Scholars trips can give students their big break — over spring break

14 March 2018

“We all have to network. It is not a choice.”

Real talk begins early and often with Lee Caraher ’86. Dressed in their business casual best, a group of 30 or so Carleton students are in the Weitz Center to practice handshakes and dissect the finer points of full name introductions during a Professionalism in the Workplace tutorial hosted by the Career Center.

If these Carls expected to dip a toe in the networking waters on this mid-February night, Caraher spices up the gathering by tossing them in the deep end. She doesn’t pull punches when it comes to professional outreach: You have to make connections and put yourself out there.

“The vast majority of job opportunities come from people you know,” says Caraher, the guest of honor as CEO of Double Forte, her own public relations and content marketing firm in San Francisco. She continues to put Carls through the paces, advising them to practice introductions and small talk with three strangers in the room.

“This is stuff we talk about in my office all the time,” Caraher says. “You’re already ahead of so many of your peers.”


The Career Center organizes events like Caraher’s demonstration to prepare students for life beyond Carleton—which (whether they realize it or not) actually begins as undergrads at Carleton. Its annual Spring Break Scholars trips—a labor intensive set of site visits highlighting two specific career tracks—are designed to address gaps in knowledge and access by steering students to valuable resources, most notably, Carleton alumni.

As part of the month-long Scholars build up, participants work with Career Center staff on crafting a resume and LinkedIn profile, honing an elevator pitch, writing outreach emails, and researching career fields. This year’s Scholars trips are centered on public policy in Washington, D.C. and sustainability in the Twin Cities. Past ventures have emphasized careers in technology, communications, business, medicine, entrepreneurship, and nonprofit work.

“Our goal is to create meaningful opportunities for students to practice their networking and professional skills and become more confident,” says Sarah Wolfe, program director for alumni and parent engagement. “However, it’s really up to each student to make the most of what’s in front of them.”

A computer science major from India, Ritvik Kar ’19 came to the Career Center for the first time as a sophomore. His initial visit was “literally me writing basic information on a piece of paper,” the beginnings of a polished resume. Kar attended last year’s Scholars trip to learn more about technology careers in the Bay Area.

“It was beyond amazing. More than any of us on the trip expected,” Kar says. “I didn’t realize how many Carleton alums were in tech and how interested they were in helping us. They were so open to talking and very honest about what works, what doesn’t.”

While visiting Bay Area tech companies, Kar also learned about product management. “It was the first time I heard about a career and immediately said, ‘I am certain that this is what I want to do.” Even better, he initiated a brief conversation about his interests with Mark Hall ’85 at Vevo, one of the hosts.

“I applied for an internship at Vevo in engineering, and I didn’t get it. But a little bit later, someone there reached out and said, ‘Mark mentioned that you were interested in product management. We don’t have an internship for that, but we could. Want to talk?’” Kar says.

“It was exactly the thing I was looking for. And Mark was the orchestrator.”

Because of his Vevo internship last summer, Kar gained valuable product management experience, which helped him land a coveted spot at LinkedIn this summer. When Hall left Vevo for Bandcamp recently, he even reached out to Kar to let him know about the job change — another meaningful gesture that made Kar feel like “Mark was invested in me.”


Call it networking, call it whatever you want—Hall doesn’t get hung up on the terminology. He simply gets excited to meet young people who are “intentionally running towards an adventure or opportunity, who’ve done their homework and are reaching out because they figure I can help them.”

“Ritvik made an extra effort to seek me out at the end of our (Scholars) session, to say that a place like Vevo was exactly the kind of opportunity he was seeking. That combination struck me—and stuck with me,” says Hall, now head of product and strategy at Bandcamp.

“Two of the Carleton students also wrote handwritten thank you notes at the end of summer, Ritvik being one of them. Those small courtesies matter. It’s a sign people care, and makes one more motivated to help in the future.”

“Small courtesies,” like a handshake or greeting, fall into the category of what Caraher calls “things that you think would be basic, but actually aren’t if you’ve never been told.” That’s where the Career Center — and alumni allies like Caraher and Hall — come in. They’ve been there. They know what matters when students are just starting out.

“I’ve learned so much from the Career Center, things I never would have even thought about before,” Kar says. “I also got to see how much alumni care about Carleton. I understand the tangible effects of their generosity. It’s really made a huge difference to me and my career path.”



What have Carls gained from being part of Career Center Scholars trips during spring break? Veronica Child ’18 and Nick Caputo ’19 share their perspectives.


Morristown, New Jersey

Major: Computer science

Programs I’ve participated in: Spring Break Scholars 2017, Grace Hopper 2017 preparation sessions, mock interview practice sessions, conference grant applications, summer funding applications, professional profile building, career counseling, resume review

How has the Career Center helped you?

I knew next to nothing about business or what it means to be a professional coming into the Career Center. My parents didn’t work in the standard workspace or office, and I had only just heard about resumes during the college application process in high school. Looking back, the contrast between my knowledge base now and then is astounding. I have learned not only career paths that I never knew existed, but also basic professional skills — the ability to network, write a resume, have an interview — essentially the expectations for any professional.

Are you better prepared for a post-Carleton career now?

I’m excited to say that I will be a resident engineer at Google in their New York City office. The Career Center played an integral role in supporting me both professionally and as an inexperienced student in pursuing this goal. I never thought it would be possible for me to work at a tech company until I attended a Google internship and employment panel hosted by the Career Center my freshman year. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the company’s culture and products, and I made it a goal to work at a software company.

I made my first professional connection to Google, in addition to many other tech companies, on the Tech Scholars program. That summer, when all students went on break, I still had support since the Career Center staff was willing to review my resume before the start of fall tech recruitment. When the frenzy of job openings hit, they kept me sane as I juggled scheduling interviews, meeting application deadlines, and talking to recruiters.


Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

Major: Political science/international relations

Programs I’ve participated in: Spring Break Scholars 2018, Gettysburg Leadership Program for Sophomores, Carleton Global Edge internship program in Cape Town (South Africa), summer internship funding, career counseling, resume and application review

How has the Career Center helped you?

Career Center programs have allowed me to explore many different interests and figure out what kind of work I want to do after Carleton. Last summer, in Cape Town, I interned for a small Non-Governmental Organization doing research on living conditions for farmworkers in the region. I found that the work was interesting and challenging, and that I enjoyed living abroad in new contexts, but that the small NGO environment was a bad match for me. Moving forward, I’ll use those lessons to find new opportunities that are better fits.

You’re going on this year’s Scholars trip in D.C. Why spend spring break this way?

I’m particularly excited to meet with alums who work in public policy. That is the likely direction I’m heading career-wise. This program will flesh out my understanding of the opportunities in the field and give me insight into the kind of work I could expect to do. I definitely recommend spending spring break on these programs. They’ve allowed me to build my knowledge and skills in diverse ways. They’re also pretty relaxing and fun, and you still have half of break to spend at home or traveling elsewhere, if that’s what you want to do.


  • 2018-03-15 20:43:29

    These students and alums are right, Carleton alumni want to help current students, but students should learn that they need to approach alums and how to do it professionally.