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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

Amy Willard

Stay Connected to Mother So Dear

Stephen Edwards

Stephen Edwards (‘10), Office of Alumni Engagement, Assistant Director of Young Alumni and Student Engagement
edwardsj@nullwfu.edu / @stephenjedwards

Welcome to the Alumni Family, Class of 2015!

Hard to believe you heard your name called out in front of so many friends and family as you walked across stage, isn’t it? A graduate of Wake Forest University. Congratulations! When you stepped foot onto the Quad for the first time in high school, you probably did not expect that this place would have the impact it did on you, nor you on it. But what now? How do you stay connected with a place you care about deeply, when you and your fellow graduates might be teaching English in Belgium or running financial models on Wall Street, and everything in between in every part of the world. Having learned a great deal about staying “connected” my first four years out of Wake living in Dallas, TX and now working back at Mother So Dear, here is some advice on how to stay connected to Wake Forest, one another, and the work we can do together.

Stay Connected with the University

Let’s get the obvious out of the way…while you may not miss the stress of an exam week, more than likely, you are going to miss the wonder of this wonderful place, the friends you made, the influence of mentors, coaches, professors, and so many other amazing people you met here. There is just something about little ol’ Wake Forest. Now, as a graduate, I encourage you to stay in touch with this special place… here are some ways to stay connected with the University:

  • Alumni Office: Update your contact information, set up your Gmail account, use the alumni directory, and more.
  • OPCDUtilize the vast resources provided around alumni personal and career development.
  • ZSR LibraryTake advantage of free database resources whether in graduate school or as a tool in your industry.
  • LinkedIn: Join the WFU Alumni Group and the 25+ alumni subgroups by industry and geography.
  • Homecoming: (September 25-26 this year) to visit underclassmen friends, catch the football game, and more
  • Twitter, Instagram & Facebook: As always, stay connected with Wake Forest via social media for updates on news, events, and much more.

Stay Connected with the Deacon Family

Being a Deacon is a connection that runs deep, and I encourage you to make meaningful social and professional connections through this network. There are nearly 50 local WFU Alumni clubs around the world, so wherever you are moving, more than likely, there is an active group of Deacs waiting for you to get connected with them! You can find the list here.  Through these Deacon communities, you are provided the opportunity to be a volunteer, mentor to current students, participate in job shadow programs, attend exciting events like “Hack the Met” in NYC, hear from healthcare industry leaders in Boston, attend a Nationals game in DC with young alumni, take a behind the scenes winery tour in San Francisco and much more. Regardless of how you want to stay connected, the local clubs are a great way to deepen your relationship with other Deacon alumni, family, and friends.

Stay Connected with the Mission

Lastly, I encourage you to look for opportunities to be an ambassador of Wake Forest, living out a spirit of “Pro Humanitate”. That may mean serving regularly with a community partner seeking to meet social services or make an impact on areas of injustice in your city (did you hear about Pro Humanitate Day?), but it can also mean other things as well. Consider serving with the Admissions Office, as an alumni volunteer, partnering with the Alumni Office as a local club young alumni leader, or investing in the future of Wake Forest as best you can. Always share your love of Wake Forest with your family, friends, and local community, strengthening ties to Wake Forest wherever you are from, or wherever you live now.

All the best to each of you in your personal and professional endeavors. While graduation may seem like an ending of sorts, it is the beginning of an exciting journey as alumni of this great place! There is nothing like the Old Gold and Black.



Transitions. Letting Go and Moving Forward.

Transition is something we face on campus no matter our role within the community.  We experience several transitions within one academic year – move-in, winter break, move-out, graduation, and summer break.  I found the post below by Allison McWilliams insightful in providing a thoughtful perspective in coping with the transition you may be experiencing as the semester draws to a close as summer break begins.  I encourage you to read further and share with others in transition.

Transitions. Letting Go and Moving Forward.

Originally published on May 4, 2015 by Allison McWilliams, Ph.D. for the Mentoring Resource Center Blog

Transitions, no matter how well-equipped you are or how ready you feel, are almost always hard. There is a real process of letting go that requires acknowledgement and a certain amount of grieving. Things will be left behind – both physically and emotionally. It could be that some of your stuff, which seemed so important to you, will not fit in your new space. It could be that the way that you’ve always managed things in the past won’t work as well in the future. People who have been your support system may not be with you on your new journey. To brush past this, to pretend like it may not be happening, is to cheapen it. And, let’s be honest: deal with it now, or deal with it later, you’re going to have to deal with it.

