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Heather Knight and Mariam Maites discussing Family Works to the participants.

VSU students get career experience with Groundhog Shadow Day

Navigating the course load of your major is stressful enough, but then there is also the future job search to contend with.

VSU’s Career Opportunities helps students alleviate these issues in several ways, including their annual Groundhog Shadow Day.

Since 2015, this event has helped students gain successful career exploration by shadowing local professionals.

“It’s a pun,” Phenix Culbertson, Career Opportunities employer relations specialist, said. “We take the ‘shadow’ from Groundhog Day and apply to the job shadowing. We normally do this event on the actual day itself, but this year falls on a Saturday, so we’re ahead of schedule.”

Culbertson said that shadowing is important for students to gain a real world understanding of their major and to see if it’s something they would like to continue with.

“Job shadowing is one form of providing experiential learning, so instead of just providing them with knowledge from the classroom, we give them experience in their job field,” he said. “This helps them to determine whether they want to keep pursuing their current direction or try something else.

“Putting together this event was a process. We developed a list of potential employers and laid the groundwork for it. We called and emailed their administration and [pitched] the idea to them and [explained] its importance. VSU has a great reputation and a number of employers are VSU alumni, so it makes them willing to work us.”

Groundhog Shadow Day started at 9 a.m. on Feb. 1 in the University Center Cypress Room.

The students met for breakfast and an event overview with Culbertson then departed to their designated employer sites to get a feel for the daily operations of the company and its

A student discussing her trip to the coroner’s office.

employees’ duties.

Culbertson said that this portion of the event is a strategic way for students to market themselves to a potential employer.

“This takes you to the employer, and it often gives the student motivation to ask engaging questions and really use this time to your advantage,” he said. “It’s inherent networking. It’s the first contact, that first impression, that really makes a difference.”

After two hours of shadowing, the students came back to VSU for lunch and a presentation from Family Works interns Heather Knight and Mariam Maites as well as career counselors from the Careers Opportunities office.

“We feel as though shadowing gives the students the reality of the field they’re going into,” Knight said. “It gives them the basics of what it will be like [at] the entry level stage, so they won’t be totally surprised when they’re interns like us.”

“At Family Works, we at the clinic deal with therapeutic services for marriages and families, all the issues that come with it and the paperwork,” Maites said. “It works for Heather and I, but students shouldn’t be realizing a career doesn’t work for them at an internship, so late in the game.”

This year, the shadowing targeted sociology, anthropology and criminal justice majors. Culbertson said the event normally focuses on smaller majors and departments to prevent them from being overlooked.

Job sites include Belk Asset Association, Choices for Life Georgia LLC, Lowndes County Coroner Office, Valdosta State University Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office.

Story and photos by Malia Thomas, Staff Writer.

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