Despite challenges presented by COVID-19 and a remote semester, Career Exploration and Development (CXD) is finding ways to support Bowdoin students from a distance as they explore different career paths. The CXD eXplore Series, which began last weekend and continues this Saturday, brings together students and alumni to discuss possible career paths. Last Saturday’s panel discussions focused on careers in fields such as finance, research and marketing, while this Saturday’s will include education, nonprofit work and journalism.
On each day of the eXplore Series are multiple 45-minute conversations between three or four alumni and a moderator. All students and the newly-graduated class of 2020 were invited to attend all 16 sessions over the two Saturdays. Instead of using a webinar format, CXD chose to make the conversations interactive.
Executive Director of Career Planning Kristin Brennan said hosting an event like the eXplore Series has been a long-time goal of the CXD.
“We have always wanted to present a whole bunch of different career paths at the very same time for people to shop in a low-stakes kind of way,” she said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
Jeremiah Brown ’23, who went to two panels last Saturday, said the event was empowering.
“I think students … have this idea that you get a major, and that major feeds directly into grad school or your job … or the research you will do after Bowdoin,” Brown said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “And I think it is really reassuring to hear … that it is okay. You will get to where you want to be. And when you get there you will figure out that you have new aspirations and dreams. There is always room to continue to improve your happiness.”
According to Brennan, the eXplore Series allows students to explore career options without feeling like they have to apply for a specific job.
Before Saturday, Brennan was concerned that students would not be interested in attending yet another Zoom event.
“Students have told us this, and we feel it too,” she said. “After spending all day on your computer, the last thing you want to do is spend another hour on your computer.”
Despite these concerns, Brennan said the first Saturday was a success. In total, 150 Bowdoin students tuned in, with an average of 20-35 students per hour. Of the 150 students, the class breakdown was mostly even, with slightly more sophomores and seniors participating.
Brennan said that she planned the events in collaboration with student groups, including the Black Student Union (BSU) and Bowdoin Women in Business, members of which encouraged her to host the events on Saturdays. She attributed the strong turnout to this schedule decision.
Although Brennan admitted that she wished the event could have taken place in-person, she said CXD is used to working with students online during juniors’ semester abroad. Additionally, she said that online panels can have advantages.
“The only silver lining was the alumni we were able to bring,” said Brennan. “The panel I was able to create had someone in New York moving to Paris, someone in Texas, someone in the Bay area, someone in Boston and someone in Portland … It really shows us the power of using virtual technology to get people here.”
Brown also noted that the online format enabled the event to include more racially and socially-economically diverse panelists by opening access to more than just the alumni who normally would have had the time or resources to travel to campus.
“In the human resources [panel], there was a wide range,” Brown said. “Men. More women. Elderly people. Younger people. Asian Americans. White people. There was more socioeconomic diversity, and it was really reassuring to hear how they have navigated through spaces after Bowdoin, that this is a department that celebrates, accepts and champions diversity, inclusion and equity. So, as someone that is looking to go into [a field], you always want to hear that there is room for you in that field.”
“I think it was a phenomenal program,” he added. “I think it accomplished exactly what they wanted to accomplish. I feel more prepared, and I understand how Bowdoin is preparing me for life after it. So, kudos to them.”