Are you a first-year student who recently settled into the routine of your new home on the Hill and is wondering about who you are and where you fit in this new environment? Maybe you’re a sophomore who is feeling a newfound pressure to declare your major? A junior who is searching for an internship to gain professional experience in your field of interest? Or a senior who recently came to the realization that your undergraduate career will soon end, so you want to arrange stellar post-graduate plans?
No matter your current predicament, the buzz about vocational interests and career planning never ceases at St. Olaf. Oles have high standards, especially when it involves planning their futures. This can create a stressful environment for students, but luckily there are phenomenal on-campus resources to help alleviate some of that pressure. The Piper Center for Vocation and Career is here to save the day (and also the days to come)! Located in Tomson 270, the Piper Center is devoted to helping Oles succeed on and off campus and even after graduation. The process of vocational discernment comes in all shapes and sizes; some students begin college without any plan at all and others enter knowing exactly what they want to study. Nothing is required during this potentially hectic decision-making process, except an open-mind. The office is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday by Peer Advisors and Career Coaches who are willing and able to answer any questions.
My name is Haley Schreier, and I work in the Piper Center as a Peer Advisor. I am passionate about being a resource for my peers as they work through any issues in relation to vocation. When I was presented with the opportunity to work in an environment that revolves around professionalism and planning ahead, I was a bit weary. Since my first year at St. Olaf, I have switched my major seven times, joined and since quit at least four different extracurricular activities, and even managed to transfer to a Big Ten University for a semester and subsequently return to St. Olaf the following semester. Indecision has truly been the name of the game for me. And unlike many of my coworkers and peers, I spent my past two summers climbing mountains and camping in the Colorado Rocky Mountains as a camp counselor rather than interning at professional firms.
Initially, I felt as though my experiences inhibited me from entering into the professional world after college, but I’ve since realized that we all travel on winding paths to our future careers and the “non-traditional” path can be much more beneficial than the standard one that our parents or peers followed. That is what we emphasize in the Piper Center – every student should follow his or her own chosen path and that a major does not define a student’s entire future. My favorite task is helping students utilize the self-assessment tests that we offer (i.e. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) because these allow students to be introspective and honest with themselves. I also love advising students searching for opportunities to travel to volunteer internationally for academic credit or go simply because they have a passion.
My focus in the office is on the Quo Vadis Sophomore Retreat. I work along side Nate Jacobi to organize an overnight conference for sophomores that focuses specifically on self-reflection and vocational interests. Feedback from this event has been nothing but positive in the past. Students return to campus feeling refreshed and empowered to connect with other Oles and seek out unique experiences. Registration for this event begins on September 26th and has filled quickly in the past, so be sure to secure a spot right away if you are a sophomore and feel that a relaxing overnight retreat would be beneficial for you!
If I could give myself a piece of advice as a freshman or sophomore (and even still today) it would go something like this: Learn to embrace change and ambiguity. Being enthusiastic and flexible in regards to new people, places, ideas and plans will allow you to experience college in a limitless fashion. Stay awake. (But not all night, if you can help it). In all seriousness, do not let college become a mundane routine. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open to the small joys that life offers daily. Seek out unique experiences that set you apart from your peers and embrace your quirks.
Wherever you are in your process, from pondering your academic interests to interviewing for a full-time “adult” job, the Piper Center is here as a resource. The Peer Advisors have experienced much of the same quandaries as you and we aim to lessen pressure you may be feeling. This year is going to be filled with experiences that could modify what you hope to do in your future, and we hope that you whole-heartedly embrace those changes.
Best of luck, Oles!