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Careers in the Making
April 18, 2012
GW Career Center to expand offerings as part of university-wide effort to enhance career services for students, alumni and employers.
By Ari Massefski, Class of 2015
In fall 2009, recent GW graduate Dylan Aponte had a decision to make. He could go the traditional route and accept a job with a federal agency or he could take advantage of an opportunity to help organize the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. It was the heart of the recession, and he needed a job.
“It was a very complicated decision,” said Mr. Aponte, B.A. ’09. “How do you pursue two jobs at the same time without burning bridges?”
With the help of the George Washington University Career Center, Mr. Aponte was able to work through the situation. Under the guidance of Anne Scammon, director of career learning and experience at the Career Center, he went to China and worked for Jose H. Villarreal, U.S. commissioner general to the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.
It was high-level international work that he says epitomized what he had studied in the Elliott School of International Affairs. He then returned to the United States and was able to continue his work with Mr. Villarreal, all the while receiving advice from Ms. Scammon and the Career Center.
“Luckily, I had become armed with the skills I needed, and I recognized that it was incredibly important for me to network,” said Mr. Aponte. “I really don’t know how I could have gotten through that time period without the guidance of the Career Center.”
Founded in the 1970s, the GW Career Center has two main goals: to prepare soon-to-be-graduates to face the outside world and to forge long-term relationships with employers.
“It’s about building strong relationships with employers so that GW becomes an institution of choice for employers,” said Marva Gumbs Jennings, executive director of the Career Center. “We have seen such a wonderful response from our employers to our students, so we’re happy to market students for opportunities while they’re in school and then beyond.”
As part of a university-wide effort to enhance career services, the Career Center will provide new services to the university community starting this summer. The effort was initially prompted by the Career Services Task Force, a group convened by President Steven Knapp during the 2010-11 academic year. Among other initiatives, the task force assessed the GW community’s career services expectations and spearheaded the formation of a new Career Services Advisory Council.
The council, launched by Provost Steven Lerman in November, includes representation from all the university’s career services offices, faculty members, undergraduate and graduate students and is charged with facilitating collaboration across career services functions and serving as a sounding board for career services enhancements. The council is also identifying new career services resources, including databases, directories and technologies that will be available to all students and career services staff.
“Within the Career Center, planning is underway for enhanced career services and programs,” said Peter Konwerski, dean of students and co-chair of the Career Services Task Force. “For undergraduate students served by the Career Center, these enhancements will involve a proactive and structured model that will provide a hands-on introduction to career services as early as new student orientation.”
Various assessments, skill building and exploration activities will help undergraduate students define their career paths. As students determine their career paths, services will then be specialized by industry and discipline to give students targeted career assistance.
For graduate students served by the Career Center, the enhancements will continue to include career services that are specific to their schools, consistent with the approach for students who are served by school-based career centers. And, for all students, the enhancements will provide focused support for those seeking careers in interdisciplinary fields, such as sustainability, public service and government, entrepreneurship and globalization.
One of the central elements in the new Career Center will be a redefined set of employer relations and development activities that, in close coordination with the school-based career centers, will involve a relationship management approach to provide organizations with easy access to well-prepared GW students and alumni, said Dr. Konwerski. This approach will increase job and internship activities across all of GW’s academic disciplines and will better engage employers in the career services offerings of the university.
Helping students find a job that suits their needs is at the heart of an effective career operation. Alex Miller, a freshman in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, has gotten two different jobs with the help of the Career Center: as a file clerk in the law offices of Thomas K. Crowe and as a tour guide with Bike and Roll D.C.
“It is important for students to have access to an effective system because it allows us to expand our D.C. experience beyond just GW and our education,” said Mr. Miller. “Also, with many GW-exclusive jobs, we as students have a much better chance at getting some impressive jobs without intense competition.”
GWork, the Career Center’s online job search engine, is the most common tool used by students, according to Ms. Gumbs Jennings. Mr. Miller used GWork to find both of his jobs, and so did Dustin Petzold, a sophomore in Columbian College. Mr. Petzold is currently an intern for Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).
“My first year of college, I went to a very rural college, which had nowhere close to the number of job opportunities that D.C. does. When I got here I had no idea where to start in looking for a job, and I was really overwhelmed,” said Mr. Petzold. “There’s no way I would have found my congressional internship without GWork.”
In addition to hosting career fairs for all students throughout the year, the Career Center has special events intended to target seniors. Beginning at the start of the academic year, seniors receive a weekly email that highlights everything from upcoming activities to job-seeking tips. And this Friday, the Career Center will host a Senior Job Search Boot Camp at 11 a.m. in the Career Center in Old Main, Room 208.
As part of the Career Center’s new services, over the next three years the university plans to hire additional staff members to help provide specialized career support to students specific to their areas of interest and to support enhanced employer development and relations activities. The Career Center will also soon have a new home, moving this summer from Old Main to the fifth floor of the Marvin Center to become a cohesive part of a new student opportunities center that will also include the Center for Student Engagement, the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, the Office for Study Abroad and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.
“These steps will strengthen the connections that faculty, academic advisers, parents, alumni and employers have with the university’s career services efforts as we all partner to help students reach their professional goals and career aspirations,” said Dr. Konwerski.
Guiding all these enhancements will be a new leadership structure for career services that will provide stronger direction for and coordination of career services. A new senior administrator for career services will be selected through a national search process to lead the Career Center and coordinate among the school-based centers as convener and chair of the Career Services Advisory Council.
“The goal of all the career services enhancements is to firmly establish a strong, university-wide career culture at GW that will empower all of our students to translate their world-class academic and co-curricular experiences at GW into a lifetime of productive and engaged citizenship,” said Dr. Konwerski.