With our seniors graduating into the worst economy and job market in decades, the Career Center issued an urgent call for help to the Carleton network. You did not disappoint us. I was thrilled but not surprised when more than 1,200 of you volunteered for Engagement Wanted, a pilot program to help the Class of 2009 send their requests for opportunities and advice out to Carleton’s alumni, parents, and friends.
With the Engagement Wanted experiment, you built opportunity and support around the college community, around our extended family, helping almost half of the Class of 2009. Whether individual seniors mostly felt supported, received sage advice, were pointed towards open positions, or were offered one directly, this crisis brought out the best in us all.
So this begs the question: If we can rally in crisis, can we not sustain it when times are improving? Has not this crisis demonstrated evidence of our individual and collective capacity to support one another as careers are developed, as futures are unpacked? For seniors? For their successors? For recent graduates through the point of their fifth reunions? For more seasoned and experienced alumni?
Engagement Wanted is only one of eight programs designed to help Carleton students connect with the broader Carleton family. With the alumni-centered success stories of the Annual Fund volunteers and Admissions Representatives, there may well be no other college better positioned than this college to build a platform of community support for our students, recent graduates, and other alumni. If so, is not career and professional opportunity the next frontier for Carls helping Carls?
The Right Place, The Right Time
As Carleton is perhaps the right place to reconstruct and re-imagine the small liberal arts college career center, this may just be the right time to get even more serious about it.
Nationwide, offers to graduating seniors are down more than 60% (i.e., under 20% of graduating applicants received at least one offer, compared to 51% in 2007), and internship offers are also down significantly. More questions arise. How long will this decline last? Will some changes be permanent? Will some kinds of work simply go away? Will some new venues prevail (e.g., infrastructure, energy)? Will others expand (e.g., education, government)?
What Carls are doing for our seniors in this perilous time collectively underscores our capacity for sustaining our career networking power beyond this crisis. With each senior we support, we create future supporters. As graduates move towards the point in their own careers when they can reach back with their own hands to Northfield, I’m not sure we’ll even need to ask.
“Fewer Grads Have Jobs, More Head to Grad School,” Spotlight Online, National Association of Colleges and Employers, Bethlehem, PA, May 13, 2009