Fielding the question, “What’s next?” often induces panic for college seniors who are about to explore uncharted waters come May. Through their Life After Jewell program, the Career Development and Internship Office at William Jewell College aims to help mitigate the anxiety of upcoming graduates by equipping them with personal, financial and professional skills and allowing them opportunities to better navigate life off the Hill.

The Life After Jewell program was developed in the spring of 2014. Approximately 80 to 100 seniors have participated in at least one activity or event since its inception. The Life After Jewell activities in the fall include free professional portraits- an important component for LinkedIn profiles-, a job hunting workshop and a graduate school dinner and discussion in October, as many seniors strive to submit grueling graduate school applications by the end of November and the beginning of December. The senior experience session and dining etiquette “Lunch and Learn” is one of the highest attended events, with close to 40 participants attending last year. This event seats seniors side-by-side with professionals, who can offer insight into their personal and professional success while schooling seniors in the art of fine-dining. Not only is this an opportunity for networking with prospective mentors and employers, but it is also a chance to create a sense of solidarity among the senior class. By engaging in conversations about life after Jewell with their peers, students can aid one another during this trying time.

This year’s senior experience session and dining etiquette “Lunch and Learn” will be held this Sunday, Nov 6 from 10a.m-1:30p.m.

In the spring, Life After Jewell focuses on personal finance, hosting sessions on navigating savings and a “where are you going to live?” session.

“Currently I have a Roth IRA set up and sometimes I forget to be contributing money so going to Life After Jewell reminded me how important savings is,” said Kate McFerran, Jewell 2015 graduate. “I am definitely continuing to put money in that and making it a goal.”

These discussions also provide critical information for students managing impending undergraduate debt.

“After the Life After Jewell experience, I really started thinking about how I could pay back my loans and I started looking into teacher forgiveness programs and others specific to my field I hadn’t considered before,” says Jewell 2015 graduate Emily Lynch.

Communicating with and receiving feedback from William Jewell seniors is central to the Life After Jewell operation. The Career Development office alerts seniors about events through mediums such as ongoing emails, campus flyers, social media, the “Check I’m Here” app and class visits. In addition, seniors help shape the programs Life After Jewell offers.

“Our goal is to make the programming as student-driven as possible,” said Marissa Bland, director of the Life After Jewell program. “Both the job hunting and ‘where are you going to live’ sessions were based on specific ideas our students had as a result of being confused and overwhelmed not knowing how to start the job search and not knowing what their living arrangements would be after leaving Jewell. The most successful programming is when the students are really engaged in identifying topics that matter to them the most.”

Bland and the Career Development office welcome suggestions for discussions, event proposals and any questions that William Jewell seniors may have.

Apart from Life After Jewell, the Career and Development Office offers additional assistance for all William Jewell students transitioning to the real world, such as a Career Mentor Program- connecting Jewell students with leaders from their fields of interest- resources for constructing resumes and cover letters, mock-interviews and resources for students to select their major. The Jewell community is also committed to ensuring that students are prepared to master their physical health after school. In previous years, Senior Program Coordinator Greg Irr orchestrated a cooking series during Jewell time led by chefs from Fresh Ideas.

As someone who has navigated the post-undergraduate world herself, Bland offers some personal advice to William Jewell seniors.

“My advice would be related to one of my favorite quotes, ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’,” said Bland. “Although you cannot always control when certain opportunities will be available to you, you can still always ask yourself what you are doing now and who are you connecting with to prepare yourself when those opportunities arise.”

Bland hopes to see the numbers of seniors who participate in Life After Jewellevents grow.

“With your future, take the driver’s seat. Be proactive. Own your experiences. Do all that, and at the same time, be adaptable,” said Bland.

Feature photo by Amy Kontras.