By Allie Hill
Students walk past the building on their way to Computer Services or the Library, but few have discovered the helpful resources to be found within. Inside are pamphlets on writing a résumé that will stand out in the workforce, books to help you pass a CLEP test and even a flyer with the link to take an assessment test that will determine the best career.
The man behind the resources is Rick Wahler, a retired Los Angeles Police officer who has served as TMC’s director of career services since January 2001. For more than a decade, he has guided countless students toward successful careers after graduation as well as counseled those who are confused about which career path to take.
He is in every way a student advocate. His job—his passion—is to help the school’s young men and women prepare for life after college.
A recent conversation provides more detail:
What are some key duties of your job?
Wahler: Career Services is sometimes misunderstood. This is not a place where I simply pass out jobs to students. My goal is to help students learn what they want to do and what they’re good at and then find their place in the world (serving the world and the Kingdom both). We are each gifted with different desires and skills and it takes effort to match those with what’s available in the world. So I try to do that with assessment testing.
What I encourage students to do is to examine who they are early on and start to consider possible careers, then talk to people and decide if that career path is truly something they could do. If it is, then it’s time to get some experience in that area so they are well-rounded and experienced by graduation.
We do a really good job on résumés here to help you stand out from the rest of the crowd. We try to get students to get ahead and look for jobs that aren’t even available yet, to go above and beyond what most graduated students do.
What made you decide to do this job?
Wahler: There are a couple reasons why I do this. First of all being that it’s really a necessary and important function on any college campus. From what I understand, in the 90’s they didn’t have this program. But in 2001 they asked me to start up an office.
What I like about my job is that I can use my life experience in helping to counsel and motivate the students. I think it’s easier for someone who is not a recent graduate to have a function like this because I can identify with 45 years of life experience.
What I particularly like about working here is shared values. I often tell people that I wouldn’t enjoy this job nearly as much at a secular college because I can’t counsel or encourage in a biblical manner. And our values and outlook on life are similar here at Master’s. I get to share reality with students in seeing their great potential and that excites me.
What was your job like before you came to The Master’s College?
Wahler: I was a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department for 28 years. I retired as a Captain Division Commanding Officer. I worked South L.A., Venice, around the L.A. airport, Marina Del Ray, Narcotics, Detective and San Fernando Valley.
I felt gratification for what I could do, not necessarily the arrests or chases, but to give people proper care and treatment. I loved truly making a difference in the lives of people that needed it the most. However, I did not enjoy working through the bureaucracy within a government job. But it’s these experiences that have helped me to be able to lead and guide young people.
What are the most and least favorite parts of your job in the Career Center?
Wahler: The favorite is when people like you come in and I get to spend one-on-one time. My personality has changed over the years. I used to be task-oriented having grown up in a strict home, being in the military, and then in the Police Department.
I am now much more sympathetic and empathetic. I’ve been told by many that I’m a real encourager. When students have a hard time finding a job, I try to stay with them and keep them going. When I get feedback that something has happened (“hey I got the job” or “thank you for…”) it really makes everything worth it.
There really aren’t any down sides to this job at all. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. Except be a full-time grandpa.
What is something you wish TMC students knew about the Career Center?
Wahler: The importance of starting early in their ambitions. I am confident that each of our students have great potential, but many won’t live up to that because they are not focused. It’s not uncommon for people to not know what they want to do. But you have to start somewhere.
And it’s much better to start as a freshman or a sophomore than when you’re a graduating senior.
The statement that I give to everybody is this: You are on two parallel tracks when you’re in college. One you’re most aware of is the academic track. You want to do well in your studies and get a high GPA. But the parallel track is the experience track. And that’s the one that goes unnoticed and is often times ignored.
When you graduate, they’re going to be satisfied that you have a degree. But ultimately they’re going to want to see what you’ve done. They will look over your résumé and look at what experience you have. Your degree opens the door but really your experience is what sets you above the rest. It would be better to work a summer for free to gain experience that relates to your career than it would be to work a minimum-wage job that means nothing on a professional résumé.
What is one thing you want to tell any TMC student—your best piece of advice?
Wahler: I just want them to know what they’re capable of. We’re not a big school and it can be intimidating for them to compete against graduates from bigger schools. But there are students that have come from Master’s and have done very well.
The other thing is to not look for just any job when you graduate, but rather find a career you’re passionate about and implement it into your life. Master’s College graduates have a reputation in the professional world as coming across “confidently humble.” They have incredible fitting-in skills and that is rare to see in today’s graduating students across the nation.
Master’s students truly are talented and stand out from the rest of the work force. Who we are as believers is valuable and sought after in the professional world.