Photographs by Melissa Kolano.
Most of us have gone through the often-grueling process of finding and landing a job or internship. In times like these, students are encouraged to visit the Career Center for resume building help and job opportunities, but not all Colorado College students find this resource best for them.
At a small liberal arts school like Colorado College, the term “career” isn’t tossed around too often. Even though our school isn’t pre-professional in nature, we all want jobs after college and we all want to do something we are interested in. Yet, in a recent anonymous survey conducted on a small portion of Colorado College students, 30 percent of students said that the Career Center did not have resources in the field they were interested in.
“The Career Center focuses all of their attention on Economics majors and forgets about the large majority of us who are not,” said one student from the survey interested in marketing. “All of the recruiters that come to campus are either in an economics field, work for a non-profit, or volunteer. This leaves people who want a job that will pay—that is not in an economics field—left to their own devices.”
For students in some fields, the Career Center is a place of bountiful opportunity, but in others, it leaves them feeling a bit lost. One student interested in law expressed a much different opinion. “The career center has been terrifically helpful in my job search, assisting me in all aspects of seeking employment,” he said on the survey.
As such a small school, it’s hard to get recruiters from big companies in so many different fields, but it’s no mystery that CC alums are doing interesting and unconventional things in a wide array of sectors. It seems that the Career Center has just hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding these less common fields and representing them.
The Career Center expressed an awareness of student’s excitement in careers beyond fields such as banking and law. “Here at Colorado College, students have very diverse interests,” said Director of the Career Center Megan Nicklaus. Nicklaus has been working at CC for two years, coming from a previous position at Vanderbilt University.
Nicklaus explained how their yearly summer experience surveys help gauge fields of interest for students, but for most, there isn’t a “critical mass” as Nicklaus puts it. This can make it more difficult for recruiters to find the incentives in coming to campus.
Last semester, CC invited three alums that have found success in the growing world of craft beer. Although a very small percentage of alums may actually be in this field, and just as few students are truly planning on getting into it, the event shined a light on the interesting paths students can take. One alumnus was interested in finance and economics, and ended up using this background as CFO of Dechutes Brewery.
Although this event was a great way to bring alums back to campus, many students feel they happen far fewer than at comparable schools. “The people at the Career Center are helpful and nice, but my friends at other colleges experience way more opportunities and the alumni are much more involved,” said one student from the survey interested Media and Journalism. When I shared this concern with Nicklaus, she explained that “they may not see our alumni physically on campus as much because we are not in a large metropolitan city. If we were in Denver, we might see our alumni physically on campus more, but our alumni are actually very engaged.”
Students can connect with these “involved” alumni through a portal called OurCC Connections. Located on the Career Center page, the site requires you to register and create a profile. After, you can look up alums that have volunteered to be mentors by field and state. I recommend just looking up very broad key words. When I searched “New York, New York” 104 alums popped up many with information about their current job and field.
The reality is, most students don’t know about these platforms, and albeit many alums aren’t on it as well. The Career Center has set up this infrastructure for networking that doesn’t seem to resonate with potential users. SUCCESS, Colorado College’s database for job opportunities has had over 3,398 job and fellowships posted on the site since August. Yet, as one student said, “SUCCESS is an outdated forum and has useless automatic job postings.” This seemingly impressive stat is watered down once you dig a bit deeper to realize the quality and accessibility of these jobs really isn’t on par with what most students expect.
Nicklaus and the rest of the staff at the Career Center are looking into a new platform for postings as this is not the first time they have heard this complaint. However, “actual postings are just one piece of the pie,” said Nicklaus. “I really think that students who use networking in forming those connections and developing those relationships find a lot of meaning in the jobs that they end up securing. Developing that skill and expanding their network while they’re here before they need it later, I think that has just as much value.” It is clear that the databases are just one step of the process, but where are all those networking opportunities?
In the survey, 38 percent of students said they did not know of any alumni in the field that they are interested in. “We have five Block Breaks a year, so why are there no networking events on campus or near people’s hometowns or where CC students want to live post-graduation? This would be a great way for us to increase our networks and practice telling our story to real people who could hire us,” said the same student interested in marketing. In actuality there are several networking events on campus each year, but the concern seems to be that the focus isn’t there.
For Nicklaus, most of the resources seem to be present, the events all planned; the challenge is getting students to come and engage. “You all get pounded with so much information, coming from so many different directions, and are selective on where you spend you time,” she said.
With so much going on on-campus, it can be hard to stop and attend a networking event or job search talk. Many students may complain about the lack of resources without fully exploring them as well.
However, 80 percent of the students in the recent poll said the Career Center either “kind of” or did not at all have resources in their field of interest. Whether it is a matter of student proactivity or access to relevant resources is not conclusive from the data, but there is clearly a plea from students to create a more inclusive and dynamic path to finding a job post-graduation.