boston college career center
Faculty play a key role in students major exploration, internship preparation, graduate school planning, and more. As a result, faculty across the University are consistently working on initiatives to best help their students prepare for life after Boston College. We have spotlighted a few of these key initaitves below.
Connecting Classroom Learning with Jobs
By Paul S. Gray, Associate Professor of Sociology
Most professors are trained to see their own specialty areas of interest as part of an academic discipline. This means that, in our courses, the material is typically connected to a wider body of knowledge, more than to the practical realms of finding a job and earning a living. However, most of our disciplines also comprise skills and orientations that are of immense value to potential employers. In the brief summary that follows, I highlight some of these important connections. I have observed these linkages first-hand, because, although I have been teaching at BC for over 40 years, I have also served as a consultant to businesses, non-profits, and government agencies.
Organizations of all types need to do research because they increasingly rely on actual data to help them gain or maintain a competitive advantage. Sociology, for example, teaches concrete research skills: how to create and administer a survey, for example, or how to do an efficient and productive personal interview. Sociologists are also adept at collecting and managing large data sets that contain information collected from hundreds, or even thousands, of individuals. So, training from our courses in research methods and statistics translates readily into outside organizations.
Beyond these skills, sociologists are also trained in “systems” thinking, or seeing the whole picture of how an organization works. As employers’ organizations become more specialized, they tend to recruit individuals who have a narrow focus in their prior experience or career aims. This trend has created a shortage of people who possess a “big picture,’ holistic point of view. Over the years, I have found that businesses highly value employees who can identify with the overall mission of a company, not simply with their specific tasks. Sociology is one of many disciplines that helps us to see the wider context within which firms operate. What threats do they face? What is the political and regulation environment in which they must operate? How will technology influence the way they do business? These are tough questions that historians, political scientists, and communications scholars are likely to answer effectively.
All academic subjects that require students to write clearly, concisely and logically prepare potential employees to be valuable and influential. So, the writing components of our courses in English or Philosophy prepare students to contribute successfully to strategic planning, marketing and many forms of internal communication inside their organizations.
No matter what you teach, encourage students to make job connections with the course material. Offer them choices in selecting term paper or project topics, and encourage them to explore those topics that inform them about the sectors in which they are interested in working. For example, in one of my courses a former student wrote his term paper on the structure of the American solar panel industry, and eventually secured a position with a solar panel manufacturer. Another student looked at the causes of fresh water shortages in Africa, and eventually was put in charge of a water development non-profit organization.
Finally, in your role as an academic advisor, don’t focus solely on individual course selection. Encourage students to make overall selections, year by year, that fit together in order to present a coherent impression of their interests, aspirations, and who they are as a person. Because the courses they take are a window on their passion and commitment, their choices are compelling evidence of their potential value to an organization.
Raising Career Questions in Advising
Students view faculty as one of their primary sources of information as they think about career planning. Making time for these conversations in an already busy schedule is challenging, so Lisa Cuklanz and Christine Caswell of the Communication Department have some tips on how to navigate these discussions.
The Communication Department is taking steps to assist faculty advisors with questions their advisees may raise about career options and concerns. One area where faculty can be very helpful to students who are exploring careers is in helping them see connections between the skills they are gaining in the classroom and skills employers are seeking. Christine Caswell, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Communication, says: "We encourage faculty to entertain any questions their advisees may have when it comes to connecting the dots between their scholarship and industry practices. Often, students may not realize how the theories explored in their coursework directly relate to the work they will be doing in many industry settings. It is exciting to help the students make that connection. We also like to encourage our majors to explore their passions and entertain the question as to what brings them the greatest joy and satisfaction in their classwork. From there, they may begin to shape a path from internships into full-time career work.
Lisa Cuklanz, Chair of the Communication Department, shares a few tips for faculty advisors to incorporate some career planning discussions into your conversations:
Listen carefully to the student's interests and aspirations
Steer students away from simply building up credentials (such as a double major) without a specific purpose
Emphasize pursuit of interests to build skills and experience in an area of expertise (through internships for example)
Encourage students to ask many faculty and staff members for their opinions to get a broader view
And, of course, always feel free to refer students to the Career Center's resources and services.