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Careers for Arts and Letters

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, January 29, 2009

On Wednesday, the Career Center sponsored a Winter Career and Internship Fair for undergraduate students with representatives from over 100 employers. In a struggling economy with an unemployment rate of over seven percent, it’s a compliment to the Career Center that students had the opportunity to network with such a large number of companies at all.

But the question of the visibility of these opportunities, and whose opportunities are being emphasized, still remains. The companies attending the January 28 Career Fair ranged from non-profits like Amate House in Chicago, to consulting firms like Clarity Consulting, to financial or accounting firms such as Credit Suisse or Deloitte. Aside from the small number of non-profit organizations, most of the representatives at the fair drew from a limited number of industries, focusing mostly on the financial sector, engineering firms, and other similar fields.

At a university whose largest and oldest undergraduate college is the College of Arts and Letters, the job search can be challenging for those among the 2500 Arts and Letters students who come to the Career Fair looking to capitalize on their skills.

If the focus of the Fair, however, is on the kinds of jobs and internships that pertain to students in other disciplines, the process feels that much more daunting.

It’s essential that the Career Center avail whatever opportunities it has at its disposal to these students as they continue their job search in the midst of a gripping recession. Where these resources already exist, they must be better and more widely publicized to a greater cross-section of students.

Recently, the Career Center sponsored, along with a number of other universities, a series of career fairs, the Career and Internship Connection fairs, in several large U.S. cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. The CIC events were meant to focus on more regionally based employers who need Arts and Letters students.

But if students in these majors were unaware of the CIC events, or were unable to attend one in their geographic area, their needs were still unmet.

In order to succeed, these students, like their friends majoring in Accounting or Finance, have to be self-motivated. A career adviser can help students through the process of searching for jobs and internships, no matter their major, but hand-holding is not meant to be part of the Center’s employees’ job descriptions.

But when students in a variety of majors feel neglected by the services that are meant to help them, or are left ignorant and misinformed of whatever resources may already exist, a breakdown in communication will only result in lost opportunities.