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Career Center searches for new director, reaffirms priorities

<reer Center has been searching for a new director since June, shortly after former Director Kim Betz announced her departure. Betz, a Carleton alumna of the Class of ’91, held the director position since March 2013. She now serves as executive director of Career Services at Princeton University, according to the institution’s website.

Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston, who has overseen the hiring process, said that Carleton partnered with the search firm Storbeck, Pimentel & Associates to assist in identifying the next director of the Career Center. “A search advisory committee consisting of faculty, staff, and students has been meeting since June to review applications [and] interview questions,” Livingston said.

Rachel Leatham, acting co-director of the Career Center, said Career Center staff “gave feedback about our aspirations and hopes for the person to the search firm.”

“We’ve had a lot of discussions with Dean Livingston about this and we had extensive conversations with each of the candidates on campus,” Leatham said.

Career Center staff, however, have been unable to be intensively involved in the search process due to staffing constraints. “Because we’re down two staff people, it makes sense for us not to be as intimately involved in running this search. So we’re getting to have great conversations so they can hear about what we do and get to know the Center and how we serve students, but we’re not having to do some of the other stuff which is really time intensive,” Leatham explained.

Leatham said the Career Center director position is “a really multidimensional position,” with many focus points. “The first priority,” she said, “is making sure students are getting what they need to navigate their internships and experiential learning, building skills while they’re at Carleton and then helping them to navigate their careers after Carleton.”

One aspect of supporting students in this way is to facilitate on-campus cooperations, such as partnerships between students and faculty, especially academic advisors, as well as collaboration with offices on campus. This, Leatham explained, can “help make sure that the programs that we’re offering are taking advantage of cohort groups, natural affinities, athletics.”

The Career Center is also “working with alums and parents and trustees and then the broader higher ed community to tell the story of the student experience here.” This involves “sharing our successes, sharing some of our best practices,” according to Leatham. “I think we have an obligation to continue to be a leader in the industry in terms of innovation and so continuing to get that story out there,” she said.

Finally, Leatham identifies the third component of the Career Center director position as “making sure that the staff here at the Career Center is exceptional and has the resources that we all need to serve the students best.”

The Career Center is aware that job searching can be daunting for students. Leatham acknowledges that while Carls are familiar with how to be a student, they may not be as comfortable with the career-building process. “People haven’t done job searching, they haven’t done internships,” said Leatham. “This is brand new and it’s really hard to know how to approach career searches.”

Leatham suggested that this uncertainty may be exacerbated by the culture surrounding career development at Carleton. “I think there is a culture here that people don’t feel comfortable asking questions and they feel like they should know because everybody else makes it look effortless, but the reality is behind closed doors, it’s hard for everybody,” she said.

She hopes that the new director will help promote the message that it is acceptable for students to feel uncertain during the career development process. “I think the director will be in conversations with academics and faculty and other departments to help normalize the conversation and also let people know it’s okay to not know what they’re doing. And in fact that’s an opportunity to explore more,” she said.

Leatham adds, “I would love for this next director to tell the story about how much fun the career search process is because it can be fun finding your people, finding your jam, finding your passion and figuring out how to integrate what you’re doing here—all the quirky, amazing, brilliant things that people are doing here—into a career that people get paid for. And I think that this next director will have a great time in telling that story.”

According to Leatham, Carleton has prioritized life after Carleton as “one of the three pillars going forward.” As a result of that plan, “the college committed to increasing the focus on life after college and preparing students for that.”

Livingston reflected on some of these recent shifts at the Career Center. “The Career Center continues to move in an upward trajectory of meeting the careers needs of students by partnering with faculty, staff, parents and alumni,” she said. “Each year, more externships and funding for internships are offered. In addition, the number of employers recruiting Carls is on the rise.”

Leatham said the new director will be “somebody that has a commitment to students and a commitment to the college, both in terms of today’s world and then a vision for where Carleton needs to be to prepare students for the next decade or so. So it’s somebody who’s going to take us into the next level.”

The new Director will also be an advocate for the value of a liberal arts education in a changing economy, Leatham explained. According to Leatham, as the economy shifts, especially with an increase in the number of careers centered around the use of data, she wants to make sure that the new director “continues to be the voice for the value of liberal arts and liberal arts employees in the economy going forward.”

“I think we heard some exciting ideas from the candidates about kind of what the landscape for work is going to be like looking ahead. But the beautiful thing is that we’re in a really good place, so this isn’t somebody who’s going to need to come in and rescue by any means. This is somebody who’s going to build off of what we do and take us to the next level,” Leatham said.

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