I was surprised by the concerns raised in last week’s editorial on the new Mears Mentors position (“Refocusing Career Center services,” Apr. 24). First, this is a straightforward peer liaison role that in no way replaces the professional services we provide as career counselors. Rather, it will direct students to those services. First-years often defer career exploration, so they are the group most likely to benefit from enthusiastic and informed peer outreach.
Second, your editorial questions whether rising sophomores can fulfill such a role. Indeed they can, especially those members of the Class of 2016 who have engaged with the new Career Discovery Program (CDP). Since first-years are often ineligible for many formal or funded programs, the CDP teaches them (and all students) the research and networking skills that will help them create or find their own opportunities – as everyone eventually must do, since most jobs are not listed and most listings are not sent to the [Career Center]! Many first years who have gone through our workshops and counseling have landed great summer opportunities through their own initiatives. When I imagine them as Mears Mentors, I can only think: lucky Class of 2017!
Finally, the editorial questions how and whether first-year needs are being met. The CDP was designed precisely with early engagement in mind; our workshop series tackles all facets of exploration, from self-assessment to online search tools, to finding mentors and networking and yes, to writing cover letters and resumes. You note that students need a “career plan before they can construct a resume that reflects the field they will enter.” We understand that many first-year students and others don’t have “a” field to target – either because they are unsure of their interests or because they are applying in multiple fields as befitting their multiple talents and liberal arts orientation. As such, resume workshops help students of all class years figure out how to identify and present a thematic range of skills transferable to multiple pursuits. This is not exclusively a first-year issue: even seniors and alums may need a flexible thematic resume as they pursue a multi-pronged search or career change. The resume workshop doesn’t just offer up a template like a fish on a platter, but teaches students the logic and strategies that will enable them to fish for a lifetime.
Mears Mentor applications have flowed in from first-years who have benefitted from our Career Center programs and are excited about introducing that process to the Class of 2017. Whether that happens at entry snacks or in other ways is up to the creativity and commitment of the new peer mentors. The means shouldn’t stand in the way of the ends. Helping first-years (and all students) understand that you don’t need to have a career plan to engage with the very resources that will help you figure things out.
Director, Career Discovery Program