First-Year Jumpstart: Increasing First-Year Career Confidence

Around 60 students from Colgate’s first-year class shuffled into the Ho Science Center’s first-floor auditorium on the warm evening of Thursday, Sept. 9. Each came with a different background and set of interests. Some who walked through the auditorium’s grey metal door were aspiring lawyers, others hopeful scientific researchers, some dreamed of entering the journalistic world, while others, yet, were wholly undecided in their career interests. 

Uniting the students in the room was a desire for guidance in beginning their journeys of career development at Colgate. They sought an introduction to the work and administrators of the Career Services office. The workshop they came to attend, entitled “First-Year Jumpstart,” was advertised on the Colgate’s career-development platform Handshake as “a great opportunity to get a high-level look at what’s ahead.”  

One of the students in attendance was first-year Ha-Eun Choi.

“I went to the jumpstart meeting hoping to get a little more than a general overview of Career Services,” Choi said. “I know what I want to do, something in physics and astronomy, but I knew that meeting would give me more guidance, or at least show me how and where I could get more guidance. I think I got that in the end.”

Choi, beside the rest of the large cluster of first-years, sat before James Reed, assistant director of career development; David Loveless, associate director of career development; Paige Matzerath, career advisor of arts, creativity and media; and Ariel Feinberg, employee relations intern. They stood before a large projector with a PowerPoint in queue. After the presentation, the team spoke candidly about how they hoped the jumpstart program would serve first-years.

“This early meeting is to help students begin building that relationship with us, to let them know that we’re here, that we have their backs,” Reed explained. “We know that not every student at Colgate is coming with the same background experience, support or resources when they arrive, so this program helps to begin leveling the playing field.”

Feinberg offered an analogy to illustrate her view of the jumpstart program as the foundation for a Colgate student’s journey with Career Services. 

“Imagine Career Services as a sundae bar we want this jumpstart program to be your ice cream. When I was a first-year, this exposure to Career Services gave me baseline guidance. I hope to give that to other students.”

Reed, Loveless and Matzerath, after the squeaks of chairs and excessive coughing coming from the student body lulled, began the presentation by unveiling Career Services’ four-year plan. 

“This years’ plan is a little bit more of a call to action,” Loveless explained.

Before this year, during First-Year Jumpstart, the Career Services team discussed the general role and offerings of the office. However, their new plan offers students specific goals for each of their four years, giving structure to programs that have long been a part of Career Services.

The main goal of the plan for first-years is to develop a story of their interests and passions.

“We’re starting with this storytelling piece very intentionally, emphasizing that success is going to be a personally defined definition,” Reed explained

“I really like how they ease us into it,” Diya Mehta, a first-year who attended the jumpstart program, said of the plan. “I really like how they’re starting with, ‘Hey what are your interests, what are you good at, what do you want to tell the world?’”

Mehta added that, although she was initially somewhat overwhelmed by the idea of interacting with Career Services, the gentle plan from the office helped assuage some of her anxieties. 

Sophomores, juniors and seniors are equally included in the plan, under which they will move from honing specific skills needed for their industry of interest, to gaining internship experience, to learning to negotiate an offer.

This four-year plan embodies the eight career development areas of Colgate Career Services: storytelling, exploring, applying, networking, planning, interviewing, analyzing and transitioning. 

“I’m now looking forward to talking about my interests with my career advisor,” Choi shared. “I feel like, with the plan, they will guide me through each step I need to take to reach my goals.”

Choi’s excitement over meeting with a career advisor comes as no surprise, as the Career Services’ team stressed the importance of communication with members of the advising team in conjunction with their unveiling of the four-year plan. 

Loveless shared, “Our one-on-one advising is arguably where we do our best work, because here we get to know our students, their goals, their challenges.” 

Matzerath also spoke of the importance of these meetings. 

“In the meetings, we ask some of those probing questions to make sure we’re allowing for reflection, and from that transitioning to an exploration process by providing a few resources to continue helping students see what else is out there.”

Reed hopes that, empowered by the four-year plan, students will be able to more confidently and quickly identify areas of passion and interest, which is particularly important in the increasingly competitive job market. 

“Many employers now look for entry-level hires that can add value to their company or institution immediately,” he shared. “In order to do that, you need to have clarity on what you want to pursue earlier in the process.”

Fortunately, not only does Career Services support first-years — like all students — through one-on-one meetings, they also offer training, talks and webinars related to career development via Handshake. Additionally, they are happy to guide students in taking advantage of one of the strongest alumni networks in the country.

“Colgate alumni bleed maroon it’s great,” Reed said, chuckling. “Colgate folks tend to have the gift of gab, and they’re often very open to students interested in their work.”

The combination of this new four-year plan, continued access to the alumni network and Colgate’s one-on-one and niche support seems to be setting up the first-years for success in their career journeys. 

Mehta’s feeling about the office represents promise for the whole class. 

“I feel confident entering Career Services now. I know what I want to do; I know what I want to talk about; I know who I want to talk to. I’m excited to walk up to their office. I like to do things on my own. But I know that Career Services will be there for me in my process.”

The Career Services Office is located in Benton Hall, and virtual advising appointments can be made through the Colgate website.