One undergraduate already has a career path picked out—working in public health—and hopes to find a summer internship. Another has become interested in life science research and wants some insight into employment opportunities.

And another student is undecided about which profession to pursue after college: media and communications? marketing? business?

The Boston College Career Center aims to better help address such needs and questions with its newly implemented “career cluster-based” organizational model, and thus provide students with resources—career coaching, job-searching and networking events, information, and employer and alumni connections—that will point them in the direction they seek.

In this model, the center has defined six career clusters with some common characteristics and facets: Business, Consulting, and Finance; Communications, Media, and Arts; Education, Nonprofit, and Social Service; Healthcare and Nursing; Government, Law, and Public Policy; and Science, Technology, and Engineering. Each cluster has a corresponding career coach to work with students.

Another cluster, Exploration, is for students seeking to discern how their values, interests, and skills relate to their different career options and possible post-graduate pursuits.

The shift to a cluster-based model is one of several recent Career Center initiatives, among them the “Career Closet”—through which students can obtain clothing for career search-related purposes.

Career Center staff say the cluster model reflects current practices in the collegiate career-counseling domain, but more importantly, an assessment of the student population it serves.

“Students today want personalized, specific attention instead of a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Director of Career Education and Strategy Rachel Greenberg, who co-coordinated implementation of the cluster model. “The generalist model we used for years served an important purpose, and overall was very effective. The cluster model, however, is not only better attuned to students’ needs, but suits our engagement with alumni and employers: It provides greater clarity to our programming, such as deciding whom to bring to campus for career exploration events, and how to connect students with resources they need.”

In the bigger picture, says Associate Vice President of Student Affairs for Career Services Joseph Du Pont, the cluster model approach aligns with Boston College’s affirmation of its academic and formational mission, as expressed in its 2017 Strategic Plan.

“BC has dedicated itself to a reimagining of the liberal arts for the 21st century,” he explains. The career cluster model will help us do that while complementing our efforts to help students gain greater understanding of themselves and how they can put their skills to use in the world. “Employers value students with the liberal arts background BC provides, because they know those students have had a well-balanced education that stresses, among other things, critical thinking, communication and teamwork.

The new model compels Career Center staff to stay informed and up-to-date on trends and developments in their respective clusters, to be in touch with alumni and other professionals in the relevant fields, and where possible go on site visits or sit in on employee programs.

“We’re not experts on the day-to-day work life in a given profession, but we are well-versed in helping students access information, programs and people that can inform them on the career paths that one can take,” says Greenberg. “We serve as connectors to alumni and other professionals who can give insights and perhaps serve as points of contact, but it is incumbent on the student to take the initiative and seek the information he or she needs to decide on a possible career path.”

Knowing a student’s specific career-related interests and needs enables the center to personalize its outreach, she adds: “We can contact the student and say, ‘Here are five upcoming events on campus that you might be interested in.’”

We want to play whatever role we can in an undergraduate’s BC experience as they discover their interests, skills, and values and how those relate to their future aspirations.
Rachel Greenberg, Director of Career Education and Strategy

While the clusters are broad enough to encourage students’ career exploration, Du Pont and Greenberg say that undergraduates who are uncertain about their post-BC lives should feel equally empowered to interact with the center.

“Students should know that it’s OK to have questions,” says Greenberg, “and that there are people in the Career Center who can help them find the answers. We want to play whatever role we can in an undergraduate’s BC experience as they discover their interests, skills, and values and how those relate to their future aspirations.”

The Career Closet initiative being piloted this fall is another example of the center’s effort to expand its resources to better serve students, according to Du Pont and Greenberg. Through donations from alumni and other benefactors, new and gently-used attire will be available at the center for students with demonstrated need for career interviews, career fairs, and networking opportunities. Students make appointments to use the Closet, and will be assisted by center personnel or volunteers.

“People may be surprised by the number of students who need assistance to secure business attire to attend interviews, networking opportunities or other events,” says Du Pont.

“We want to do our part to remove a barrier to students’ ability to more fully participate in these important aspects of career exploration and make all students feel welcome, respected, and supported in our office and programs. We feel this work is very aligned with our mission and is an extension of the good work being done by many of our colleagues around campus engaged in programs such the annual Winter Coat Drive and the BC Res Life Clean initiative.”

Information on these and other Career Center programs and activities is available on the center’s new website.

—Sean Smith | University Communications | August 2019