VFA Virginia Forests Winter 2023

12 VIRGINIA FORESTS How are we successful in a career? Does success happen merely through good luck or happenstance, or is planning important? How can we find purpose, set goals, and plan and execute sequentially to move toward better careers? Let’s consider the goal of connecting students with professionals so that they can learn about—and eventually gain employment in—careers in natural resources. Within the College of Natural Resources and Environment (CNRE) at Virginia Tech, we strive to work towards this goal with purpose. Faculty and staff utilize best practices to create opportunities for students to engage with our industry and agency partners, building career readiness in forestry to fisheries industries and everything in between. In order to accomplish those connections, what does our plan look like? What practices do we utilize to reach our goal? And, most importantly, why do these connections matter? At CNRE, we start by looking at the data. In 2021, employed Virginia Tech graduates reported that the top three ways they engaged with the employer that hired them after graduation included: 1. Career fair events 2. Networking opportunities 3. Previous volunteer or work experience with employers EXPLORING AND LEARNING AT CAREER FAIRS Utilizing a broad approach, Virginia Tech CNRE offers career fair events to our students each spring and fall, attracting an average of 40 natural resource-based employers, as well as 400 students who want to learn about careers, employers, and opportunities. In conjunction with each career fair, we host an evening networking event specifically designed to build student confidence, while allowing participating employers to offer feedback in a relaxed environment. Students practice their introductions, known as elevator pitches, prepare resumés, and participate in speed networking, which consists of rotating students from table to table to talk with multiple employers. PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD Next, we focus on work-related or experiential opportunities. Virginia Tech data shows that 76 percent of 2021 graduates engaged in career-related work as an undergraduate (84 percent of CNRE graduates). This includes volunteer roles, part-time and full-time positions, internships, and undergraduate research opportunities. Looking specifically at internships, the map on page 13 (created by Anna Klewicki, CNRE) shows where our students interned in the summer of 2022. To support these types of opportunities, we engage with employers regularly to discuss how to design and manage WithPurposeandPractice: Connecting Students and Professionals for Careers in Forestry and Natural Resources By John Freeborn