Career Center should develop resources for students beyond the business-minded

By Sophie Foster

Opinion Editor

Washington College’s Career Center’s primary role on campus is helping students prepare for the working world beyond the undergraduate setting; in some cases, though, students find it hard to meld their resources into guidance that resonates.

According to previous Elm coverage, the Career Center offered “Targeted Career Awareness Programs” in 2017, “composed of three programs of Wall Street, Communications, and Not-For-Profit/NGO’s.” This structure, though not still an active offering, is indicative of the range of career options and employment assistance presented to students. The focus, it seems, is enduringly on business, marketing, and adjacent fields.

For students with interests beyond those parameters, though, the campus-wide resources are often somewhat slim.

According to junior Courtney Poetsch, who intends to become an English teacher, she mainly turns to the education and English departments for insights on employment.

“I visited the Career Center a couple of times during my freshman year, but I have not been back since,” Poetsch said. “They did help me format my initial resume, which I have since been adding on to. That particular session was extremely helpful, and I do want to go back and have them look at it again when I am done revising it.”

According to Poetsch, her education professors themselves will guide her cohort through the process of developing a teaching resume, which she feels will ultimately be more helpful to her in the long run.

This experience is not exclusive to Poetsch and her career aspirations. Even in my own experience, I have built my knowledge of the professional working world in my intended career exclusively through the English department and the Rose O’Neill Literary House. Sophomore Teddy Nies, as well, often turns to their advisor and their on-campus boss for guidance as they look toward a career in either publishing or grant-writing.

As with Poetsch, this does not mean that Nies does not engage with the Career Center.

“I’ve used the Career Center to create my resume and, more recently, to learn how to network,” Nies said. “I thought both visits were super helpful to my organization and to my networking ability since I’d previously been almost completely unsure about how to approach both of these things.”

Sophomore Sheri Swayne, who also intends to pursue publishing, has also used the Career Center for resume construction.

“Everyone there, especially Lisa Moody, was as informative as they were kind,” Swayne said. “They really helped me envision myself from a professional standpoint.”

On the environmental science end of the conversation, junior Morgan Carlson, who is most passionate about pursuing ecology and outdoor fieldwork, uses the Career Center every year. They cite their most useful resources as not only the Career Center, but also the Center for Environment and Society, the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, and Chair of Environmental Science and Studies Dr. Rebecca Fox.

Any underlying reliance on departments to split their time between conceptual and practical elements could easily be alleviated by an increase in the breadth of resources and connections offered by the Career Center. Most departments do not see all of their majors pursuing identical career paths, so the ability to predict need on their end is difficult and leaves more space for students in full classes to slip through the cracks in receiving guidance.

The truth is that the lucky students who asked the right questions early on are the ones to receive thorough career guidance from their department itself. Professors have several courses to teach, papers and assessments to grade, and numerous other responsibilities piling up as they approach their on-campus work. Students and faculty alike would likely reap immense benefits if the Career Center expanded its resources beyond the nonetheless important resumes and interviews, and past business and marketing.

            The potential approaches to this are vast. Poetsch, for example, believes it could be helpful for the Career Center to partner with other departments on campus.

“I liked the fact that the Career Center partnered with the English department for Sophie Kerr Week,” Poetsch said. “I thought that was a great way to show English majors, and others, what a career in publishing could look like.”

An arm of that type of partnership could mean strengthening awareness of where on campus students should be directed for more specialized guidance if the Career Center’s resources do not perfectly align with their goals. If a student does not know who on campus has the most robust knowledge of journalism or marine biology, for example, then the Center could direct them immediately toward someone who does. This would sidestep the pitfall of potentially giving well-intended misguided or vague advice.

Swayne, meanwhile, would find a curated list of major-specific resources tremendously useful.

“I know, if implemented, this would take a lot of work, but I have found that building connections outside of WC as an English major is rather difficult,” Swayne said. “If there was a place that had potential contacts…maybe even [alumni]…that could give me advice, it would mean so much to me as an aspiring writer.”

Similarly, Nies would appreciate, perhaps, events and opportunities inviting insights from alumni and industry professionals that cater more to majors like theirs.

“Specifically, the networking event I attended did not have any alumni that had been English majors for current English majors to talk to,” Nies said. “I wish I had the opportunity to speak to more former WC students in my major and I’m sure other arts [and] humanities majors would as well, if only to reduce the fear of not finding a job that they enjoy or with decent pay after college.”

Another method could include surveying students early on to gain an improved understanding of what common career goals are, then shaping information sessions and employment guidelines around those desired fields. Ultimately, resumes and interviews do differ from field-to-field.

According to Carlson, the Career Center staff “provide meaningful insight for…professional development” and “put lots of energy into understanding the professional needs of environmental science majors.” This is an incredibly valuable type of relationship to have, and should be one all students can share equally.

The Career Center’s stated mission is “to support college to career transitions by holistically preparing students for meaningful professional lives.” To uphold this mission, more attention devoted to students of varying career aspirations could only be a positive.

Elm Archive Photo

Photo caption: The Career Center provides employment resources to students.

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