Career Center offers “work groups” in new fields
In response to the success of a student-driven work group model, Washington University’s Career Center has established four new work groups this semester, with the newest group holding its first meeting last week.
The new groups focus on nonprofit work, environment and sustainability, communications and writing, and public health. They meet weekly and are open to students of any major with an interest in the topics.
The Career Center previously organized only one work group, government and public policy, which formed in early 2012 after a trip to Washington, D.C. At the conclusion of the trip, students and advisors who had participated decided to continue meeting weekly throughout the semester, according to the group’s leader, Career Center Assistant Director Amy Heath-Carpentier.
“We wanted [the work group] to be very relaxed and low-key,” Heath-Carpentier said. “And we also knew we wanted to take advantage of the fabulous alumni that Wash. U. had.”
The groups fill some gaps in career preparation for a number of humanities students at the University.
The topics and style of each week’s meeting vary—students may participate in a group informational interview to learn more about a particular sector of the group’s focus, or they might engage in more traditional skill-building activities.
“I hope humanities majors feel invited to these events, and I also hope that through these efforts, I’m reaching more of them,” Heath-Carpentier said.
Heath-Carpentier works closely with students in the government and public policy work group to gauge their interests and reaches out to alumni and other speakers based on students’ interests.
Student response to the groups has been favorable, with recent graduates citing their experience in the public policy group as helpful in securing their first careers.
The government and public policy group typically sees attendance between 20 and 35 students each week, while the newer groups have been seeing an average attendance of seven students.
“I found [the work group] to be extremely helpful, if only because it’s really nice to have a regular deadline and a regular time set aside to focus on career stuff,“ senior Molly McGregor, an International and Area Studies major who has participated in the government and public policy group since this past fall, said.
Heath-Carpentier and Carol Moakley, who oversees the work groups, both said that a major benefit of the work groups is the networking skills they teach students.
“[Students] said the most helpful thing was getting over that initial hesitation to informational interviews,” said Heath-Carpentier. “They [participate in an] informational interview here; they get the confidence then to do it on their own…they create a web of people.”
She added that, due to the fast pace of government and policy jobs in particular, students with industry contacts find it easier to get a job.
Moakley also emphasized the importance of student engagement.
“I think there’s a lot of power in students working together and also taking some ownership over the development of the work groups…Students are serving as ambassadors to the alums [and speakers]…They learn about the person, do the introductions and really serve in a leadership role,” she said.