CSI: Career Services Investigation

by Daniel Belkin | 11/15/07 2:05am

"All dreams are welcome here," pledges Career Services to anxious Dartmouth students aspiring to find their ideal entry-level position for life post Hanover. Amid the resume drops, career fairs and rounds of interviews that have created the corporate recruiting buzz on campus, hordes of government, biology and history majors feel left out and that Career Services' mantra should instead read: "Some dreams are more welcome here than others." Is this fair?

Every fall term (along with winter and spring terms to a smaller extent), the top financial businesses in the entire country flock to the Upper Valley to gobble up the best and brightest i-banker and consultant-wannabes that the College has to offer. Since the first resume drops in early October, over 450 undergrads have thrown their hat into the ring vying for a Golden Ticket to Wall Street and its likeminded counterparts, according to Career Services.

Staying true to their personal passions, a sizable majority of the senior class avoided corporate recruiting's lure of straightforwardness and security and opted for the do-it-yourself method of finding the perfect job. Instead of just hitting the classified pages, these members of the Class of 2008 turn to Career Services for a guiding hand in their job search. Unfortunately, at the same time, the hallways of Carson Hall and Fairchild Physical Sciences Center echo with rumors of Career Services horror stories: being told to simply try using Google to search for job options, dealing with unknowledgeable staffers and being told that you are pregnant (sorry, that's Dick's House).

The other day, I made the trip to Career Services on a sting operation -- CSI Hanover: Career Services Investigation -- expecting to expose its glaring holes in catering to the needs of non-finance-focused kids. To my surprise, I met with an enthusiastic employee who showed me various online databases that I should regularly check for new job postings in the less-than-corporate worlds of journalism and American foreign policy. She pointed me to the extensive Alumni Advisory Network. Though requiring a good deal of legwork, networking is frankly how non-financial jobs are secured. And 20 minutes later, the rest was in my hands.

Without a doubt, all College kids should receive a helpful hand to hold at Career Services, yet all too often, they have unrealistic expectations. Over the past three years, seniors have grown accustomed to being spoon-fed. A smorgasbord of warm food is just a swipe of the Dartmouth Card away until late at night. Leaky radiators in dorm rooms are promptly repaired after one quick blitz. An army of research librarians are on payroll to assist perplexed students with their work.

And in many ways, corporate recruiting continues this comfortable pattern of having things tied up into neat little packages for students. Scores of the top firms in the nation come from hundreds of miles away right to the foot of the Green. After a few clicks of the mouse, resumes and transcripts are posted online and it is just a jaunt down Main Street clad in JC Penney's finest for an interview for a highly-coveted position.

In the world beyond Hanover, few things are handed out on silver platters and the job search process is a rude awakening to this sobering fact. After four years of stress and hard work and shelving out $150,000+ in tuition, many students feel a false sense that the Dartmouth diploma is the surefire ticket to job offers and professional success. Though even with "Dartmouth College" sparkling at the top of their resumes, undergrads must remain pro-active. Posting a resume and blocking a Facebook profile will simply not bring suitors from K Street or the National Institutes of Health.

Could Career Services realistically do more for seniors hoping to become scientists or public policy wonks? The all-too-true stories of students being pointed to Google for aid in their search must be addressed. While Career Services cannot force non-financial sectors to recruit at Dartmouth, the yearly Employer Connections Fair should have a more diverse cross-section of firms to balance out for corporate recruiting. But at the end of the day, the voracious appetite for manpower and hiring schedules of Wall Street will always make the corporate job search much more clear-cut. However, the extra initiative required of non-corporate recruits will pay off in the long run.

And speaking of appetites, if you are a hiring manager reading this, please give me a job. I will work for food.