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Career services gets mixed reviews

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During the 2016-2017 school year, Swarthmore Career Services held over one thousand counseling appointments and engaged 64 percent of the student body, according to its annual report. Career Services works by providing students with ways to seek out job or internship opportunities, helping with resume or cover letter editing, offering career counseling, and hosting workshops and recruiting events. For students, Career Services can be a helpful asset in fulfilling their career counseling needs while others find that more work could be done on sustaining alumni connections and assisting with internship and job searches.

This month, Career Services hosted an ‘Exploring Finance and Consulting Careers Panel’ and an ‘Aesthetics of Professionalism Fair.’ According to Pattie Kim, assistant director of Career Services, in the coming months, there will be more panels and fairs related to job and internship opportunities. Panels and fairs in government, public policy, and the nonprofit industry will occur later in the semester while finance and consulting recruiting typically occurs in the fall.

For Dakota Gibbs ’19, Career Services has been a large help in the internship application and interview processes.

“I’ve used career services twice. The first time I used them it was an emergency. I had signed up for an internship for the summer and was doing a phone interview with them and the call dropped multiple times,” Gibbs said. “The attendant at the time let me use one of the open rooms to use their phone and I was able to complete the interview.”

Gibbs praises both the assistance Career Services provides and the Career Peer Advisors and Career Services counselors who provide that help.

“When I was applying to a specific internship, I was having trouble with my resume and getting it down to one page so I met with one of the CPAs,” Gibbs said. “The CPA helped me edit it [my resume] and go through it even at like midnight.”

However, Gibbs does believe that Career Services has been more useful for him after he had completed his internship searches.

“I do think that career services could do more work [regarding internship and job search]. There’s obviously not a lot of opportunities that I can find myself,” Gibbs said. “I think there have been more changes now because Career Services has become more ‘corporate’ and lot more focused on finance recruiting.”

While it may seem to some that students are more interested in going into the finance and consulting industry, Kim finds that this perceived trend is more related to the earlier recruiting processes of firms or companies in these fields.

“[Finance and consulting] are more popular fields but it’s not as though interest in it has grown exponentially. What we’re finding is that a lot of banks and consulting firms are recruiting earlier,” Kim said. “The flurry [of people interested in finance and consulting] that we’re seeing is more of a recent phenomenon as a result of the timeline of recruiting, not necessarily an increased amount of interest from students.”

Simran Singh ’19, who works as a CPA, believes that Handshake can be a useful asset for students who are unaware of certain companies or firms. Though Swarthmore is not traditionally perceived as a target school for finance and consulting recruiting, Singh sees Handshake as a good resource for students interested in those industries.

“I’ve found Handshake pretty useful for find information about firms that I didn’t know about,” Singh said. “Handshake has provided me with a portal to a lot of firms that I didn’t know existed.”

Lauren Chung ’20, a CPA, believes that Swarthmore’s status as a ‘non-target’ school for finance-related careers can make it more difficult for students to enter the industry.

I can’t speak for all liberal arts colleges, but Swarthmore is a “non-target” school for most big banks, which means that we don’t get the benefits of on-campus information sessions and in-person conversations with recruiters,” Chung said. “That being said, getting a job in finance from Swarthmore is definitely not impossible; we have many successful alumni working in the industry and they are very willing to help interested students out during the recruiting process.”

Kim also emphasizes the value of networking with alumni for students.

While Career Services has recently become more engaged in offering students opportunities for networking in finance and consulting, Singh, co-president of 180 Degrees Consulting, finds that while the focus of 180 is on social impact investment, the group also works on creating networking events for its members due to the past lack of resources provided to students interested in those fields.

“We felt that there was a lack of support for people interested in consulting,” Singh said. “Career Services does some work with that in terms of hosting forums and networking events, but we wanted to have some sort of student-run base where there’s a group of people who have graduated and who are coming back to talk about their experiences as consultants.”

“Networking is really a great way to get industry information really quickly and easily. There’s a lot of information that the internet cannot give you and a thirty-minute conversation with an alumnus can get you so much more,” Kim said. “Networking is not necessarily just about finding a job or an internship, but it’s also about relationship building and talking to people outside of the Swarthmore community.”

Though Career Services fulfills different needs for student and provides a variety of resources, the 2016-2017 Career Services report states that 60 percent of the appointments made were regarding job and internship search and career exploration.

Kim says that when students come into the office looking for ways to discover job or internship opportunities, she first leads them to three main databases: Handshake, UCan, and engIN.

“Handshake is overseen by Swarthmore’s Career Services,” Kim said. “Someone from Career Services goes through and approves all of the employers and opportunities that are listed.”

Though Handshake can be useful for a lot of students, Kim believes that some students may find more success with UCan because it offers a more diverse range of internships opportunities. UCan and engIN are internship databases while Handshake is an internship and job database.

“If you’re not getting great responses on Handshake, UCan is great supplement because it’s a completely separate database and 20 schools contribute internships to that database,” Kim said. “There’s a lot of opportunities on UCAN but a big thing that we tout about it is that there’s a lot of geographic and industry diversity because there are a lot more schools using it.”

For STEM students, engIN is database shared by five schools that can be used as a resource to find engineering, tech-based, and science internships.

Additionally, students who come into Career Services are unsure of what they are interested in are counseled on how their interests, major, or personality type may align with a specific field or career.

“Whenever students are looking for experiential opportunities, it depends on a student’s past experience, personality, and interests,” Kim said. “For students who are on the fence or don’t know what they want to do, we might give them personality assessments or explore their interests and activities on campus, to help them look at different job opportunities and determine what would work best for them.”

While many utilize Career Services as a resource for any needs related to career and internship search, networking, and other preparation for careers, some students remain seeking more access to improved methods for internship and job hunting.

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