Career trips return after pandemic hiatus

After a two year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Career and Professional Development Office is bringing back career exploration trips for students

Janae Darby, Staff Writer

Washington and Lee University’s career trips returned over Reading Days this October with a kickoff in Washington, D.C. 

The Office of Career and Professional Development has hosted career trips over fall and winter mid-semester breaks for decades, but the program was paused for the past two years due to the pandemic.  

“I didn’t really know about the reading days’ trips before COVID-19, so it was a nice surprise to see them return this year.” accounting major Ariana McCallop, ’25, said.

Director of CPD Molly Steele said the trips are for all class years and a great way to gauge interest in a career field.  

“Career trips are meant to be exploratory,” Steele said. “We choose an industry and try to have a variety of stuff that indicates all the different ways that a student can participate in that industry.”

 The CPD plans to expand the number of trip opportunities for students interested in less popular career paths.  

“In the past 10 years we have focused on expanding the different options,” Steele said. “It all started with a Wall Street trip. Next up, sort of came, advertising, marketing, and communications, and then over the years, we’ve really developed based on different industry tracks.”  

Steele said trips are driven by student interest. With the trips growing in popularity, in addition to public policy and accounting, consulting was added to the trip schedule this year.  

“I didn’t know about consulting before I came here,” economics student Ben Bankston, ’25, said. He went on the trip to learn more about his career options in consulting. After the trip, he thought it “only furthered” his interest in doing consulting after graduation.  

“To hear from a variety of people about their specific experiences and start to put those together for yourself to get a more holistic understanding [of the field], that was really valuable to me,” Bankston said.  

Rebecca Windle, ’25, felt similarly. 

“The seven different companies that we visited covered everything from aerospace and defense to healthcare, so I thought there was plenty of diverse career paths possible within those companies,” Windle said. “It was nice to get a feel for the different companies and who they were and how they brand themselves differently.” 

Steele said the CPD office continues to strive to offer trips that are as all-encompassing of an industry track as possible.  

“For example, for the public policy trip we tried to get different political parties represented,” Steele said. “We try to get private sector and nonprofit and government organizations so that a student walks away with the fullest picture possible of how to participate in that industry.”

The trips serve another purpose aside from career exploration, they expose students to what living in a big city is like.  

“I loved the break we had at the end of the day because we could explore the city and see what it would be like to live there,” Windle said.

“I would love to live in D.C. when I’m older,” Lela Casey, ’25, a politics major, said. “It’s such a bustling city and I don’t think you can make connections as you can there anywhere else.” 

Casey also said the public policy trip gave her clarity on her career path.  

“I know what I want to do in the future, but I don’t know exactly how to get there,” Casey said. “I went on this trip to broaden my conception about what politics careers are because I definitely thought that I could only go to law school, but now I know that there are many things I can do.” 

Casey explained how one alumnus she met on the trip helped her to see herself in the industry of government consulting.  

“He worked for the government on a selection committee and now he works as a government consultant for a private-owned company, so I think that’s something I would pursue in the future,” Casey said. 

Other students went on a one-day accounting trip to D.C.  

Ariana McCallop, ’25, was one of them. She met with alumni representatives from all of the “Big Four” accounting firms: Deloitte, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (EY) and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG). McCallop talked to them about a day in their life.  

“We talked to recent graduates, so it was nice to hear them talk about entering the field,” McCallop said. “The best advice I took away from it was to finish as much of your [Certified Public Accountant] exam as you can before entering the workforce.” 

The accounting trip also consisted of practice interviews with alumni where students answered difficult questions geared towards accounting in a small group setting,  

“The alumni were really helpful because we would answer and then they would walk us through how to give a better response,” McCallop said.  

The CPD office’s next career trip will be a newly created opportunity in New York City, during Washington Break in February, for students interested in marketing/advertising, finance, and technology, the newest program.