In November, I was particularly struck by a poster produced by Bowdoin’s Career Planning Center (CPC). The poster was for an event titled “Consulting Across Sectors.” While the message in itself may not immediately appear harmful, its subtext screams, “Don’t worry humanities majors! You too can get a consulting job.” The poster’s headline is ironically titled “Broaden Your Perspective,” and I would suggest that the CPC take some of its own advice.  

Despite the CPC’s pronouncements that they will give advice on all professions, the reality is a little more skewed. As the poster suggests, regardless of what you are interested in, the CPC will suggest you take a finance or consulting job. In the CPC’s video featuring last year’s graduating seniors—a video which current seniors attending the virtually mandatory sessions have now seen twice—most of those interviewed had a job in one of these two areas. A disproportionate number of CPC events address professions in these fields, and a quick scroll through eBear will confirm this is the type of job listed most regularly. It is abundantly clear, despite the CPC’s protests otherwise, that the CPC’s vision for most Bowdoin students is a corporate one.

     The reason for this seems obvious and at first-glance may seem unobjectionable—jobs in finance and consulting give graduates frequently prestigious, well-paying jobs right out of college. I am not claiming here that jobs in finance and consulting jobs are necessarily immoral or that people who take these jobs are greedy. Of course, people who wish to take consulting jobs can do so and should look to the CPC for advice.

Instead, my issue is with what I see as a one-sided approach. Recently, a friend of mine who is interested in political non-profit work visited the CPC for advice. Rather than helping her, the CPC representative told her the office was advising people interested in this area to consider finding jobs in corporate responsibility instead. This was reinforced in the recent Non-Profit Symposium the CPC held in which the keynote speaker was from JPMorgan Chase and spoke on “corporate philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.”

The issue with this is that corporate responsibility and non-profit work are not synonymous terms. They have different aims and ends and should not be conflated. Both types of work may aim to improve society, but non-profits’ structures and goals can be vastly different than corporations—and often may take aim at assumptions that corporations hold dear. Further, the reason to push corporate responsibility seems to have a reason similar to the push for finance and consulting: these jobs will most likely be higher paying. Again, the desire for a job in corporate responsibility is entirely reasonable—but blurring the lines between non-profit and corporate work is a disservice to students who are interested in taking another direction. Not all “do-gooder” jobs are interchangeable.

While fortunately this Bowdoin student did not take the CPC’s advice to heart, I cannot speak for others. Particularly because in order to ever be able to use eBear to apply for jobs as a senior, students must meet with a CPC representative. This creates an environment where students who are forced or are pressured into meeting with a representative may be pushed in this particular direction when their actual interests lie elsewhere.

The CPC should work to expand the range of its programming and services. If it fails to do so, it should make its various events optional. It may be fine to promote a viewpoint that is focused on finance and consulting, but only if listening to this viewpoint is voluntary. Ultimately, the CPC is supposed to be here to serve us, and it can only do so by accurately reflecting our interests.