Filtered light trickles through the Victorian frame windows of the Airbnb. The Seattle rain has cleared, but the crisp 53-degree air remains. My iPhone alerts me of the time. It’s 6 a.m. I get dressed and pour a cup of no-name coffee (notable given I’m in the city that put Starbucks on every corner of the world). After my first sip, I put on my best Tim Gunn voice and yell to the slumbering students, “You have 30 minutes. Make it work!” I wait near the stairs to listen for the sound of floorboards creaking as students wake up to begin their adventure.
It’s Monday morning and I’m co-leading the Office of Career and Professional Development’s Career Trek with Executive Director Kelly Dries. The trek includes 11 University of Redlands students, from freshmen to seniors. We will spend three days in boardrooms, visiting alumni, and touring the “No Cameras Allowed” areas at Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Securian Financial, NorthStar Ice Equipment, and Meridian Capital. The trek’s goal is to provide students with networking opportunities and exposure to career pathways they may never have considered.
After we navigate the rush of commuter traffic under the signature Seattle clouds, I do a headcount. I notice the tie of one of the students is draping over his neck like a stole. Hurriedly, I loop the tie around and slide the knot into place. He appears nervous and offers a curt, “Thanks.” I realize how young and inexperienced many of the students are as we are about to enter into the doorway of a Fortune 500 company. Of course, all of our ventures have to begin somewhere.
By the fourth day, I am still rousing students out of bed, adjusting ties, and reminding everyone to grab their notepads. Yet, despite the inelegant morning routines, when they enter the towering glass doors of a corporate suite, a change occurs. Students deliver firm handshakes, sit upright, and engage employers with inquisitive questions as if they were five years into their careers. “How do you maintain a company culture to encourage community?” a student asks. Another inquires, “What do you seek in recent graduates when considering a new hire?” The sincerity of the students’ questions impress the presenters, as they echo, “What a great question!”
As the trip comes to a close, we load into the van and begin our drive. I notice everyone slowly dozing off, worn out from four days of travel and rubbing shoulders with America’s new corporate founders. My mind drifts in welcome silence, only to be interrupted by the site of Mount Rainier reaching above the clouds. It’s a bold signal we have a 974 mile trip home in front of us. However, it prompts me to appreciate how the students learned of possibilities beyond their backyard. They now have the friendships and realized potential to take on their own adventure in search of opportunity.
Learn more about the University of Redlands’ Office of Career and Professional Development.