By: Andrew York ‘19
The Career and Calling Conference (Jan. 20 –21) was a professional development seminar unlike most of its kind. The Conference’s teachings focused not only on networking, resume writing and interview skills, but also on personal development, exploring career interests and strengths, and the theology of work. The most novel part of it all: it was for sophomores only.
Professional development is usually a subject thought to be for seniors in college, as they are about to join (or at least, esteem to join) the ranks of the working world, possibly unprepared.
But the College is moving in a direction for the future that seeks to start its students on the professional path much earlier, so “graduates are better prepared with their liberal arts degree to enter the world of work” as Chris Carlson said, the Dean of Students Success.
The idea of a conference specifically for sophomores was a direct result of the College’s 20/20 Vision Project, which is a 2015-2020 strategic plan for better implementing the mission and vision of the school into its future.
Under the project’s fifth goal – which involves blending “experiential learning and vocational discernment” – are these words: “Require a multi-day co-curricular program to assist sophomores with the integration of their Christian faith into all aspects of their vocational development, including resume writing skills, practice for job interviews, and how to pursue their God-given gifts in the job market.”
This year was the first attempt at seeing this goal met, and it was born out of a partnership between the offices of Students Life and Career Services. The Alumni Office was also involved in inviting alumni to participate in professional conversations and networking practice.
It was very much a “pilot” year – as Carlson put it. Carlson was tasked with the project, and was very encouraged by the outcome. Staff members and students alike helped him mobilize the project, people like Jennifer Brink, Aaron Hicks, Pam Lazarakis, Andrea Ribeiro, Hannah Schundler and Isabelle Skillen.
The sessions and workshops were held in Penguin Hall, an all-girls preparatory high school located in Wenham, MA. It was the Hall’s first time hosting a conference of this sort – adding the finishing touches to the room where the keynote address would be given just hours before students arrived.
As the students arrived at the Hall, the truck carrying all the catered food got a flat tire, delaying the schedule by an hour.
But this proved to be a valuable time for students to practice professional mingling skills, and discuss themes of calling and vocation with faculty and staff for an extended period.
Carlson found so much positivity in simply giving sophomores a time to begin thinking of “what work means” and how to pay attention to how they present themselves more than they currently have been.
Christian Ministries major, Jaden Taylor ‘19, was one of those students.
“I have gained a new perspective from this conference,” he said. “As long as I follow God, He will provide in every season in life,” said Taylor.
Taylor specifically cited what Dr. Kenneth Barnes, Director of the Mockler Center for Faith & Ethics in the Workplace for Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary said on the idea of vocation. “Success is never what you are called to, said Barnes.
Those are certainly atypical words in an address to a room of college students seeking to further their professional development. But immediately following that stunning phrase, Barnes added, “You are called to obedience.”
He expounded upon that idea, describing work as worship of God, and choosing to do work well for God’s glory.
“Doing what you love is beyond your control, but loving what you do is not,” he said and left the students to consider how to approach God’s call for their life.