James Reed: A Career in Colgate Careers

For Colgate first-years attending last week’s First-Year Jumpstart series, James Reed was the very first introduction they received to the Career Services office. Reed has been at Colgate for eight years and currently works as the Assistant Director of Career Development, in addition to specializing as a Health and Wellness Career Advisor. 

The Career Services office uses a cooperative organizational model for advising, which allows advisors to work with any student on their professional goals while also themselves specializing in a specific industry. Reed believes this allows students to benefit from a more in-depth guidance process as they progress at Colgate and begin to refine their career interests. As a health and wellness specialist, Reed helps students understand application timelines and processes for medical professional schools, researches opportunities for students based on work experience and functions as a liaison for Colgate alumni and other contacts in healthcare industries of student interest. 

Reed is also involved with the Health Sciences Advisory Committee, a dedicated body made up of both administrative staff and faculty in the natural sciences. The Committee helps coordinate shadow programs with local healthcare providers and seeks out other ways to involve students looking to attend medical schools and gain experiential preparation they might need. Reed stresses, though, that his role in this respect is less academic and more based on considering Colgate students as individuals.

“We’re trying to help with those complementary pieces, really helping students to think about what their interests, values, identities and skills are; how they can leverage those to find experiences that might be rewarding for them, how to make meaning out of those [and] how to translate those throughout their time here at Colgate so they can set and achieve their goals,” Reed explained.

Reed’s role is so individualized that the bulk of his average work week is taken up by one-on-one advising meetings with students. In these meetings, Reed helps students with a wide variety of tasks, ranging from sorting out one’s academic strengths and interests for the first time, searching for jobs and internships, to resume writing and interview preparation. Reed and other career advisors in the office also facilitate skill development workshops, train and supervise Colgate students who act as peer advisors, regularly undertake industry research in their respective areas and advance various other initiatives through internal planning committees. In a position as student-facing as this one, it’s a good thing that Reed has a genuine passion for helping others.

“As early as I can remember, I was helping my sisters with math or with science or explaining history concepts or what have you,” Reed recalled. “I got involved in peer leadership programs and peer education programs, all with that teaching mindset.”

Yet despite his current passion for his work, Reed’s path to Colgate and into his current role was not linear. Growing up in a blue-collar farming family, Reed always thought of education as being deeply important: he knew he wanted to be a teacher from an early age, and went on to become a first-generation college graduate. But after receiving his teaching certification and gaining experience in substitute teaching and tutoring for a few years, Reed realized that, while he loved the classroom, it was not the right place for him to end up.

“I had one of those ‘Oh no’ moments,” Reed said. “How did I get through four years and do everything that I could possibly do around teaching and not figure out that this wasn’t as good a fit for me as I thought it was going to be?”

Reed had to reflect on what he loved most about the teaching he had done in his past in order to figure out his future. He ended up choosing a path in higher education as it allowed him to combine his dovetailing enthusiasms in teaching with administration and program development, an interest he acquired while studying to receive a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy. Reed believes that the kind of job he holds now at Colgate is indeed the best of both worlds.

As someone who went through a sort of career crisis himself, Reed is also uniquely positioned to help students fully evaluate their own career possibilities. The students at Colgate are ultimately the reason that he continues to be so deeply passionate about the work he has found himself doing.

“The things that I love about Colgate are you all, our students,” Reed said. “You’re hardworking, you’re talented, you’re not just looking to do the bare minimum and maintain the status quo. You’re looking to do great things. We are so excited to be doing the work that we do and see how that is going to factor into helping you all be so incredibly prepared to do such amazing things.”