The Gordon Career Center (GCC) launched the Cardinals Helping Cardinals platform on April 30. The GCC hopes the platform will allow students to reach out to willing alumni who can answer any questions students may have about their career paths and experiences.
The idea for Cardinals Helping Cardinals was brought to the GCC by Jessica Chen ’20. Chen, a psychology major who hopes to go into marketing and advertising after graduation, has been trying to find ways to prepare herself for entering the job market.
“As a senior at a liberal arts undergrad, it’s not always easy to enter the job force compared to other peers who’ve gone to bigger schools that have more career-oriented programs,” Chen said.
Realizing this, Chen turned to GCC’s Business Career Advisor Anne Laskowski to find the best strategies for securing a job after graduation.
“She’s been telling me, other than just frantically submitting my resume to these openings online, I should also be thinking about networking, which allows me to connect with people directly who work in the firms that I would like to work,” Chen said. “It’s the best way to learn what’s going on in the company, and what do they do, and it’s really a good way to find out whether the things that you’re interested in really is something that you really want to do.”
Through her job search, Chen came across We Are Next, a resource for college students interested in pursuing careers in marketing and advertising. The group recently created a new feature called “Coffee at a Distance,” which provides contact information for over 250 marketing and advertising professionals who are willing to help students.
“I was like, ‘Wow I wish there was something like this for Wesleyan students, or for seniors who are also just trying to find out about what’s going to happen in the summer, what’s going to happen for them after graduation,’” Chen said. “It is an unprecedented situation and no one knows what to do, I think especially seniors like me who are graduating this year, the situation really worries us.”
Chen brought this idea to Laskowski, who passed it on to the Career Center. Within a week, the Cardinals Helping Cardinals page was live with over 100 alumni from a wide range of industries participating.
“It’s not heavy in any one field,” GCC Director Sharon Castonguay said. “The fields where you might have a few more people than others are also the ones where we have a lot of students interested. So you might have a few more alums in say health care, or nonprofit, but that’s also representative of the students of the whole.”
Castonguay emphasized that Cardinals Helping Cardinals isn’t meant to overshadow the Alumni Directory, a directory of over 30,000 alumni and students that is compiled by the Office of Advancement.
“It’s meant to complement the Alumni directory, not replace it,” Castonguay explained. “It’s not going to be comprehensive, it’s not going to have tens of thousands of alumni in there. But we had been hearing on the ground from alums and parents that people recognized that graduating in 2020 was going to be graduating into less than ideal circumstances and that they wanted to be able to provide advice.”
In fact, the Office of Advancement has also been helping the GCC reach out to Alumni.
“Our office has been hearing from alumni and parents all over the world who are eager to help students during the Covid-19 crisis,” Vice President for Advancement Frantz Williams ’99 wrote in an email to the Argus. “Providing career advice and connections is an integral way for them to do this and we are delighted to assist the Gordon Career Center in this effort. We have been reaching out to Wesleyan’s global community and asking alumni and parents to offer their time and professional expertise as mentors, and/or to consider hiring a Wesleyan student for a job or internship. The response has been very positive.”
One reason Castonguay believes that Cardinals Helping Cardinals will be helpful for students is that using the Alumni Directory to network can be daunting.
“It can seem kind of cold and anonymous,” Castonguay explained. “You know, you’re going in there, you might be doing some searches by industry or location, but then you have this flicker of worry, ‘Do they really want to talk to me?’ ‘Do I really understand what I’m supposed to say?’ ‘What are the kinds of things I can ask?’”
Castonguay also sees Cardinals Helping Cardinals as a way to better ease into conversations with alumni.
“If a student goes onto that platform first and sees ‘here’s an alum, who chose to fill out their profile here, who chose to upload a photo, who chose to provide a link to their Linkedin profile, I have a certain level of comfort that if I reach out to that alum through Linkedin, they’re going to respond and they’re going to feel ok with my ask,’ and it’s not going to feel as cold and impersonal,” Castonguay explained. “And then maybe that student has a conversation, and it goes really well and they feel better about this process. They have a better sense of how they want to move forward. Maybe then they go into the alumni directory and find more people in the industry that they’re targeting. But they’re more comfortable having those conversations. Because they had that warm ask that lead to a successful first conversation.”
While Cardinals Helping Cardinals doesn’t secure jobs for students, it provides them a chance to practice an important skill: networking. Chen emphasized that this is crucial for underclassmen who may not know what they want to do yet.
“It’s ok to not know about what to do as a sophomore or a junior or senior because this is a process and you’re really not supposed to figure this out,” Chen said. “It’s a process of figuring things out, and the process itself is as important as the result. It’s ok if you don’t know what you want to do. I think networking really helps to figure things out for answering that question.”
The GCC recognizes that students may need their support now more than ever, and intend to offer any and all resources remotely. While Cardinals Helping Cardinals is one facet of the Gordon Career Center, there are many other resources that the center provides, and will continue to provide.
“Know that we’re not going anywhere,” Castonguay said. “Even if you’re a graduating senior, there’s nothing about your access to the office that changes after graduation. We’re around, we’re available, we’re not going anywhere, and we strongly encourage students to continue engaging with us, particularly if they’re a graduating senior and either plans have fallen through, or more likely, they don’t have definitive plans.”
Williams emphasized the need for the Wesleyan community to stick together, especially in light of the current pandemic and the state of the job market.
“During this unprecedented time, connecting members of the Wesleyan family is more important than ever,” Williams wrote. “Together, we are a stronger community.”
Hannah Doctor-Loeb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.