Discussing Student Success With Fredonia Career Counselor, Christopher LaGrow

Updated: May 2

On the second floor of Gregory Hall, riddled with snoopy figurines and Game of Thrones paraphernalia, there exists the office of career counselor, Christopher Lagrow. It is a homey room that expresses just who he is; a professional and deeply committed counselor with an err of natural informality.

According to Fredonia’s Career Development Office webpage, LaGrow has been working for the CDO since 2004. His focus has been on student appointments, group presentations, employer visits and planning the Graduate School Fair and Job and Internship Expo.

He expressed just what it is about the CDO that makes it important, and how him and the rest of the team work together to help facilitate student success before and after graduation.

Jennifer Wilkins (far right), Internship Coordinator and Chris LaGrow (Far left), Associate Director of the Career Development Office. Image is subject to copyright by Fredonia’s CDO office.

What is the CDO all about?

We help students and alumni. We even help prospective students occasionally. Nobody who graduates from Fredonia is cut-off. We can help them by email, by phone or by Skype. They can use all of our services. You can expect to get individualized attention. We’ll address your issue and not impose a blanket solution.

We won’t say things like, “Well, if you’re a business major, you should go out and do this.” We look at everything. We look at all angles as best we can and try to help you with the situation you’re in.

When you come see us, we’re going to show you how to package all of the experiences you have had and show an employer why this was useful for you. If you come in as a first-year student or a second-year student, we’ll help you plan ahead so that you know what you should be doing to make the most of your college years. The big thing employers want to see is what you made of those three or four or five years of college.

What are some of your methods?

When someone comes in and they have some direction but aren’t quite sure what to do, then it becomes a step-by-step process. They need to polish that resume, work on a good cover letter, look at some job search strategies, practice interviews, etc.

Admittedly, we see some rough resumes sometimes. We help polish them and make them as good as they can be. We help people iron out interviewing quirks. People need to think about what they’re saying and how it’s being said.

Can you give an example of how you help students with interviews?

I tell people not to try to find the best synonym for the word that you want to say. Say what you mean. Say it directly, and say it confidently. Talk the way you would normally talk to your boss, to your professor, to somebody in a position of somewhat authority or a position deserving of respect from you.

I remember I did a practice interview when I finished graduate school, and I was really struggling to find work. I was getting interviews, but I was not getting any offers. I did a practice interview with a career counselor, and she videotaped it and showed me that my whole body just looked uninterested.

The interview was something that I clearly had no interest in doing, and it showed even though the words I said were the right words. The body language was just bad. I found that even if I’m saying I don’t have a lot of experience, smiling and showing confidence that I can learn it makes a big difference.

A lot of people try to be too professional, so far beyond that they forget to be natural. You also don’t want to be too natural, but you have to be your most professional self at the interview.

What are some other methods that you use to help students?

I love career assessments. I think they’re very helpful, and I think some of them are pretty self-explanatory. But it always pays to have somebody go over it with you so you can ask questions.

Why did this job come up?

This makes no sense.

I don’t want to do any of these things.

What does that mean for me?

Or the job I want to get didn’t show up on my profile.

What does it mean when a job that a student likes doesn’t show up?

I always tell students that career counselor didn’t show up on mine, and I am very happy with what I do. In fact, if you look at my career profile, if you look at the very similar career fields, career counselor is back in the middle of it. I’m not far from what you would expect, but it’s not on it. If someone doesn’t tell you that, well look…You aren’t that far off from it. It’s no wonder why you like it.

Occasionally, a student will go through this process and they’ll come to a conclusion. They’ll decide on a major and they’ll come in six months later and say, boy that didn’t really work out. What do I do now?

What is your opinion on the efficacy of career assessments?

It’s not a science. It’s more of an art, even though I hate to call it an art. It has to be personalized. I also believe that sometimes you’re not ready yet to make these decisions. I can’t make you be ready. Whether you just can’t decide yet or it’s just not that urgent to you yet, there are lots of reasons why that might be. But sometimes people just aren’t ready to face these issues and make these decisions. That’s why we are here when you are ready.

Does the CDO have a slogan?

Dream it. Do it. Live it.

We want you to have high aspirations. Dare to think big for yourself. We want you to go do it and experience it. We want you to be happy in your life because you did it. No regrets. You tried it, you enjoy it, and you are doing what you’ve always wanted to do. That’s been our mantra.

Any other mantras?

We used to have a mantra of high touch, high tech. We have a job posting system that’s available to all students in alumni. We have MyPlan which is completely web-based. We have some other services that are online. Our website is pretty extensive. We have the tech, but we want you to come and see us.

How much does the CDO value in-person counseling?

We will counsel you online if we have to, but we don’t want to chat with you and type away at you and all that. We want you to come in. It’s in some way better for the both of us. If you’re on the computer and I’m in the office and I’m chatting with you online, you might be surfing another website.

It’s hard to know at that point if you’re really in the moment. And it’s hard for you to be in the moment with all of those distractions. When you’re here, the only distractions are my snoopy figurines on my shelf.

How does the CDO measure its success?

We occasionally will have a student tell us what was particularly helpful for them. We ask graduating seniors when we can. It’s not always convenient or we aren’t always able to do it to the extent that we want to.

I like to think that the student does the heavy lifting. They’re the ones that did the academic program. They got the grades. They did the internships and went out and interviewed and got the job. I like to think that, if we played a role in that, I’d like to think that we played a supporting role.

Is there anything else that you’d like to get across to students working towards their careers?

Get involved. Keep your grades strong. Try to do an internship or a job in your field. Do that research project. Help professors with their research projects. It all comes together. It’s all a big package. It all matters to employers. They care that you did some volunteer work. They care that maybe you weren’t a leader in a club, but were part of it.

They care to see that you were an active member of it. They love it if you were a leader.

That all does add up, and that matters. We want to show you when you come in, why that matters and what that did for you.

Come on in and talk to us! Or just ask a few questions. Wade through the waters a bit. We are very flexible and willing to help in a way that is personally tailored towards every student.

#FredoniaCDOoffice #ChrisLaGrow #Careersuccess