Students respond to changes to the CEO

Since the last school year, the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) has undergone significant changes: several new staff members, a new online career service called Handshake and a new paint job (with further renovations to come).

Some students have reported concern about the changes. “From last year to this year, one major takeaway that I noticed was that they’re less friendly and helpful,” thesis student and History Area of Concentration (AOC) Rachel Rochlin, who is currently applying to law schools, said in an email interview. “Michelle Flint was helping me every step of the way, helping me find programs and understanding how to do the basic application, how to work with the no GPA thing. This year I was sad to find all the previous staff gone. I was told that they couldn’t help me with programs, applications or anything like that.”  

Thesis student Sierra Swabach started a Forum thread to share CEO graduate school application resources resources from previous years. The CEO’s Assistant Director for Career Readiness and Employability Lisandra Jimenez explained that these previously online resources were not being removed, but rather were just hidden while the website was under construction. She also reported that a part-time employee was working with the CEO and New College’s marketing team to work on updating the site.

Jimenez and Assistant Director for Career Technology and Outreach Madeline Heath recommended nurturing faculty relationships, especially for students whose post-grad plans involve graduate school. Jimenez and Heath also touched on how the CEO exists more to assist students in the process of actually applying to graduate school, such as resume writing or personal statements, rather than the more field-specific aspects of choosing a program or a school. They emphasized how faculty advisors are still an important part of the graduate school application process.

Interest in the newly launched Handshake has been relatively tepid, although some members of the community have had good experiences with Handshake and are looking forward to using it to connect with employers. Thesis student Alex Sommers found that “Handshake is user-friendly and you can actually make CEO appointments on it. [It has] 100 jobs and internships and more of them are geared toward current students and recent grads.”

Jimenez explained how the new staff was trying to form connections with the New College Alumnae/i Association to help students navigate their post-New College future. “We’re always trying to connect with the community and bring leaders from different industries to the students [through Handshake],” Jimenez said. Heath emphasized that their goal is not for Handshake to take away from the services offered by the CEO, but that it will “add to the robustness” of these services.

Students seem to disagree about the effect Handshake has had on the CEO’s accessibility. “This year I have had interactions with a few [staff members] and I find them to be uninterested,” thesis student Bianca Persechino said in an email interview. “Peers have told me they don’t respond to emails and if they do, never promptly.”

Expressing a similar sentiment, Rochlin said, “Lisandra Jimenez told me the only things she would help me with are my resume and personal statement or essays, and that before she helped me I needed to have everything done. When I expressed that I didn’t know where to start or how to write a personal statement, she told me that they can really only offer advice on drafts, which seemed unhelpful to me. It’s weird that they can’t or won’t offer general advice.”

In response to questions about their ability to meet with students given all the changes, Heath explained how mentorship was an important part of the role for both herself and Jimenez.  “We still want to meet face to face,” Heath explained, and added that if students didn’t feel that Handshake was meeting their needs that they should reach out to the CEO. “If students talk to us about organizations they’re already interested in, they can tell us about them and we can help with the Handshake onboarding process for the employer,” Heath said.  

The CEO is also in the process of creating student “workspaces,” or new furniture for what Jimenez referred to as “peer-to-peer work.” Jimenez hopes it will encourage students to work on their resumes or job applications in the CEO after meeting with a mentor. Jimenez and Heath hope the CEO will become a place where students feel comfortable seeking post-graduation advice.

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