An analysis of the Colby Career Center

The Career Center has launched new initiatives this year to increase their presence on campus and to provide more opportunities and information to students with different academic backgrounds and career interests. While some students have noticed changes and vocalized their support, some students still feel that the Center is not helpful enough to those with less common or humanity-based majors.

With five full-time staff members this year, compared to three in previous years, the Career Center has been able to increase its support and outreach through increased manpower. “We have really made an effort to do more marketing and communicating with students,” Career Center Director Alisa Johnson said. “We’re making an effort to get out more.”

Johnson referenced the Career Center tables in Pulver, Miller Street, and even the athletic center for the Rehab Your Resume event in February. The tables have also offered drop-in resume help multiple times this year, as well as a photo booth for taking LinkedIn profile pictures.

Another change the Career Center has made this year is a transition in the role of student career advisors, Johnson said. While many of these students have spent time working on administrative tasks in previous years, “this year, they’re all working on programming and marketing,” she said. “They were previously under-utilized.”

Johnson is aware that many students feel the Career Center is heavily finance-oriented, and she said the Center is continuing its “work-in progress on deviating from finance.” This year, it has partnered with academic departments to broaden its scope of info sessions and networking events. For example, the Center has worked with East Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, and Global Studies to organize an alumni career panel, “Globalizing Pathways,” in which five young alumni discussed their international careers.

The Center has also placed a new emphasis on nonprofits, think tanks, and start ups, and created a new partnership this year with Koru, a Seattle-based company that helps students transition into the workforce through an intensive four-week immersion program. At the same time, Koru connects seniors and recent graduates with high-growth companies like Amazon, LinkedIn, Yelp!, REI and Care.com.

According to Assistant Director of Internships and Employer Relations Jordan Bell, the Career Center has created more relationships with employers this year, and in turn increased its focus on networking. Students have had more opportunities this year to send resumes to alumni.

“There’s a good healthy mix of opportunities that come through the Colby pipeline,” Bell said, but the Career Center has also worked towards increased coaching to help students find their own job opportunities. “We’re stressing networking … how to ask for opportunities.”

“We’re also helping students find their own way in areas that are not as well represented [at the Career Center],” Bell said. “We help them on how to find [opportunities], as opposed to handing them over. If we don’t have something already, here’s how to find something.”

“We battle a yearly perception that we’re all about finance, and that’s partly due to [its] fairly aggressive recruiting nature,” said Associate Director of Career Services Cate Talbot Ashton. While finance recruiters “come on strong” in the fall, Ashton said, other fields recruit more actively in the spring. She said the Career Center battles the finance-centric perception by finding more ways to connect students with alumni and through the partnerships with academic departments. For example, the Center recently partnered with Mathematics and Statistics to host an alumni webinar on careers in math.

Ashton mainly works in graduate school advising, particularly for the health and law fields. She said that this year webinars have offered significant improvements in the scope of alumni connections, since they allow the Career Center to stream in alumni who live outside of New England.

“Hopefully students are seeing that we’re not just here for those finance companies,” Ashton said. “We’re actively engaged in the pressures and cycles for a wide variety of career fields.”

Based on a survey released to the student body about how the Career Center compares with student hopes and expectations, many students do indeed feel that the Career Center caters too much to economics majors. The fields of finance, business, law, and medicine are disproportionately represented, they said. Others commented that too many Career Center jobs and internships are based in New England, limiting the database’s helpfulness to students who live outside the northeast.

“I wish the Career Center would do more for students who are interested in career paths other than premed, pre-law or finance, especially since those career paths are often less prescribed when you’re an undergrad,” a sophomore Latin American studies major said.

A junior chemistry major believes that the Career Center tries to accommodate all majors, but could stand to hold events specific to different majors. “I would love to attend a workshop on how to get a job as a chemistry major,” the student said. “I think they tailor most of what they do to econ majors and humanities. I don’t feel that they do enough for science majors, especially non-premed people.”

Other students felt the Center could be more helpful to students not pursuing corporate jobs. “They also have no resources on how to create a CV, [which is] essential for academia related jobs…but not finance of course! It would be ideal if they built connections with research hospitals, non-profits, and universities and provided online information on how to create a CV, not a resume,” said a senior double majoring in psychology and WGSS. “Also, I signed up for the job shadow program and it took them over six months to get back to me…a little late during my senior spring, I would say. Frankly, I expected more from Colby.”

A junior biology major discussed the additional guidance international students may need, explaining that American students and international students face different challenges in the search for jobs and internships. “Internships and jobs are harder to find because of the F1 visa status. Internationals need to apply for OPT before working. [And] networking is an idea most of us are not used to. We do not know where to begin,” the student said.

“Most of the staff at the Career Center do not know much about the status of international students and have very little information on job search for international students. … [They could] provide more support for each individual student and making sure that they are on track,” the student added.

Other students expressed overall disappointment with their experiences seeking help from the Career Center. “I go there and most of the time the meetings turn out to be a total waste of my time,” a first-year math major said, referencing multiple experiences where they received no follow-through from a counselor. “ I was really disappointed … I expected more from a great place like Colby.”

“No one in the entire Center knew how to make an online portfolio, which is an important part of sharing published pieces with future employers,” a senior double major in English and psychology added. “I have just found working with the Career Center unbelievably frustrating, as they really can only help people with a very clear and well-beaten career path.”

However, one respondent emphasized that a career search largely depends on a student’s own effort. “[The Career Center’s] job is not to simply reach out to students and hand out jobs. Searching for a career or an internship requires a lot of work on your side too,” the sophomore government and global studies double major said. “They help guide you through the process and are not there to grant jobs. They are extremely helpful throughout the entire process and are dedicated to helping Colby students succeed.”

A senior English major identified specific areas in which the Career Center could provide better assistance. Rather than commenting only on the formatting of a resume, “it would be more helpful if they could give me content feedback,” the student said. “Also, for students who don’t know how their passions align with a career, workshops could be much more specific or worksheets could have a variety of career ideas. When I went the Career Center for ideas, they sent me to LinkedIn, which wasn’t helpful because I wasn’t sure what or who I was supposed to be looking for. I do really appreciate the improvements and efforts they’ve made this year, though!”

A senior economics major concisely summarized what they believe to be the Center’s overall strengths and weaknesses: “Good programs, not enough publicity in the right areas … has gotten much better in recent years … still could use better connections and draw on alumni more to establish personal connections to get jobs.”

Elsewhere in the survey, respondents answered questions specific to various Career Center programs. 31 students responded to the survey, with all class years represented of which seniors were the majority.

58 percent of respondents have had internships, but none of them found their internship through a Career Center-sponsored info session or networking session.

Workshops received the best feedback from respondents, with 26 percent saying that they are “pretty helpful” and 23 percent saying that “they’re okay.”

As for other programs, 42 percent of respondents had never been to Career Center info sessions, and, for all other programs and events, more than half of respondents had never been. These programs include drop-in hours, “mocktail” parties, Resumania, and Colby on the Road.

In response to the final question, “Overall, do you find that the Career Center is a useful resource for you?” 35 percent said “No,” 19 percent said “Not really,” 23 percent said “I’m neutral,” and 23 percent said “Pretty helpful” or “Very helpful.”

Johnson emphasized that she is always interested in hearing feedback directly from students. “They shouldn’t hesitate to email me with suggestions,” she said, including ideas for the next Colby on the Road theme.

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