Career Planning has changed its name to “Career Exploration and Development” (CXD), Kristin Brennan, executive director of CXD, announced on Wednesday in an email to the student body. The name marks a shift in the office’s focus towards helping students explore their passions while gaining practical skills necessary for the workplace.
President Clayton Rose said that career planning services are an important enhancement to the liberal arts, citing the role of increasing access to the College and the myth that it is necessary to study something “practical” in order to get a job. Rose said that the data are very clear that Bowdoin’s educational model prepares students for employment in the areas that they have interest in, and that the CXD plays an important role in helping students find these opportunities.
The CXD staff decided to rebrand after conducting interviews with 17 students about perceptions of their office. Brennan hopes that the changes help students realize the office’s multiple functions as a space to gain skills and confidence, a bridge to the post-college future and a place to focus on long-term, individual development and exploration, not planning.
“It is sometimes intimidating to think you are going to be planning [in the CXD office] because you may not actually have explored jobs yet or know where to start,” said Brennan. “But you can come in long before you’re ready to plan. And so we thought about what language would express those things.”
CXD’s first two initiatives include replacing eBear with Handshake, a new job database, and a sophomore career bootcamp, which the office piloted this past winter break.
Handshake, which was started in 2014, will list more job opportunities than eBear and is designed with students needs in mind. In April, Reuters reported that there are 900,000 recruiters in Handshake’s network, as well as 14 million college students and young alumni from over 700 colleges. The company markets itself as a user-friendly platform with a sleek, intuitive and highly customizable interface. Unlike eBear, Handshake has an advanced learning algorithm, which curates job opportunities for each individual user and encourages employers to reach out to students.
Other NESCAC schools, such as Colby, Middlebury and Bates, already use Handshake. Bowdoin will switch to the database beginning in early June.
“We’ve been watching the evolution of [Handshake’s] system and essentially waiting for it to get to a place where it was clear that it was going to be sort of the new best-in-class thing, and that they would be having capacity to handle the transition [we’re making],” Brennan said. “This year, as we looked at the latest version of it and how much staffing up they’ve done, we said, ‘Okay, now it’s time.’ They really do have the best product on the market, I think primarily because it’s student-centered.”
During the transition this summer, CXD staff will focus especially on helping graduating seniors understand the database and how to use it to their advantage. In the fall, the office will begin an education campaign for students in all class years to familiarize them with Handshake.
In February, the Orient’s midyear approval ratings showed that the senior class is overwhelmingly dissatisfied with then-named Career Planning. The Orient reported on disparities in job offerings on eBear, which lists less jobs under the industry of “Arts & Entertainment” than under “Education,” “Finance and Banking” and “Consulting.” Fourty-three percent of students looking for jobs in arts and entertainment were satisfied with the CPC, compared to 73 percent of students looking for jobs in technology. Brennan said that Handshake could alleviate some of this dissatisfaction.
“There’s a higher volume and broader variety of jobs on Handshake [than on eBear]. The job offerings are more diverse,” she said. “It opens you up to a broad world … Employers can directly contact students based on what they’ve put [on their profiles].”
As for skill training, CXD staff is working to develop programs that help students acquire practical skills, such as crafting a resume, writing cover letters and networking. Brennan said that the newest component of this training, the sophomore boot camp, which 20 students attended over winter break, will be offered to between 100 and 200 students next year.
Brennan explained the new CXD acronym in her email on Wednesday.
“As one scientist recently wrote about the letter ‘x,’ so popular among those who love technology, ‘X provides some kind of imagination about the future, and the basic, human curiosity motive to find out more,’” she wrote. “We like the spirit of adventure and exploration that accompanies that explanation, and we look forward to continuing to work with all students as you figure out what that future uniquely looks like for you.”