspondence shows professionalism and maturity; it is not something everyone does, and you may be surprised at the responsiveness from employers. This helps build your brand and reputation with employers.

Deloitte logo

Liz Hannah, Carolinas Campus Recruiter

Timely follow-up is crucial to your success as a professional and is an effective way to reiterate your interest in a firm. Thank you notes are always greatly appreciated, but unfortunately, they often have spelling or grammatical errors which can hinder a candidate in the process. I would suggest exhaustively proofreading any thank you notes or emails before they are sent. In regards to promptly addressing a full-time offer following an internship, we highly value a quick response.



Meghan Hayden, HR Functional Development Manager

A thank you note may be your last opportunity to make an impression, so don’t let it go to waste.

Use your note to personally thank someone for their time and efforts. State specifically some of the things you learned in the role, and how you might use those skills in the future. Ask for support from your manager for a full-time role, or thank them for already providing that support.  Close the message by opening the door for future contact. You can tell a manager that you will call them in a few weeks or months to find out how a project is progressing, or to catch up on the outcome of one of your classes. If you make a commitment, keep it.

(Don’t forget, in business correspondence a thank you should always be a typed letter or e-mail, not a hand-written card.)


TIP: Receiving Feedback on Your Performance

Before you leave your internship, you’ll want to gather feedback from your supervisor. Seeking feedback helps you uncover your hidden strengths and weaknesses. The feedback is based on your performance and skills demonstrated during the internship. Unlike your academic coursework, you don’t receive a grade on every task you complete on the job. Oftentimes, the only time you receive feedback on your work is during annual evaluation. However, you may be fortunate to have frequent meetings with your supervisor to solicit feedback on your performance throughout the year. The internship is a great place to practice receiving feedback in a professional manner. It is best to have these conversations in person rather than by phone or email. This can be accomplished by requesting a meeting with your supervisor. Don’t wait until the last day of your internship or after you leave! Schedule the meeting one to two weeks prior to your departure date. Therefore, your job performance and contributions will be fresh on his/her mind.

Make it easy for your supervisor by providing him/her with a performance feedback evaluation form. Prior to the meeting, use the form to reflect upon your experience and self-evaluate each competency area. If you kept a journal of internship projects and experiences, use it as a reference to write down concrete examples of how you demonstrated specific skills. The form will help guide the conversation with your supervisor. “An oral review of the written evaluation can provide you with several benefits, including preparation for performance review sessions with future employers, meaningful self-reflection on the significance of the work-learning experience, and focused dialogue with a professional in the field about your readiness for a particular career path or position. Most importantly, in-depth discussions centered upon established performance standards could enhance the likelihood that you would leave the internship with a more realistic understanding of your professional performance.”[1] This may be the only opportunity to receive specific feedback on your work as an intern. Ask your supervisor to review the form, rate your performance, and provide examples of skills demonstrated during the internship. These examples will help guide you in further developing your skills for life after college.

When you return to school, use the feedback evaluation form (from your reflection and the feedback received from your supervisor) to select areas for improvement, and seek opportunities to build those skills in the coming year. The skill-building directory is a great resource for searching for opportunities on campus to develop and strengthen your skills. I encourage you to continue building your professional skill set by using a variety of methods such as academic coursework, extra-curricular and co-curricular experiences, and educational workshops.

[1] http://www.naceweb.org/s06122013/intern-performance-review.aspx

TIP: Asking for a Recommendation – Part 2

OPCD Expert Contributor – Lauren Beam, Assistant Director of Alumni Personal and Professional Development

A common question that I receive from students during internship search season in the Spring semester is “How do I go about asking my supervisor from my last summer’s internship for a letter of recommendation or to serve as a reference?” Obviously, many students forget this all-too-important task at the end of their internship and ultimately put it off until applications for the next summer’s internships begin.

There are several risks involved with waiting to ask for a recommendation or reference. First, your work abilities and strengths will no longer be fresh on your supervisor’s mind. As a result, your supervisor may not be able to articulate the value that you could bring to a future employer once eight or more months have passed. Second, if you have not kept in touch with your supervisor, they may be unclear about your career path and where you are headed. This can be a difficult and awkward conversation to have via email or phone, which is why an in-person conversation during the summer is much more useful. You will want your supervisor to be clear about your career goals to best write you a letter that reflects your related skill set. Finally, you want to show respect for your internship supervisor’s time. By waiting until January or February when summer applications are due, your supervisor may not have enough turnaround time to write you a letter before deadlines hit. Asking for a letter of recommendation or reference towards the end of your summer internship experience is beneficial to both you and your supervisor.

Another common internship question often comes from rising seniors. Many of these students are interested in full-time job opportunities with their internship employer for after graduation. Some companies (depending on the career industry) are known for making offers to some of their interns at the end of the summer, based on internship performance and the number of entry-level job openings available. If your internship site does not have a process for making end-of-summer job offers, you may also want to inquire about job opportunities in a meeting with your supervisor as the summer comes to a close. Be sure to emphasize your interest in the company, how much you learned through your summer experience, and your desire to contribute to their organization in the future. Then, proceed with a verbal inquiry about full-time positions and how you should proceed in the coming year. For some employers, they may be interested in hiring you, but will ask that you check back in with them via phone or email in late Fall or early Spring when they have more information about their hiring needs and open positions.

TIP: Asking for a Recommendation – Part 1

OPCD Expert Contributor – Lauren Beam, Assistant Director of Alumni Personal and Professional Development

Securing a letter of recommendation, reference, or future job offer from your internship supervisor is best done in person and towards the end of your summer internship experience. Here are some tips and advice for how to do the “asking.”

Watch the video highlighting six steps to asking for a recommendation.

To learn more, read further for details on asking for a recommendation.

Why Ask for a Letter of Recommendation Now vs. Later?

1 – Your performance is fresh in your supervisor’s mind.

2 – You can have an in-person conversation about your future career goals.

3 – It’s not last minute (i.e. the following Spring semester when job and internship applications are due) and provides more time for the supervisor to write a letter for you.

Steps to Asking for a Letter of Recommendation:

1 – Set up a Meeting: Set up a meeting with your direct supervisor and/or other key colleagues that you have worked closely with over the summer. Schedule approximately 1-2 weeks before your internship ends.

2 – Get Feedback and Discuss Career Goals: Use the meeting(s) as an opportunity to get feedback on your performance throughout the summer – what you did well, areas for improvement. You may also use this time to share what you learned and the next steps in your career trajectory. If you are a rising senior, you may also express interest in full-time job opportunities, if available, within the organization.

3 – Ask for the Letter of Recommendation: As the meeting comes to a close, this would be an appropriate time to ask for the letter of recommendation and/or to list your supervisor as a reference on future applications. You might say “As my internship is coming to an end, do you feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for me to use for future applications and opportunities?”

4 – Provide Supporting Materials: Have a copy of your resume (updated with your summer internship experience) for your supervisor to refer to when writing your letter. You may also choose to provide examples of your work from the summer and any other supporting materials to help your supervisor best capture your skill set and value to a future employer.

5 – Say “Thank You”: A “thank you” note goes a long way. As your internship draws to a close, you should write a hand-written “thank you” note to your supervisor (for their support throughout the summer and for the letter of recommendation) and any other colleagues that have assisted you throughout your internship.

6 – Stay in Touch: Stay in touch with your supervisor and provide periodical updates throughout the year on your career progression. For example, you would want to give them a “heads up” when using their letter of recommendation or name/contact information as a reference on a job or internship application. Keeping your supervisor in the loop will enable them to speak highly of you when contacted by a potential new employer.