The prospect of life beyond the Bowdoin bubble is slowly encroaching on this year's seniors through an onslaught of emails and notices from Bowdoin's Career Planning Center (CPC). This year, the CPC is making concerted efforts to better prepare students for the tough job market by offering workshops, interactive online networking tools, and more accessible career info.

Director of the Career Planning Center Tim Diehl emphasizes the importance of getting involved right off the bat this year, as "a challenging economy increases the importance of early engagement and the power of networking."

The CPC kicked off the year early with a mandatory senior meeting, in addition to many workshops; most notably the "Landing Your Dream Job" forum, held throughout the first few weeks.

Maggie Crosland '10 attended both events and said that the CPC is "doing a good job of trying to get seniors prepared" by emphasizing the tools available for networking and resume building within the Bowdoin alumni network and outside organizations.

While the repeated stress on networking may be daunting to students looking for a job, it is revealing itself to be more important than ever in the current economic climate. The CPC launched its new alumni networking tool, the Bowdoin Career Avisory Network (BCAN), just four weeks ago and already attracted over 800 alumni and student members. BCAN is a group on the professional networking site LinkedIn that connects members of the Bowdoin community of all professions.

Diehl expects a stagnation, or even a slight decrease, in employer campus visits this year as hiring has slowed, but reports that over the past two years, "the number of employers scheduled for campus visits [rose] 59 percent to 83 percent last year."

While the prospects of Bowdoin students are faring better in light of the job crunch than others, "it is hard to predict what will happen in the next nine months," said Associate Director of Employer Relations Chad Mills.

Even so, the new tools of the CPC have already made a mark on campus with increasing membership, a wide range of workshops, and the CPC's weekly "Ask Career Planning" table in Smith Union.

Another new product of the CPC is the Bowdoin Career Connection, a "new online student career site" that allows members to join groups according to their fields of interest. In the three weeks since it was released, over 700 students have joined.

These tools largely function to assuage student fears about job availability in the economic crisis, but even so, Jamie Neely '10 said he "doesn't know how much [the CPC] can do in this situation."

The CPC saw record turnout at the first employer recruitment event of the year reveale that students are more receptive than ever to their guidance.

"The challenging hiring market increased awareness of our services," said Diehl.

John Lehman '10 reported that even though the current economic climate makes it "hard to appeal to everyone's interests" in regard to choosing a career, the CPC helps "put you on the right path" toward finding the right opportunity. Similarly, Crosland added that it is certainly "comforting to know that [the CPC] is trying so hard."

Indeed, more than ever, the CPC is emphasizing its availability to all students regardless of interest, major or year, or, as Diehl said, "from those that have no idea about where to begin to those that know exactly what they want to pursue and need assistance making connections at target organizations."

Mills stresses the importance of "leveraging the network" that Bowdoin provides, consisting of "some of the most committed alumni" who are "passionate about making sure students have good experiences." He added that students "shouldn't be scared to the point of paralysis," that it's important to actively monitor eBear, BCAN and now the Bowdoin Career Connection in order to open up the widest range of opportunities.

While it is still too soon to tell how the rest of the year will play out for career planning and the job market, students like Chris Adams-Wall '10 are "trying not to let that deter [them] from landing jobs."

The atmosphere at the CPC and around campus helps to mitigate any nascent fears that seniors might have of life beyond the Bowdoin bubble.

Diehl expects the promising participation trends from last year to continue during this academic year. According to the CPC's records, last year 97 percent of seniors and 74 percent of the student body participated in a Career Planning event, and one-on-one advising increased 37 percent.

While the data doesn't reflect how successful students have been at actually landing jobs, many seniors reported having effectively used the Bowdoin alumni network to secure summer internships over the past two to three years. This trend and the heavy traffic on the CPC's online career planning tools reflect that the Bowdoin network is weathering the economic crisis in good fashion, maintaining long-standing connections and working to form new ones.

"Bowdoin students have a lot going for them," said Mills. "They will all be successful with time."