Most people would not be surprised to learn that Lawrence is a community of multi-interested learners. In fact, part of what attracts many students to a liberal arts education is the ability to explore many different paths and interests throughout their academic career. However, this presents a unique challenge to the people tasked with helping Lawrentians find their way out into the world of jobs, graduate or professional school and general life after graduating from Lawrence.
For this reason, the Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement (CLC) has launched a new initiative called Career Communities to help Lawrentians navigate life after Lawrence. Career Communities are, for now, a set of web pages linked to the CLC’s main website that provide information about different fields that Lawrence students might be interested in.
Following a focus group receiving the input of students, faculty, staff and alumni, the designers of the Career Communities decided to focus on eight core areas for the initial launch of the project. The areas are Business & Entrepreneurship; Communication, Journalism & Written Arts; Education & Community Engagement; Government, Law, & International Affairs; Health Care & Life Sciences; Physical & Natural Sciences; Technology & Data Science; and Visual & Performing Arts. A ninth Career Community, designed particularly for first- and second-year students who are still unsure about what general field they want to explore, is in the works and should be launching shortly.
According to Interim Dean for the CLC Anne Jones, in a statement released on March 13, “The Career Communities are an important step in becoming a more student-centered organization and in supporting all students to achieve their Life after Lawrence goals.”
As one of the recommendations on the final report from the Life After Lawrence Task Force—which, in 2018, completed its work identifying areas of needed improvement in supporting students as they navigate life outside of the university—Career Communities are a first step toward bridging the gap between the many possible career paths students can take and the opportunities they are aware of.
However, the idea is not new to some, including the Associate Director for Career Advising and Technology at the CLC Grace Kutney, who says that this is Lawrence’s take on a trend that has been happening in higher education for a while.
Kutney said, “The concept has been around for at least five, maybe seven years at universities across the country, and the basic idea around a career community has probably grown up out of something we’ve known at Lawrence for a long time. That is, a singular major does not equate to a singular career trajectory—that just because you plug in ‘x’ major you’re gonna get one possible career path.”
Each of the Career Community pages provides detailed information for students and faculty regarding that particular field. Available information includes internship opportunities; jobs Lawrentians have been hired for in the field; funding options for internships, on-campus and off-campus studies; relevant student and community organizations; alumni contacts; and even suggested majors.
However, as Kutney pointed out, the majors listed there are merely suggestions; Lawrence students can, and often do, go into fields vastly different than their majors. She wants Lawrentians to know that, “Regardless of your major, […] you don’t have to pick only one community, you can belong to as many as you like.”
According to Kutney, the Career Communities are still in development, and could eventually become a major source of information and connection for students, faculty and alumni.
“In the future, I’m excited about the things that we’ll be able to do with our Career Communities where they are true communities that students are engaged in,” she said.
By providing contact info for alumni interested in talking to students about career paths, Career Communities make it easier for students to not only find basic information about what jobs are available, but to talk to individuals working in those fields about their preparations for entering the job market. Furthermore, the Career Communities provide a new way for information to be circulated to students, as they are linked directly to students’ Handshake accounts, thus allowing staff to send announcements regarding specific events directly to students online.
The Communities also strengthen the link between academic and career advising, as they provide an information pathway from the CLC to academic advisors and students, and vice versa.
“We’re pulling […] not [just] from our department because we want to help students realize that yes, the CLC helps, but there are career things going on all over campus,” Kutney said. The new system also provides a way to directly connect with employers and those offering internships in students’ desired fields through integration with Handshake.
To use the new Career Community web pages, students can go to lawrence.edu/students/career/career-communities or find them in the menu on the right-hand side of the CLC homepage. Alumni interested in being listed on a Career Community page as a contact point for students can contact the Assistant Director for Employer and Alumni Relations at the CLC Amanda Netzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.