Preparing for the "Real World"

A Gardner-Webb education will prepare you for life and work beyond college. No matter what you major in, the Professional Readiness Requirement built into every major ensures that you pursue at least one internship, service, leadership, or study abroad experience during your time at GWU. You’ll be able to choose which experience you’d like to pursue, and you aren’t limited to just one. The PRE is designed to give each student additional practical and relevant professional development experience that is related to their chosen career field. There is a high degree of flexibility and choice built in, which allows you to mix and match one or all experiences for your benefit.

Here are some tips and tricks for finding (and landing!) the best internship, service, leadership, and study abroad experiences on and off campus. 

Know your offices.

There are fantastic offices across campus with caring staff who will help you find opportunities for leadership, service, and work. The Office of Christian Life and Service is a go-to resource for missions and service opportunities, as well as employment with churches and campus across the nation. They organize a variety of trips, both domestic and international, throughout the year. Alongside organizing career, networking, and professional readiness events, The Center for Personal and Professional Development works with employers to publicize internships and job opportunities to current students. Staff in offices like Housing, International Programs, and Student Activities may also have connections to other opportunities, or offer internal internship programs. They say it’s all about who you know, and it’s easy to get to know people on our close-knit campus. 


Take initiative.

While the Office of International Programs puts together and offers study abroad experiences yearly, you may decide that you’d rather visit a different country! At GWU, this office offers a lot of flexibility in terms of “designing” your own study abroad experience with a sister school in a different country. Students have participated in exchange programs in Costa Rica, Sweden, Malta, Italy, and more. Simply speaking with or emailing the programs coordinator is all that it takes to build your own study abroad adventure through GWU. Additionally, there are many school-sponsored international programs that happen in the summer and over breaks. Many of these programs, depending on the length, offer course credit for classes taken abroad – which can be a great way to get ahead on your degree while studying outside of your typical classroom! 


Utilize LinkedIn. 

LinkedIn has evolved into THE social network for professionals. It enables you to connect with other working professionals, find jobs and internships, and more. You have the option to upload your resume so that possible employers can see your experience, strengths, and where you are currently employed.  Employers are able to send you messages and vice-versa which helps with the job search, too. Creating a LinkedIn profile early is a good idea – that way you can keep it updated and constantly be searching for new opportunities. It’s best to use a professional headshot or photograph to represent yourself to potential employers. LinkedIn isn’t Facebook – so don’t share every single status update. However, do share about any research, projects, or professional development experiences you participate in as an undergraduate. This builds up your profile and lets other people know what you’re interested and involved in. 


Get involved on campus.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but getting involved with clubs and organizations on campus is a great way to pursue leadership opportunities. From clubs like Student Government to Release The Captives (an anti-human trafficking awareness club), there is sure to be something that aligns with your interests. There are active chapters of most major-specific honors societies; from Alpha Chi to Tri-Beta and Lambda Pi Eta and more. Getting involved with these is a two-fold way to enhance your resume and participate in events specific to your interests. Many of these honors societies have a leadership structure with multiple elected positions. Whether you want to be President or Treasurer, this is a great way to serve your fellow students. If leadership isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways you can serve within your club or organization simply by being an active member. This still builds relationships and can help you form meaningful connections with all kinds of people. 


Start Networking. 

Everything in college is a networking opportunity. You never know who you will come across and it is important to be mindful of how you are presenting yourself at all times. GWU’s Office of Personal and Professional Development hosts networking events throughout the year, so be sure that you keep an eye out for those dates. If networking is a little out of your comfort zone, don’t worry! The key to networking is building genuine relationships – everyone can tell when you’re just networking to network without genuine interest in the other person. Sparking conversation using general questions such as “What do you do,” “Where are you from?” or “What brings you to this event/What is your connection to this place?” are good ways to break the ice. By networking, you’re not only learning how to present yourself as a young professional, but you’re building relationships with established individuals who may have connections within your industry. 


Attend Career Fairs

GWU hosts career fairs throughout the year, and will also organize trips to take students to career fairs held locally. You may think these events are just for seniors, but they are beneficial for underclassmen too! Most organizations offer internship or volunteer programs so you can get involved as a current undergraduate. At our most recent career fair, there were more than 70 employers all looking to hire prospective students for jobs and internships. As you attend these events, it’s important to dress professionally. Bring copies of your resume to hand out – you never know who will need it! Take their business cards and follow-up to see what opportunities they have to offer you. As you build your networking skills and relationships with potential employers, it’s important to do your research on the various companies to stay up to date on their initiatives and openings.