The members of the Office of Career Counseling (OCC) work incredibly hard. As it currently stands, the OCC has only four career counselors for over 2000 students; it is surprising that they can even come close to handling their workload. As the OCC begins to integrate with Alumni Relations, searches for a fifth counselor and continues to provide regular programming for students, the OCC, students and the administration must consider ways to increase student contact with employers and alumni in a wider variety of fields.
We believe that some of the successes and failures of the annual fall Job and Internship Fair are representative of the OCC’s current strengths and weaknesses. The OCC’s concerted effort to bring the best employers available to campus is praiseworthy. However, the notable sense of post-fair bitterness and confusion among seniors and other members of campus suggests that something was missing last Friday. Simply put, the fair did not bring a large diversity of employers to campus, and students were not effectively made aware of that fact.
The latter problem is easy to solve. Right now, the message overtly presented by the OCC is one of total inclusion: Everyone should attend the fair because everyone can get something out of it, even if they’re not interested in one of those traditionally well-represented firms or industries. Although the OCC addresses the nature of the recruiting cycle with seniors in mandatory workshops at the start of the year, many seniors do not engage with that setting. Meanwhile, they do not broadly do so with the rest of campus. The fact is that the Job and Internship Fair, as it now stands, is not totally inclusive, and the OCC has to address that fact overtly. Simply changing the fair’s name and emphasizing the types of employers attending would be enough.
The problem of bringing a broader array of employers to campus is more difficult to take on. We recognize the challenges of bringing nonprofits, NGOs and other similar organizations to Williamstown – they have neither the funding nor the recruiting processes that many other types of organizations have, and they do not have the same regular fall recruiting cycle as the consulting and finance firms.
Despite these challenges, the OCC needs to seek to increase the diversity of industries brought to campus in easily accessible forums. We are aware that the OCC has tried in the past to host job fairs for nonprofits and NGOs, and we understand that the practical barriers that exist in such industries make such events difficult to coordinate. Hosting a fair for these industries in the spring is a goal the OCC should nevertheless continue to strive for – but the OCC can do things on a smaller scale that might have a better chance for realization. For example, it could use its connection with Alumni Relations to do more than begin new programming like the Career Mentor Weekends. It could also try to bring interested alumni from non-profits and NGOs to campus during their employers’ recruiting seasons to table in Paresky, with the aim of providing students with contacts and opportunities in such industries. Students could broaden their career-path horizons, and underrepresented fields could get a better hold on students’ mindsets.
It is important to note that all of the work cannot fall on the shoulders of the OCC. Students must be proactive in the pursuit of their careers; that is the nature of the real world. The resources that the OCC currently provides, while perhaps somewhat limited in its application to certain students, are more than enough for students to launch careers in any field they desire. It is important that students not blame the OCC for their lack of career prospects – for there are more opportunities than there might initially appear to be if students will simply look. Moreover, if those opportunities do not appear immediately, students can create them.
Furthermore, the OCC may face difficulties taking on these challenges as it is currently structured. Simply put, even when it hires its fifth member in the next few weeks, it will still be understaffed. The administration must consider allowing the OCC to add counselors rather than simply allowing the office to rely on its partnership with Alumni Relations. The OCC can better help students to understand their career prospects if there are more counselors that both understand the broader job market and also possess in-depth understanding of specific fields.
We believe the campus deserves an OCC that can work to benefit all students, not just recreate the consulting and investment banking cycle of recruiting and hiring. That mandate necessitates creative thinking from the OCC, additional work from students and help from the administration. Together we can create a culture of inclusion, where all students – future consultants, teachers, scientists, curators and activists alike – can expect to benefit from both job and internship fairs and the OCC as a whole.