Jim Amidon — Drum roll for the biggest understatement on this website: It’s a tough job market out there.
Tens of thousands of workers have been cut from our nation’s workforce in the last few months and it’s likely that more layoffs and company closures are forthcoming.
Imagine, then, what it’s like to be one of the tens of thousands of college seniors who have taken all the right classes, interned in all the right places, and polished up their resumes over the last four years. I suspect the picture is pretty bleak.
Graduates from liberal arts colleges like Wabash tend to struggle making the case for employment after graduation. Statistics show that Fortune 500 CEOs prefer hiring liberal arts grads because of their versatility and broad-based education. Yet the disconnect from the CEO’s office to the human resource office exists in a mighty big way.
Liberal arts graduates often don’t have specific “skills” that jump off the resume. Wabash students don’t take a series of courses designed to help them program computers or write tight marketing statements. They are prepared to learn how to do those things after graduation, and develop their skill sets on a broader base of knowledge.
In a tough economy, it’s harder than ever to make the case for the liberal arts, and at the same time perhaps never before has there been a greater need for liberal arts graduates in leadership positions in this country.
The Schroeder Center for Career Development at Wabash has been retooling for several years under director Scott Crawford and his team. The results were immediate and sweeping. The Schroeder Center is now ranked third nationally in all of higher education in last fall’s Princeton Review college rankings.
And a good bit of that is because Crawford, Betsy Knott, Toni McKinney, Mike Kerr, and Kyle Dunaway have taken career counseling to the students. Instead of sitting back in their offices on West Wabash Avenue waiting for students to walk in the door, the Schroeder Center staff gets out and about on campus. And they’ve ignited a passion in Wabash’s alumni, too.
In fact, the Schroeder Center’s activities may be as visible as anything happening on campus right now. There are posters in buildings and newsletters in bathrooms; the Center’s website is full of information and opportunities; and there are events related to career preparation virtually every day of the week.
Let’s take this week as an example:
At noon Monday, Schroeder Center staff put on a resume-writing workshop over lunch.
Monday night, the College welcomed back several alumni who are in healthcare positions — from doctors to hospital administrators to pharmaceutical salesmen. Current students had the opportunity to network with these experienced alumni and gained insight into how they reached the positions they hold today.
At lunch Tuesday, the staff led a session helping students identify internships that are right for them — and matched with their personal, academic, and career interests. Internships are huge today, and it’s particularly helpful for liberal arts graduates to have received some hands-on experience in fields related to their career paths.
At noon on Thursday, Amina McIntyre will conduct a mock interview of a student looking for a professional position. Other students can witness the types of questions that will be asked and learn from the good and bad answers to the questions.
The best opportunities of the week come on Thursday and Friday evenings. On Thursday, nearly a dozen alumni and representatives from the Indiana Secretary of State’s office will host a “Financial Fitness” workshop and dinner event. Students and their guests can come to dinner and learn the basics of financial planning and investments, as well has how to stay out of debt at the start of their professional careers.
On Friday night, members of the junior and senior class will have dinner and network with the College’s most esteemed alumni — members of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors of the alumni association.
From experience, I can tell you that there are virtually no other colleges in the country that offer students the opportunity to have dinner and converse with such powerful and influential alumni. Those conversations will be lively, honest, and will surely help our students gain a better understanding of how to plan their careers.
The job market is a tough one, made even worse by the unprecedented downturn of the nation’s economy. That’s why I’m so heartened by the work and visibility of the Schroeder Center for Career Development at Wabash. The staff is committed to working with students to maximize their experiences at the College and prepare them for life after Wabash.