My Thoughts on Smith Career Development Programs

Siyu Lily Qian ‘19
Contributing Writer

Some people argue that going to a liberal arts college is a waste of money — having spent a huge amount on tuition and fees and graduated with useless knowledge that is disconnected from the real world. During my senior year in high school, I was quite hesitant of applying to liberal arts colleges because of this kind of narrative. However, my first-year experience at Smith convinced me that this is not the case.

During my first year, I felt perplexed and nervous because I had no idea where to launch my first internship — and then I found that the Lazarus Center for Career Development is certainly a perfect place to get started. This may seem like a typical advertisement, but it is indeed my genuine feeling toward our school’s career development center.  The staff and student peers there are warm and patient. 

While in my first semester at Smith, I was overwhelmed by the idea of going to D.C. alone to attend the Public Leadership Education Network conference, hosted by a women’s college consortium for developing female leaders in various political fields. It is the Smith career center staff who encouraged me to overcome my timidness and apply to this program. Facing my nearly blank resume, I was desperate, but they comforted me and suggested that I should get more involved in campus activities.

After meeting with the career adviser, I benefited from the email follow-up system, having my cover letter revised several times by the professional career advisor. Their advices played a crucial role in the application process for my first internship. All the workshops I attended were inspiring.  The connections that this school built amongst Smith alumnae and students were helpful.

There are many precious experiences I cherish with the career development center and I am aware that the huge amount of various career workshops and programs they host greatly benefit a significant amount of students.

While the career center is indeed a great bonus for us, it also has various deficiencies that could be improved. Enormous amounts of emails from various industries flow into students’ email box, which can be easily overlooked by busy students who do not keep an eye on them.  Email classification and categorization of recruiting companies could relieve our burden to sort out the valuable information.

Thanks to the shared information among the five college consortium, our E-Access database is in a good shape but it still has a long way to go. In addition to its disorganization and bewildering interface, occasional information inconsistencies between the school database and the company official website occur.  The difficulties are quite understandable as Northampton is a small town, far from big cities where the employers are more willing to post their recruiting information on the website of universities close by them.

Nevertheless, as so many Smithies go beyond Massachusetts to intern across the nation or around the world during breaks, E-Access should also set up a platform for students to post their own summer intern or work experiences. It would be beneficial for students to exchange and share the organization information with others, as those internships programs are likely to reopen in the following years. In this way, our career database can be expanded.

Furthermore, there are a number of career-related clubs sprouting up around the campus. If school and student organizations can collaborate and build more connections, I believe the student body can benefit even more.

Some people also dislike Smith’s policy of denying credits for professional classes. Some of them believe that students would then lose the opportunity to prepare for their career in a pure academic environment.  I am totally fine with Smith’s resistance of “professional” courses. That’s the way a liberal arts school should be. It is how liberal arts schools differ from other big universities, and a factor we should consider when we choose a certain school. Taking liberal arts courses can be an even better way to hone our basic skills for work. Workshops and other resources around campus can meet partial demand for students who truly have strong interests in exploring certain fields — and students also have the opportunities to attend summer programs or take other university courses to fulfill their demands.

Overall, our school’s career programs are a really good starting point. Meanwhile, it is also important for us to be aware that we shouldn’t completely rely on these programs provided by the college and relinquish the control over our own career choices. Just like how we rule our own college life, we should also shoulder the responsibilities of exploring the outside world on our own.

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