Every year when Career Planning Assistant Director Meg Springer organizes the annual Nonprofit Symposium at Bowdoin for students interested in pursuing nonprofit careers, she pins up a number of unique posters around the symposium room’s walls.
Each poster charts a person’s zigzagging career path through various jobs and degrees. Some of the subjects are Bowdoin employees, others are Bowdoin alumni, returning to talk to students about their nonprofit work. The posters offer glimpses into people’s lives and decisions, and the sometimes unexpected turns that can push a life into new directions.
This year, Springer is expanding her poster series to include more Bowdoin staff and faculty. She says the posters can reassure students that successful careers don’t always need to follow a direct path. She wants students not to worry that their first jobs after Bowdoin will determine the rest of their lives.
“Everyone started somewhere,” Springer said, “and it’s not always where they expected to start, and often the path isn’t linear at all.” She added that the posters “give permission to students to begin where they are and to figure it out over their lifetimes.”
Springer’s poster, a particularly busy one, includes, among others, her jobs as a windsurfing instructor, public relations intern, classified ads editor, small business owner on a beach in Greece, Peace Corps volunteer, ESL teacher, sales clerk, international student advisor at Tulane University, program advisor at Community College of Rhode Island, and a high school guidance program director.
All the employees in the Career Planning office have personal career-path posters, which they hang in view of the students who come in seeking career counseling. “[Students] look at me and they look at my poster,” Springer said, “and they say, ‘You’re not 95!’ How did you do so many things?’”
By putting up staff and faculty career posters in other offices around campus, Springer said she is hoping the visual representations of career paths spark conversations between students and Bowdoin staff and faculty. “It’s spreading the culture of Career Planning,” she said. “Students should be having conversations with everyone about their career paths, how they got started, and getting advice and recommendations.”