“Whether you show up to New Student Orientation determined to be an orthopedic surgeon or having never thought about life after college, the Career Development Office (CDO) can help you,” says Abby Trout, assistant director of career development and exploration.
The CDO can help students prepare graduate or professional school applications, write resumes and cover letters, and interview with employers. But the CDO’s most important role starts far earlier — helping students understand their options and choose a life path they will enjoy and on which they will be successful.
Grinnell’s active alumni play a key role. Alumni understand how to translate the value of a liberal arts education into something employers, investors, and clients understand. Class visits from alumni experts — both in person and online — help students explore the real-world implications of topics they are covering in class. On the recent Silicon Valley industry tour, students experienced various business and nonprofit cultures. Long-term internships allow students to “try on” a position.
The CDO’s alumni externship program is particularly suited to first- and second-year students, says Arlene Holmes, assistant director of alumni relations, career development programs. The program pairs students interested in learning about a career field with alumni working in that field. Alumni host the externs in their homes, often commuting with the students and including them in nonwork activities as well.
“An externship is an excellent way to learn about the day-to-day work life of a professional in a career field of your choice. It offers you the chance to test a career without the risk of long-term commitment and can help you get your foot in the door for a competitive internship program or job,” says Trout.
Kimberly Spasaro ’14, one of last year’s externs, offers advice to students considering a trip: “Remember that your alum went through everything that you’re going through now. Alums understand what it’s like to be a college student with uncertainties about where their lives are going. They know what it means to enter the world with a Grinnell education, and they’ve experienced the privileges and challenges that a Grinnell education entails. Your alum has a wealth of information and experience to share. Pay attention!”