Bloomberg News Article

26 December 2014

By Janet Lorin

Dec 2, 2014 4:00 AM CT

Stanford University student Laura Zhang dropped in at a campus career services event last month for tips on polishing her resume. Zhang is only a freshman.

Career offices are no longer just for seniors on their way out the door. Along with Stanford, Princeton University, Carleton College and the University of Michigan have begun directing services at rookie students.

Angst about employment is fueling demand for college career services. Last year, 64 percent of Princeton freshmen visited the career office, up from 10 percent a decade earlier. As tuition and student-debt burdens rise, colleges are under pressure to show their value. Services have moved beyond interview tips and job postings to helping students connect with employers, alumni and internships, said Farouk Dey, head of career operations at Stanford, near Palo Alto, California.

“We’re engaging early and often,” said Dey, whose office has three staff members dedicated to freshmen and sophomores. “It takes time and energy for students to learn how to navigate those waters.”

Only a few months into the academic year, Princeton’s career services has already had contact with a quarter of the freshman class, according to the office. Much of the traffic comes from a workshop begun in January by the office’s executive director, Pulin Sanghvi, called “Career and Life Vision.”

Photographer: Janet Lorin/Bloomberg
Princeton University freshman Jeffrey Gleason attended a workshop at career services in October.

Fantasy Baseball

First-year student Jeffrey Gleason said he attended a workshop in October because he felt anxious about how to pursue potential career interests. He found some clarity at the session, where he was asked to identify points in his life when he felt invigorated. Gleason said he thought about high school analytics-based economics competitions and fantasy baseball.

“I never really spent much time in high school thinking about careers, jobs or internships down the road,” said Gleason, 18, of Princeton, New Jersey, who may major in economics. “Sports statistics is becoming a pretty big field,” he said. “I didn’t know how to approach a career in something like that.”

He now plans to contact upperclassmen who belong to a campus-based sports analytic group for suggestions about summer opportunities.

More freshmen are also taking “Princeternships,” where students can test career paths by observing Princeton alumni in their jobs for one to three days. The program drew 45 freshmen last year compared with 10 in 2007-2008.

Freshmen at Carleton get their first taste of career services during August orientation at the Northfield, Minnesota-based school. Sixty-two percent of last year’s freshman class interacted with career services in some capacity, said Kimberly Betz, director of the Career Center.

Carleton’s Externships

The school also helps students find “externships” for the weeks between semesters. Shorter than the more familiar internships, externships can be completed during school breaks and often involve learning by shadowing professionals in their jobs.

Kifaya Taha, 18, now a sophomore, found a placement through the program a year ago at the Neighborhood Justice Center, a nonprofit group in St. Paul, where she grew up.

“It really solidified my interest in social justice,” Taha said. “I learned I wouldn’t want a 9 to 5 office job, but one interacting with people.”

Michigan’s undergraduate career center added a program called “Freshman Fridays” in fall 2013 and about 150 students attended during the school year to eat free pizza or tacos, meet the staff and ask questions about careers and interests.

Career Coach

“We wanted to take the fear out of careers,” said Amy Hoag Longhi, assistant director of counseling and advising services at the public university in Ann Arbor.

The events augmented a three-year-old pilot initiative to encourage freshmen to think about their future earlier than senior year, Longhi said. One program that attracts freshmen is “My First Appointment,” where students — without a specific agenda or end goal — meet individually with a career coach.

At Stanford, the career services office sends weekly e-mails tailored to freshmen and sophomores with events and opportunities for research assistants or internships. The e-mails also list as many as nine “meet-ups” a week, where students can interact with upperclassmen or people in industry.

Zhang, 18, from Houston, attended a career fair in late September and the meet-up in early November. Engaging with career services is helping her think about possibilities after college, she said.

“I feel like even as a freshman, it’s always good to start early.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Janet Lorin in New York at jlorin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net Chris Staiti