On a recent Sunday afternoon in Lancaster Lounge, a panel of five Bowdoin alumnae offered career advice to students of all class years. Sydney Asbury ’03, Hannah Bass ’99, Melody Hahm ’13, Claudia Paz ’08 and Aurora (Rory) Cremer ’11 provided insight and answered questions about four different industries and career stages.
The event was organized by Bowdoin’s Women in Business student group.
The five alumnae all touched upon the benefits of a liberal arts education. Hahm, a segment producer for a morning show on CNBC, said she’s glad that her career wasn’t predefined by a specific media major, and she reassured students that liberal arts grads “can adapt and learn on the fly.” Cremer, a physics and visual arts major at Bowdoin who is now honing her coding skills at Tamr, Inc., agreed that as a liberal arts student, she was confident that she could do anything she wanted — as long as she could get her foot in the door.
Many students asked the businesswomen about networking with and reaching out to Bowdoin alumni. “Just write to everyone!” Paz encouraged. Cremer added, “What’s the worst that could happen?” The panelists stressed the importance of remembering that networking is more than a transaction — it’s about forming relationships. You might even find your mentor, something that all five panelists agreed was incredibly important, whether through formal workplace processes or organic connections. It can mean the world to know that someone is looking out for you when you “hit a bump in the road,” Asbury said. As far as applications? Be direct and concise, and emphasize the skills and experiences that make you unique.
The alumni also had advice for seeking a first job. Hahm spoke about people her generation wanting to follow their passions rather than just pay the bills. Neither Bass nor Paz started out in business; Bass actually worked on a ferry and got her captain’s license before heading to law school, and she encouraged students to be open to new opportunities and to “grab ahold of what comes your way.” Asbury passed along what she considers the best advice she received: to “forget your plan, to follow what feels right and what you’re interested in.”
The panelists also had insights into workplace dynamics and work-life balance. While, unfortunately, there are still gender politics at play in the workplace, Asbury was positive that women can become better leaders by navigating the nuances of workplace communication — through speaking up, negotiating, or learning not to internalize criticism.
The panelists encouraged students to think about what was more important to them in terms of balance — a flexible schedule, making lots of money, loving your work environment, location, etc. — when thinking about working for an industry or particular company. Bass also reminded students that taking care of yourself health-wise makes a huge difference.