On Friday (October 14) of the Homecoming Weekend, F&M held a panel called “Careers & Lives after F&M: Four English Majors Tell All” at the Great Room of Ware College House. The panelists are the four accomplished alumni—Latanya N. Jenkins ’99, Reference Librarian for Government Information and Africology & African American Studies at Temple University, Keiran Miller ’15, College Advisor of Pennsylvania College Advising Corps, Elizabeth Ressler ’07, the Senior Director of Commercial Learning Development Advisory Board Company, and Jennifer M. Schlener ’94, the Chief of Staff of Association of American Medical Colleges. The panel was interesting; panelists’ experiences are enriching. Here comes the highlights of numerous lessons this panel provided us:

1. Every Experience Matters!

“It is hard when you are in college to know how the experiences shape you,” Elizabeth Ressler pointed out. She picked her daily routines at F&M as the experiences that benefit her in her career. Planning for deadlines, outlining for papers and writing these papers to meet F&M’s rigorous standards have put her ahead of her many colleagues in outlining, writing business emails, project management and problem-solving. Latanya Jenkins also mentioned that the tools she gained at F&M have made her job easier.

So, as Elizabeth Ressler pointed out, we should not underestimate what we are doing everyday.

2. Grasp the Opportunities at Hand!

Jennifer Schlener recalled that in her generation (i.e. during 1990s), F&M did not yet have mentoring programs for life after college. Students usually figured out by themselves. Now, the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD) is doing a great job, supporting students for their careers at and beyond college. She mentions current student generations are fortunate enough to assess these wonderful resources: “You are afforded many opportunities to develop yourself as leaders.”

So, why don’t we recognize our privilege and grasp these opportunities?

3. Go to the Writing Center!

Elizabeth Ressler, an Honors’ Listed student as well as a Magna Cum Laude, mentioned: “I still went to the Writing Center when I was a senior.” After all, the Writing Center is not a place you go only when you have struggles; it is a place you go because you are willing to improve your work.

So, if we want to improve your work, why don’t we just go for it?

4. Extracurricular Plays a Role!

Jennifer Schlener mentioned that the best of F&M experiences was her extracurricular involvement. She was involved in music and administrative roles—admission and residential life. These experiences enriched her and almost seemed to be foreshadowing her career role, a development leader and the Chief of Staff. For Keiran Miller as well, his involvement in the College Prep Program and other mentorship positions made him realize his keen interest in leadership and mentorship. Through his experiences, he had come to appreciate different sets of personalities he encountered. He saw potential in these students, also saw that most of them did not know about opportunities available in them, and wanted to push them further so that they could stretch their full potential.

So, our extracurricular experiences might be telling something about us, though we might not have noticed yet.

5. Listen to Your Heart!

I believe this is the message which panelists did not explicitly mention yet their experiences suggest. None of them came to F&M, clearly knowing they are gonna major in English. Latanya Jenkins came to as a pre-med; Jennifer Schlener as an accounting major; Keiran Miller, although he knew his passion in creative writing, came with a mindset that he would pursue it just for passion, not for job. Yet, throughout their college experiences, they discovered what they loved, pursued it, made through struggles and now shine. It might sound like a cliché, yet does not make it less important:

So, at least, let’s not ignore our heart when it is telling us what we really love.

6. Yet, Do Not Overload Yourself!

Keiran Miller, a Posse scholar, recounted the story about his sophomore year: he took four classes, was on three executive boards and had three jobs. Back then, he somehow thought that if he was not doing something, he felt like he was doing nothing. He shared what he had learned from this tough, somewhat restless year: sometimes, people say, get involved as much as you can; yet, you should really think about what you are involved in and whether you really like it. Perhaps involving in two to three things of your interest and really delved into them would be better than just involving in several activities.

So, while we should be ambitious, we should not overwork ourselves.

7. Overall, Networking Matters!

The panelists generally mentioned that at some points of their time at F&M, they wish they were more involved, more bold, more courageous, and mingled more in the community. Their comments stressed the role of meeting with new people and creating social circles—networking. Today’s student generations have opportunities to network through OSPGD. Several alumni are also willing to support the students in their career development. So, all the students need to do is show up at such networking events and build relationships.

So, after all, let’s be bold, be curious and step out of our comfort zone!