Here to show the way
Senior Dennis Crommett looks the perfect English-major type black turtleneck, neatly trimmed sideburns as he steps to the front of the Bartlett Hall classroom. But this is no literary presentation.
I want to talk about my plans for the future should my goal of world domination not work out, deadpans Crommet, before breaking into a grin for his appreciative fellows.
The class is called Career and Life Planning for Humanities Majors, and students are here to discuss how those majors might translate into making a living. The three-credit course, taught by career counselor Susan Hammond 77, 93G, represents an ideological shift for the revamped Campus Career Network.
The evolution from placement office which somehow smacks of being dropped off and left to network with its implication of continuing support began four years ago, under the leadership of director Joan Stoia 71, 81G. In doing away with peer advising and moving the majority of the professional staff into the schools and colleges, We de-layered, says Stoia.
As a result, students are no longer asked to trudge across campus to find a counselor theyve never met and discuss a career theyve never really considered. Now, in theory at least, each counselor is that friendly face who is part of the landscape from the time you start working at that major to the time you graduate.
Its always been my philosophy that you cant place someone you dont know, says Stoia. You have to know your clients if youre going to be an effective broker.
How many of you, when you chose a humanities major, heard the question, What do you want to do teach? Laughter as almost every hand in the room goes up. And now, says Hammond with a smile, youre making informed decisions to be teachers. Its not a fallback position.
Senior Rachel Vachula seems to agree. When its her turn to present, the math and English major puts up a timeline of her life showing the changes in her career goals. At age seven, she was going to be a teacher, in subsequent years an astronomer, a dentist, a chef, actress, writer. In her first year of college she thought shed be an engineer. Then came a couple of years of undecided.
But then suddenly its my senior year, so I took this class, says Vachula. People always asked me if I wanted to be a teacher, and I think I just got used to saying no. But in this class I realized thats what I want to do.
Some class members report a certain amount of angst in reaching their decisions I didnt know what I wanted to do, says Vanessa Joseph, another senior in English. But between the course and multiple visits with her career counselor, shes decided to go on for an MBA: a decision she says she might never have arrived at without some assistance.
Stoia says her most recent figures show that between counseling, courses, career fairs, and co-ops and internships some 77 percent of seniors use the network at some point during their undergraduate careers. These services put the student in control, says Stoia. Were saying Here are the keys to your life, were going to teach you to drive.
Employers, too, are learning to market themselves. At a recent information session hosted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the recruiters represent another shift in ideology. Goodbye to suits, lacquered desks, and several invisible tons of intimidation; these recruiters are young, hip, and casually dressed. One of them, Nancy Lin 99 of New Jersey, is even a fellow alum. A fair amount of time is devoted to the description of perks: free sodas, free gym, business-casual dress, a masseuse on Thursdays.
Benjamin Braddock, the befuddled Dustin Hoffman character in The Graduate, might feel a little out of place in this disciplined crew. Im going to try to narrow it down in my head, then wait until next month to get the job offers I want, says Khapoya confidently. No suggestion here of taking the summer off to float in the pool: A competitive economy awaits, and these students are ready for it.
The Career Network can take some credit for that. You cant do something you havent been trained to do, Stoia says. How is it that we think students can have an epiphany one day about what they want to do, unless theyve spent some time on task?
Were here to show them the way, concludes Stoia. If only Benjamin Braddock had gone to UMass.
Karen Skolfield 98G