As soon as the new school year kicks off in September, Bowdoin’s office of Career Planning is off and running. The clock, after all, is ticking for the seniors, who graduate in mere months. To prepare the graduating class for life after Bowdoin, Career Planning offers a number of programs on such necessities as writing successful resumes, interviewing, networking and more.
We sat down with Timothy Diehl, Bowdoin Career Planning’s director, to ask him about what his office is doing now to help seniors plan for the next stage of their lives.
Bowdoin Daily Sun: This is a busy time of year for Career Planning. What are you focusing on now?
Timothy Diehl: Right now our focus is on getting seniors ready to make the transition in eight months, and creating a call to action for them so they can fully engage in the resources that are available, not just in the Career Planning center, but across Bowdoin.
A number of programs serve to the be the starter gun for the senior class, including the mandatory senior class meeting that takes place each year. That meeting reintroduces them to the Career Planning team. It highlights the diversity of life experience that our advising team brings to the table. It also pinpoints the key resources and tools that they will need in order to embark on a successful search, and it gives us an opportunity to dispel some myths that we know might be in their minds. Our goal is to remove the fear of engagement or the paralysis that can come from the unknown.
It is likely the first time in their lives where there isn’t a destination that is somewhat predetermined. For most of them, as high-achieving students, they came to Bowdoin knowing they were qualified to attend a highly selective institution based on their academic and extracurricular accomplishments. So the college search process was somewhat defined, with set deadlines and notification dates. The career process is not so defined, so true uncertainty is experienced for the first-time by many college seniors.
BDS: What are some of the myths that you try to dispel?
TD: One of the more popular aspects of the senior meeting is when we display a series of slides that depict the application deadlines by job type to demonstrate that the hiring cycle varies greatly between certain fields and industries. Finance and consulting hiring tends to be early in the year, be very formalized, and tends to have a campus-recruiting component. Whereas finding employment in the communications, arts and media fields tends to be highly networking based, and opportunities tend to be posted when they’re available. So we highlight the fact that there are opportunities for all students regardless of major, regardless of interest — just the timing may be different. So as students see their peers wandering around dressed in suits in September, interviewing for consulting and finance jobs, they shouldn’t see that as the entire universe of opportunity, because in fact it’s just one slice of the pie.
BDS: What kind of advising expertise is represented in your staff?
TD: We have taken an approach of having our career advisors reflect one or more of the industries in their own experience. Our pre-law and government advisor has a law degree and practiced corporate law for a number of years before coming to join us (Sherry Mason). Our advisor in the arts and communication field (Dighton Spooner) worked for decades in the film and television industry. Our advisor in the nonprofit and education sectors (Meg Springer) is a return Peace Corps volunteer and a former public school teacher. Our science, healthcare and environmental career advisor worked in environmental education and policy (Cynthia Kingsford ’80). Our marketing and sales advisor (Todd Herrmann ’85) has lived and breathed marketing and sales with a number of companies big and small. Our seasoned team gives us a credibility in field-specific advising that translates to actionable next steps students need to take to move toward their chosen field or employer.
BDS: So, what are the other programs you offer seniors?
TD: The senior meeting is part of a four-step program that we call The Steps for Recruiting Readiness. It’s designed to ensure a baseline comfort and familiarity with the approach to a well-executed job search. It requires each senior, regardless of whether they’ve met with us before, to come in for a one-on-one advising appointment. They need to bring an updated resume and a sample cover letter for a position of interest. It also requires them to attend the senior meeting and sign a letter of professional behavior. For the final step, seniors must attend the How to Explore & Land Your Dream Job workshop, a ‘blocking and tackling’ workshop focused on the how-to’s of networking and interviewing. Key topics include how to use LinkedIn to connect to people; how to leverage the Bowdoin alumni and parent network; what to say in an informational networking conversation; how to prepare for an interview; how to give an elevator pitch when you have a minute to meet somebody; how to explain who you are and what you are looking for.
This four-step program is a requirement for anyone who plans to apply to any opportunity sponsored or facilitated by Bowdoin Career Planning. Often these are the prime positions where parents and alumni are involved in providing an opportunity. We feel this elevates the individual student’s preparedness and Bowdoin’s value to the employer in terms of presenting a unified, qualified applicant pool.
BDS: You also offer online resources.
TD: Right, we’ve taken a very proactive approach to putting the content that we deliver every day in one-on-one advising sessions into a format that students can access, wherever they are, however they wish.
BDS: And you list jobs and internships.
TD: We have a job and internship database, eBEAR. It is an ever-changing list of proprietary, dedicated positions where there is an advocacy on the employer side, by a parent or an alum. Most of our internship and job opportunities are tied to relationships with alumni and parents. Parents and alumni are our most valuable asset in advising students about their actual career choices and providing access to internships and jobs. We would love for them to contact us if they have an opportunity that is appropriate to advertise to Bowdoin students.
BDS: What is the part of your job you like best?
TD: What makes it rewarding is I really feel I’m playing the role of a catalyst in creating this moment when a parent or alum or some outside party can connect and realize the amazing value of hiring a Bowdoin person. When the student comes in after securing the job or the internship to excitedly tell me it’s done…I derive a small amount, no, more than a small amount, I derive a great feeling of accomplishment from that. The most exciting thing is when they feel that they were empowered to do it on their own. That they earned it.