Career Center sees increased traffic

The move of the Career Center from Weston House to Mears House last spring was more than simply a geographical shift; it was an indication of a subtle change in the office’s philosophy. The move coincided with three other key changes: the addition of the Career Discovery Program with Karen Cardozo, director of the career discovery programs and assistant director of the Career Center, at its helm; a change in name from the Office of Career Counseling to the Career Center; and a move from the purview of the deans’ office to that of College Relations.

The Career Center is now more centrally located and thus far more accessible, particularly to first-years, as Mears House is right across Park Street from Frosh Quad and Paresky and just up the hill from Mission. This, along with the name change and the addition of the Career Discovery Program, is part of a continuing movement to expand the services offered by the Career Center.

“We want to make the Career Center a destination, more than just [for] counseling, which the former name implied,” Director John Noble said.

Cardozo agreed, stating that the Center wants students to be able to engage with what she calls a “four-year developmental relationship.” Cardozo was brought in to help advise those who are not looking at more concretely defined careers like medicine, business, or law (“Career Center hires Cardozo as new director of Career Discovery Program,” Sept. 19). At a place like the College, where as Cardozo says, “there is not necessarily a correlation” between major and career, the Career Center should be available to be utilized for “gaining more experience” that is not specifically career-oriented. As such, Cardozo was hired to broaden the spectrum of the Career Center’s services and broaden the student body’s perception of what the Center can provide.

Noble said that a large part of the Career Discovery Program’s objective is to “generate more traffic overall, but particularly among first- and second-year students.”  Cardozo agreed, stating that “the idea is that any day the spirit moves you, you can just run over to daily walk-in hours.”

So far, it is evident that the Career Center has been effective in reaching more students. General counseling has increased since the move. From July 1 to Nov. 9, the Career Center has had 1212 total appointments (either walk-ins, e-mails, Skype sessions or phone calls) as opposed to 1177 from the same period in the previous year. These appointments were made by 653 individuals, an increase of 146 students from last year.

Additionally, the Career Center has recently reopened the Alumni Sponsored Internship Program to sophomores. The program, which funds unpaid internships for students over the summer, was originally offered to both sophomores and juniors but according to Noble, “financial realities” caused by the recession forced the Center to restrict the program to only juniors for a few years. Though their funding has not increased, the Center decided to allow sophomores to apply again due to its new philosophy of increased underclassmen involvement and due to the realization that there had been a decrease in applications, as many eligible juniors were studying abroad. Noble says that his long-term goal is to raise additional funds so that he can increase the number of grants from 10 to into the hundreds, which will guarantee funding to all qualified applicants.

The second part of this philosophical change is a new level of collaboration with the Alumni Relations Office, which is also located in Mears House and which also falls under the purview of College Relations.

Noble says that the move was a long time in the making, as it “first surfaced in the fall of 2007 and was the culmination of a long-held belief in the importance of the alumni connection and loyalty of the alumni body in career development.”

Noble acknowledged that “geographically, we don’t have the same resources as a Columbia … Students can’t go down the street and meet with different employers.” Therefore, it is important for the Career Center to get alumni as involved as possible, which Noble says requires “much more collaboration” with the Alumni Relations Office than before. “Physically moving into the same building and making [their] collaboration more fluid is important,” he explained.

To fully evaluate the success of the changes, however, it is important to look at the rise in the number of students who have been reached through events and workshops held by the Career Center.

An estimated 2856 students have attended a total of 61 workshops so far this year, an increase from 2102 students attending a total of 51 workshops last year. Cardozo accounts for the increase by acknowledging the efforts of the recruiting program led by Robin Meyer, associate director of the Career Center, and Kristen McCormack, assistant director of recruiting; these efforts included a larger-scale Job and Internship Fair this fall and the Career Discovery Program, which cites a total of 701 students attending new events or counseling sessions this year, including personal appointments. Cardozo has been able to see 1274 students this year through presentations, meetings or workshops.

It is clear that an increased number of underclassmen are attending events and that the follow-up surveys of students who visit the Center have returned positive reviews thus far.

“The impact of the move is complicated because the Career Center has made multiple moves literally and figuratively,” Cardozo said. “The new physical relocation can’t therefore be separated from the new vision and programming related to my hire and other changes at the Center.”