William Bridges talks about three stages of transition. First there is this letting go process, which he calls the “ending.” At the other end of that is a “new beginning.” But the hardest part, and possibly the most important part, is what happens in between, the “neutral zone,” as he calls it. This is when people are in “free fall,” tied neither to what they just left nor to what is to come. For some, this stage is incredibly freeing: there are no rules! There is no stuff! I can do whatever I want! But for many, this stage is fraught with confusion and tension. What do I hold onto? What is going to happen when I land?

The end of a school year is a transition for everyone involved. For some of us, who work here, it’s a period of relief that we in some ways work towards all year. For a couple of months, we can relax our minds, relax our schedules, relax our dress codes even. For many of our students it’s a transition to summer plans that may include travel to new places, taking on a new job or internship, even just moving back home to a familiar place but in a new role. But for our seniors, this is a stage of enormous free fall. They are daring to step out (OK, maybe be pushed out a bit) into the unknown, beyond the walls of this safe and familiar place. They are moving to a new city, taking on new roles as alumni and young professionals and graduate students. They are leaving close friends, familiar restaurants, beloved faculty and staff members. And sure, it’s exciting. But it’s scary, too. They haven’t quite reached their new beginning, yet.

So, if you know one of these young people, give them an extra hug, an extra nod of encouragement, tell them how proud you are of them. Remind them that everything that they have done up until this moment has prepared them for this moment, and they are ready. Transitions are hard. Change is uncomfortable. But it’s by facing the hard things, it’s by allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable, that we truly grow into the person we are meant to be.

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!


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 Annualcreditreport.com.

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 “lunch on us” with Chiptole 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 27-May 3: 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 “lunch on us” with Chiptole 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 20-26: 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: finaid@nullwfu.edu

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 “lunch on us” with Chiptole 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 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.

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.


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 next week for budgeting tips.

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 “lunch on us” with a Chipotle 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 6-12:  What’s Your Budgeting IQ? 

April 13-19: Test Your Student Loan IQ 

April 20-26:  Save or Splurge? 

April 27-May 5:  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.

Prepare for the Interview

Last week, you attended the career fair and connected with a few key employers. After the fair, you followed up (within 24-48 hours; I hope) by thanking them for their time and expertise, and sharing your interest in and qualifications for their company. You spoke with them by phone or during an information session. You discover they were impressed with you and your skill set. You receive an invitation to interview. You are excited, yet nervous. (Gulp) Now what do you do? How do you prepare for an interview?

Watch the video to find out how best to prepare for an interview.

For detailed information, read further…

Before the interview:

1) Research the company’s website. Knowing the employer thoroughly will help set you apart during the interview process. In addition to reviewing the employer’s website, useful information can be found by searching recent news and articles of the organization from one of our recommended Career Exploration Websites such as Glassdoor or Hoover’s Online and Business Source Complete, available through the ZSR Library’s online databases.

2) Prepare…

  • Responses to questions they may ask you during the interview. Employers will ask general questions and behavioral questions.
  • Questions you want to ask the company about the position and information not readily available on the company website or career exploration sites.

3) Practice interviewing…ask friends, OPCD counselors, and use mock interviews to practice. Gather feedback on your content and delivery. Another resource is interview stream – an online format for interview practice.

During the interview:

1) Be…

  • Early. Arrive 10-15 minutes before the scheduled interview time.
  • Professional. Appearance is important. It is best to be conservative than too casual. Offer a firm handshake when introducing yourself. An initial judgment to hire you will be made within the first 30 seconds of meeting you.
  • Confident and relaxed. You don’t want to appear fidgety and nervous.
  • Smile. Show interest and enthusiasm for the position and company.

2) Answer questions. Ask for clarification if needed. You can request a few seconds to gather your thoughts before answering a question.

3) Ask questions related to the position and company. Remember, don’t ask questions when answers can be found on their website unless you are seeking clarification.

After the interview:

1) Close the interview with a firm handshake.

2) Ask about the timeline for hiring a candidate.

3) Follow up. Send a thank you letter to everyone who interviewed you expressing interest in the position, connecting a few specifics of the conversation, and how you make a good fit and meet qualifications they seek in a candidate.