In an effort to kickstart students’ success in career planning, Career Exploration and Development (CXD) welcomed sophomores back to campus during the final week of winter break for a career development bootcamp. CXD provided programming to students for the week, inviting alumni back to campus to share their post-graduation experiences.
Bethany Walsh, associate director of skill development and programming for CXD emphasized that the aim of the program was not to intimidate students with the prospect of a job search.
“We wanted to create a space where [students] could really think about who they are uniquely and individually, and not just be responding to the pressure to do something with the sophomore summer but be thoughtful about what the something would be, and then feel really good about their preparation for achieving,” Walsh said.
As a consistent visitor of CXD since her first semester of college, Angelica Peña ’22 chose to participate in the bootcamp for more advice.
“I chose to do the bootcamp because, as a student of color, I don’t really come from a background where my parents know about career stuff and can help me out with that,” she said. “I felt like it would give me a head start. Just to get my footing.”
By targeting sophomores rather than juniors or seniors, CXD aims to help students think proactively about changing demands in today’s job market.
“We know students now are asked to be able to do a lot more in terms of their career skills earlier than ever before,” Walsh said. “We also know that students have so much more of an edge competitively when they start earlier.”
The bootcamp helped students explore which career paths interest them and possible ways to start pursuing them. The program included cover letter and resume writing workshops, as well as surveys for students to learn about career options tailored toward their specific interests and goals.
“I think we envision a world in which every student has a high degree of confidence in not only knowing what they want to apply for and how to go about choosing those things, but then actually being able to apply very competitively,” said Walsh.
Along with current sophomores, CXD brought back to campus 27 juniors and seniors who participated in a training program to offer advice from their recent experiences in career development.
They facilitated group sessions with sophomores in which the older students shared their experiences and fielded questions in a more focused manner.
In addition to workshops and breakout groups, students were invited to attend panels of alumni in specific and diverse career fields.
Kristin Brennan, CXD’s executive director, attributed much of the program’s success to the visitors, who were able to share personal experiences with students.
“I think that the people involved—like the people [who] were teaching skills workshops and the alumni who came back to be part of panels and connections—love making contributions to Bowdoin and students and feeling like they’re doing so in a really genuine specific personal way,” she said.
Peña said that the bootcamp, and CXD in general, has helped her gain a clearer sense of her potential career path.
“I think there is a stigma that the career center is more oriented towards consulting or business. From my experience, they are able to help anyone figure out what they want to do. They have helped me understand careers that I’ve never considered before,” Peña said. “Each advisor has a different perspective. It is a great place to go if you are confused about your future.”
“Every student was given personal attention, and the exercises were diverse enough so that it rarely got boring. The free food was awesome as well,” explained Chapman Odlum ’22.
“I feel a new sense of excitement at the potential of the upcoming semester and this summer equipped with the skills and knowledge acquired through the program,” added Sophia Karris ’22.
Thanks to additional positive feedback in a post-bootcamp survey, Walsh expects the program to return next year.
“To first year students, I would say ‘save the date’ [for] the last week of winter break next year. We’re primed and ready to invite students back and as many as we can,” she said.