Between finding my classes and navigating the sandwich line at 12:20, the last thing on my mind as I began my first week of freshman year was my life after Wes. My career still seems a long way away, and I thought that the Career Center was an intimidating institution that only applied to seniors and possibly juniors. However, Interim Director Gemma Ebstein explained that the Career Center is a lot more than just a job-hunting service for older students.
“The Career Center staff advises undergraduates in understanding the skills and abilities obtained through a liberal arts education and helps them translate their liberal arts experience—from inside as well as outside of the classroom—to career-related goals and objectives,” Ebstein said. “Counselors also help students learn how to translate and communicate their experiences to address various employers’ needs—whether for internships or jobs.”
For underclassmen who are asking themselves, “Why should we care about the Career Center?” take note: according to Ebstein, the first step to understanding career goals is to explore yourself. Therefore, counselors help Wes students build self-awareness and get them thinking about life after college. The earlier a student comes to the Career Center to begin considering personal goals, values, interests, and abilities, the better chance that student has of identifying career interests.
For students like me, who are interested in pursuing a law degree after Wesleyan, it is helpful to make a trip to the Career Center and talk extensively with one of the counselors there. This conversation doesn’t have to be intimidating or unnecessarily long and drawn out. Rather, it just involves the counselor learning about each student and outlining the necessary steps to take.
“We develop individual relationships with each student on a personal level, so each situation is slightly different, depending upon the student’s goals and needs,” Ebstein said. “In one situation, we may help a student develop self-awareness through conversation and the results of a self-assessment tool. In another, we help a student develop self-awareness by just listening to them and observing what seems to excite them and what seems to trouble them.”
The Career Center can also help by creating connections between current students and alumni and assisting with research about future careers.
“Career Center staff utilize their experience and general knowledge [of field and industry research] to help students explore fields and encourage them to reach out to alumni or parents to obtain other perspectives,” Ebstein said. “Practice makes perfect, so interview prep and mock interviews are highly effective in helping students gain self-confidence for the job search.”
The Center also offers information about fellowships and grants, Wesleyan-exclusive internships, and full-time job resources and opportunities. However, if you don’t feel totally comfortable with talking to an adult about your future, or just want a different perspective, the Career Center also has a Peer Career Advisors Program. Student leaders are trained to assist in career counseling and gain knowledge of programs and resources.
Now, if you think that your relationship with the Career Center ends when your diploma is handed to you, you are quite wrong.
“For jobs and internships, as well as many other programs, we work closely with colleagues in University Relations to cultivate and leverage the vast alumni network,” she said. “Alumni also continue to take advantage of the alumni network through Wesconnect and by staying in touch with the University Relations staff. Many alumni also return to campus to speak to students about experiences in various industries—as a way to ‘give back’ by helping current undergraduates as they seek internships and jobs.”
The Career Center works closely with University Relations to develop professional alumni networks such as Digital Media, Wesleyan Lawyers Association, and more.
Undergraduates are the priority when it comes to the attention of the Career Center, but alumni also have access to the Career Center and some of the services it provides.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to visit the Career Center. The experienced, flexible, and resourceful staff is truly invested in turning our wonderful liberal arts education into something substantive and in ensuring that we reach our goals.