A Day in the Life: Allowing Students to Explore Without Consequence

Career Services and the programming it provides is one of Colgate’s most celebrated and special qualities. Part of what makes it so impactful are the alumni who are eager and willing to help Colgate students explore their career interests. Career Exploration Week, formerly known as “A Day in the Life”, allows current Colgate students to shadow and speak with Colgate alumni in various areas. In an effort to abide by COVID-19 guidelines and keep alumni and students safe, Career Services has shifted “A Day in the Life” to an online platform, where students can attend alumni panels across 11 industries. After students attend the panel, they can apply for the opportunity to have a one-on-one meeting with an alum in an area they would like to learn more about. 

Career Services emphasizes “exploration” in order to show that students don’t have to know exactly what they want to do and that exploring different options is normal and necessary. 

Carter Leahy, a current senior and environmental economics concentrator, shadowed a lawyer her sophomore year, as she had always thought that was her desired career path. After shadowing him, though, she came to the realization that law school was not in her future.

“Growing up in Washington, D.C., I felt like my two options were policy-science or law school. I always thought I wanted to do that role, but then [I] shadowed him and he was so honest and I realized it’s not my thing. It was good though, I’m so glad I did it. It saved me from a lot of effort in the wrong path,” Leahy said. 

Similarly, as a Middle Eastern and Islamic studies concentrator, senior John Morgan originally thought he wanted to work in government. He was paired with a Colgate alum from the class of 2010 who works for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, D.C. 

“It was a really interesting experience because I was really immersed in her everyday life. She took me to meetings, she introduced me to her colleagues and she had me read a bunch of case files that she and her colleagues had worked on for a few projects in North Africa. She talked to me about what USIP does in those regions in terms of facilitating a peaceful transition of power or negotiating conflicts,” Morgan explained. 

Although Morgan had an informative experience during his visit, he discovered that this role might not be for him.

“It was a lot of office work, it was a lot of bureaucracy, it was a lot of sitting around and doing research all day,” Morgan said. “And that was something I just personally didn’t see myself doing or see myself enjoying.” 

However, Morgan did learn a lot about himself through the program by realizing that he wanted to utilize his interpersonal skills in his career. That is one of the reasons why working in admissions appeals to him. 

“I am very much a people person. I love talking to people, so being in a client-facing role in admissions is definitely more interactive and energetic. It feels more like me,” Morgan said. 

Chloe Sisselman, a senior international relations concentrator, shadowed an alum at the New York State Environment Disaster Prevention Agency, allowing her to realize the career path she wanted to pursue. 

“It just made me realize I want to help people and work in government,” Sisselman said. 

“A Day in the Life” and Career Exploration Week have different impacts for different students. For some, their experience certifies their interest in a particular career. For others, however, their time speaking to or shadowing alums helps them eliminate certain fields. Either way, students speak highly of their experience and the willingness of Colgate alumni to help current students in any way they can. 

Career Exploration Week will take place again this year from October 4-7. This program not only encourages students to explore their career options early, but it also allows students to connect to alumni in meaningful ways even if they come to realize a certain career path isn’t a good fit for them.