Career Exploration and Development (CXD) is introducing a new peer advisor program this semester in an effort to provide students with more opportunities to learn about the office and receive career support.
The three peer advisors—Elly Veloria ’20, Mike McAlarney ’21 and Amanda Rickman ’20—offer regular drop-in hours in the CXD and David Saul Smith Union to help students with basic career tasks like crafting a resume or drafting a cover letter. The peer advisors will also conduct workshops throughout the year to familiarize students with the CXD’s resources.
CXD Associate Director and Career Advisor Meg Springer, who manages the program, said the peer advisors may help students feel that they have easier access to career resources, such as resume and cover letter help.
“For years I’ve been dreaming about having this program. I’ve worked with student interns in our office, and I see them doing amazing things and bringing the student perspective to share with us,” Springer said. “While the peer advisors are not replacing the professional staff here at all, sometimes it’s a really nice entry point.”
The advisors, who are paid employees of CXD, went through an extended application and interviewing process before being hired and received training from full-time advisors before meeting with students.
Veloria said in a phone interview that she hopes the peer-to-peer drop-in hours will allow more students to feel comfortable coming to the office.
“Students don’t always feel like they are prepared or ready to speak to a professional advisor … [and if] they feel like they can’t come to the office because of that, then they just won’t show up,” Veloria said. “I think students often find it much easier to talk to someone their age and be honest and say ‘I really have no idea what I want to do, I’ve never been to the office before.’”
McAlarney, who has met with about 15 students this semester, said he aims to help peers identify how their interests and extracurricular involvement can be connected to a career path.
“That journey is something that took me a while to figure out, and I think my goal is to try to accelerate that for everyone I interact with,” McAlarney said.
This program is the first of its kind for CXD. In the past, students employed at the office worked on specific projects and supported events planned by the CXD’s full-time advisors rather than creating their own programs and office hours.
Rickman said the goal of the workshops is to create an inviting and fun atmosphere where students can begin to think about career opportunities.
The peer advisors recently organized an event that offered students the chance to take headshots for applications or a LinkedIn profile.They are planning another headshot photoshoot on November 15. On October 31, they are offering a Halloween-themed workshop featuring snacks, assistance with cover letters and resumes and a “fortune telling” activity that helps students identify potential career interests.
Peer advisors can also reduce the burden on full-time advisors by helping students with basic questions, including accessing the Handshake platform or setting up a LinkedIn profile.
The peer advisor program is part of a broad effort by the CXD to expand the accessibility of its resources, including directing more programming toward first years and sophomores.
On October 21, the office held a networking event that encouraged underclassmen to connect with juniors and seniors to learn about their career searches. Over winter break, CXD will offer a sophomore career boot camp, connecting 200 students with a host of career development resources during the last four days of the break.
Springer said she hopes to grow the program beyond the current three peer advisor positions in this year’s pilot program.
“So far the feedback that we’ve gotten from students has been very appreciative,” Springer said. “It’s serving to really expand our services, and I think meet students where they’re at.”