Most students will interact with the Career Development Center (CDC) in some capacity during their college career. Despite this, the center still requires significant attention and prioritization at an administrative level. Many students perceive the center as a last resort for those who lack their own network or a willingness to aggressively make connections.
A number of improvements have been made over the last few years as the center has rolled out its “What’s NEXT” program, which is designed to engage students throughout all 4 years at Skidmore. In addition, a dedicated staffer under the title of “Employer Relations” now acts principally to find new internship and job opportunities for students.
The CDC has also been working on job growth in a few in-demand industries. Students interested in finance can now attend a yearly panel, complimentary training and have access to recruiters. The CDC reported to The Skidmore News that in only 3 years, Skidmore has increased the number of financial institutions recruiting at the college from 1 to 21. It is an impressive improvement and one that the CDC is working to mirror in other focus industries including, media & entertainment, publishing, visual arts, consulting, and non-profits. Resume audits are more convenient than ever, and more field trips and outreach events are being offered on a regular basis.
These changes may seem significant, but they have not necessarily translated into job opportunities for students on a larger scale. The CDC has seen student engagement jump 131%, but this engagement metric does not matter if students are not finding opportunities.
An average student seeking a job will first go into the office to have their resume reviewed. Unfortunately, these reviews can be widely inconsistent. They are mostly done by students and if you get the right assistant, it could be a useful meeting, but many visiting students, including a number of editors on this board, complain that resume reviews can be a waste of time. In some cases, students later turn to faculty or family members who suggest extensive corrections and wonder what kind of advice had been given. The blame has to be put on poor training for student CDC advisers. Should a job-seeking student manage to get their resume in shape, they will likely turn to the career postings online or speak with an alumni adviser in whatever field they are interested in. The issue is that the postings for jobs and internships are very limited and if a student is interested in a position outside of the New York or Boston area, they better look elsewhere.
Students contacting people listed on the adviser network also face difficulties. At least a few departments, including Political Science, do not release many names to the list. In a number of fields, Skidmore alumni listings are very limited. One board member called an alum on the list and was told by that alum, “you seem to know more people than I do.” Alumni do volunteer to be listed, but experiences like this one speak to the challenges of finding work through Skidmore’s listed resources. Many students we speak with seem to think they are better off on their own and stop using the CDC as a resource.
Perhaps the weak network stems from Skidmore’s status as a fairly young, formerly women’s college that does not have a strong alumni network. Board members disputed this after independently discovering and getting connected with a large swath of successful alumni and community members, such as parents or close relatives of current or former students. The issue seems to be that the CDC has not been able to develop or maintain relationships with large sections of the Skidmore Community.
We hope that the “Employer Relations” line will continue to yield opportunities for students, but one person can only do so much. By working closer with advancement, this could be improved. The college should also consider more funding to the center. Improving the CDC receives only brief and vague mention in the Strategic Action Agenda for 2016-2018.
The website is better and students have more opportunity for receiving funding for unpaid internships, but the CDC still lags behind at offering concrete internship and job opportunities. Despite the challenges of running an effective career center at a smaller liberal arts school, comparable colleges are doing better. Peer schools, such as Hamilton College, have offerings that trump Skidmore’s both in the number of available opportunities and in their quality. A number of liberal arts schools, including Rhodes College and the Claremont colleges, have achieved national recognition for their career development offices. By putting an institutional emphasis on the CDC, Skidmore could ensure prospective and current students that Skidmore will be a valuable asset on their resumes after their 4-year investment is over.