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The Weakest Link

Opinion | February 15, 2011

After two years of the big bad “Great Recession,” jobs may finally be resurfacing. Still, highly rewarding and well paying employment remains a specter of a better time. As such, it has become increasingly important to strengthen resumés and to create and foster connections that will allow for a smooth transition from Tufts University to one of those limited job opportunities. As many recent graduates and soon-to-graduate senior have been discovering, however, good opportunities do not seem to appear right away. Were we wrong to expect that graduating from an esteemed institution would help us land worthwhile jobs after graduation?

After some investigation into our Career Services website, it appears there are plenty of ways for a persistent student to connect with alumni, find internships, and discover job options. At first glance, these resources seem adequate, but a closer look reveals that the success and quality of this service is questionable. To be clear, this is not intended to be an attack on Career Services or its well-meaning and compassionate staff. I only hope to point out that the networking and connecting that is integral in pursuing a post-graduate employment may not originate at Career Services.

To provide an example of the networking that should be going on in Tufts’ Career Services offices, we can look at our own Greek system. Regardless of personal biases or preferences in terms of the Greek scene, a fraternity or sorority is a perfect place to make contacts, generate interest in personal success, and secure references, interviews, and internships: all treasured advantages in a job hunt. What Tufts Career Services is lacking are relationships between two mutually interested parties—an alumnus wanting to see a fellow Jumbo reap success similar to their own.

What has happened at Tufts over the years to cause such difficultly in reaching out to alumni? Look at a school spirit powerhouse like Texas A&M, where an alumni ring signifies automatic kinship, and many times results in an incredibly beneficial bond, be it a job opportunity or the chance to network with important contacts. It should be the right of every smart, ambitious, and determined Tufts student to receive these advantageous alumni relations. Greek life participants should not be the only ones with a helping hand or a leg up.

So what is Career Services doing to alienate alumni? The problem is more inherently institutional, with Tufts itself misdirecting its efforts by focusing largely on international and philanthropic marketing. While this is, admittedly a noble undertaking, by doing so Tufts undermines its ability to create a strong association amongst its students. If every student is focusing efforts elsewhere, off campus, how can they create lasting connections among themselves here on the hill? These concepts should not be mutually exclusive; Tufts can simultaneously encourage its students to be “global citizens” and foster a close-knit Jumbo family. If we build upon the positive shared experiences that characterize our time at Tufts and inspire students to care about their fellow Jumbos, a family will be born. Career Services has the unfortunate job of trying to draw in alumni who, compared to recent graduates at more campus-focused institutions, are less interested in their fellow Jumbos.

Career Services cannot operate as successfully in their mission at Tufts as it does at schools with better alumni relations, no matter how well meaning the staff is. There is truth behind the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This is especially applicable for those seeking employment right out of college. Career Services and Tufts University as a whole should take a lesson from the Greek playbook on this one and move to aggressively redefine post-graduate interactions by fostering a closer bond between all Tufts students. Furthermore, Career Services should be engaging graduating seniors and encouraging them to stay connected to the university. One way to increase involvement post-graduation could be an intra-university networking campaign that matches upperclassmen with underclassmen that have similar professional interests. If students can cultivate these relationships while they’re here at Tufts, they’ll be more likely to lend a helping hand when they’ve settled into their career. Career Services should be the precursor to the Alumni Relations Office by engaging students before they ever leave campus.

It is time for current students to realize that at the moment, it may not be possible to rely on, either Career Services or Tufts alumni for jobs and internships. We have a unique opportunity to be among the first to both forge our own path, and to turn back and extend a hand to those Jumbos who are looking for real guidance, beyond an online database.