Connect College to Career
Book Review by Danielle Savage
Connect College to Career: A Student’s Guide to Work and Life Transitions. Paul I. Hettich and Camille Helkowski. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005. 173 pages.
Well before Robbins and Wilner employed the term Quarterlife Crisis (2003), I have been struggling to assist graduating seniors who seem in some ways prepared for the transition to the work world and in other ways not at all. As a career counselor I found Connect College to Career by Paul I. Hettich and Camille Helkowski to be an inspiring read and to fill a very great need – both for myself and the undergraduates I interact with.
Connect College to Career provides sound principles of career development theory interspersed with relevant up-to-date psychological research (conducted mainly on samples of students or recent graduates) along with real-life anecdotes and case studies. This combined approach is bound to maintain students’ interest and avoid the potential (incorrect!) reaction of: “We know all of this stuff already!” By encouraging students to examine these issues in-depth as underclassmen, Connect College to Career offers them, in a non-judgmental way, the opportunity to move beyond defensive reactions and begin preparing for entering the job market NOW.
Aptly-named, it takes a domain students know well – the academic sphere – and compares the skills necessary for success there to those which have been deemed by experts to be the most effective in the workplace. The approach extends way beyond what most students would consider career-related issues, to delve into fundamental attitudes about oneself and one’s work. Careful discussions of professional competencies such as personal organization/time management skills, coordinating people and tasks, risk taking, decision-making, and goal setting allow the reader to fully comprehend the many dimensions that they entail, why they are important, and how students can develop them while they are still in school. When Hettich and Helkowski stress the importance of interactive classroom situations, study abroad, internships, and other experiential learning situations, they supply clear justifications supported by studies why rather than just rattling off what students “should be” doing.
Chapters cover crucial topics such as the nature of transitions, young adult psychological development, theories and kinds of intelligence, intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, learning styles, written and unwritten workplace rules, work and how it relates to one’s passion/values/dreams/creativity, along with resume writing and interview preparation.The many pressures that come into play after graduation are sensitively described, and the authors highlight the importance of being part of a community and actively creating one's personal network– to help offset these pressures. Each chapter opens with inspiring quotations and concludes with journal exercises, websites for further consultation, and references of cited sources, all designed to persuade students to take their learning a step further and integrate key issues into their self-knowledge. Interactive activities designed to spark deeper thinking abound. A self-assessment scale at the outset allows students to gauge their attitudes and expectations, and the last chapter exhorts students to shift from awareness to action by setting up their own personal DO list based on the material covered in the preceding chapters.
Quotes like the following may present the career outlook of today's students as particularly daunting:
…changes in the economy and in the nature of work have pushed responsibilities down the employee hierarchy to the point where college graduates are now expected to enter employment with competencies at a much higher level than would have been required one or two decades ago. (Connect College to Career, page 83)
Nevertheless, within the context of the book's concrete and helpful suggestions for advancement, it is more likely to be perceived as a useful "heads-up."
I believe that the best way to utilize this book is in a class or group setting, because if the dense information imparted here is not processed carefully, it will be difficult for students take it all in. Reading Connect College to Career, I kept thinking not only of the individuals I assist on a daily basis but also of myself in their shoes and how this concise overview of relevant information would have been so useful to me as I prepared to embark on life after college. Bringing together so many applicable concepts and frameworks, it can truly support all students in anticipating their future with enthusiasm, not dread, and helps us as career professionals assist them in the process.
Danielle Savage is Career Counselor at The American University of Paris. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto, a Maîtrise from the Université de Paris III la Sorbonne Nouvelle and is currently pursuing a MSc. in Organizational Psychology from the University of London. In addition to NCDA, Danielle is a member of NACE (the National Association of Colleges and Employers), NRWA (the National Resume Writing Association), and several European professional associations. She can be reached at