“How many of you were asked on Christmas by some weird, old uncle what you wanted to do with your English, history, poli sci, or art degree?”
250 hands shot up.
“How many of you had an answer?”
Fifty limp hands wavered unconfidently, while the rest of the audience let out a sigh of relief. No one knew what they wanted to do—but that was why everyone was there.
On Wednesday, Jan. 9, 250 MCAS sophomores returned to campus early for Endeavor, a three day career exploration organized by the Boston College Career Center.
Students signed up two months in advance and faced a $150 penalty fee if they decided they were too cozy in their childhood bedrooms to return back to the industrial green dog beds of BC dorms.
At the 3:30 check-in at the Chocolate Bar, a frenzy erupted of intimidated sophomores. No one smiled—people avoided eye contact, watching snapchats, jealous of their friends still at home. After students received their nametags and Endeavor workbooks, they loitered near the doors, clogging the entryway for students arriving late. At 4 p.m., they were sent to meet with their small groups, which consisted of no more than 20 attendees. Each group had a leader who went on Endeavor as a sophomore.
In the classrooms of Gasson, students mulled over a list of skills, rating both their proficiency and enjoyment of the respective expertises. The list of skills was divided into larger clusters. Under “Relationship” were the skills collaboration, conflict resolution, counsel, train/instruct, and, provide support. Under “Creative” were design, conceptualize, synthesize, and demonstrate foresight. Under “Analytical” were research, evaluate, budget, categorize, and computation.
With a new formalized idea of their strengths, students then gathered in Devlin 008. There, the Career Services Office presented a beginner’s guide to networking. Students were reminded about the importance of making eye contact, speaking clearly, and asking for business cards. Students then were instructed to open their workbook and complete an activity.
The workbook asked students to outline their Story—where they came from, what they’ve done, and what skills they’ve developed along the way. Then, students matched up with partners and took turns role playing. One student played the alumnus, while the other introduced himself and told his story.
“I chose BC because of its holistic education,” said Max Gorack, MCAS ’20. “I’ve always tried to advocate for my liberal arts education when I talk to people who work in finance. Endeavor really helped me organize that into a story.”
The Career Center counselors told students not to worry about all of the important alumni they would meet the next day. These professionals were here to give back to BC students. There was nothing to fear, insisted the emcee.
“I came into Endeavor not too sure what to expect,” said Brendan Rubbery, MCAS ’20, an English major. “I didn’t know we were supposed to be nervous about this until they told us to be.”
Students noted that their CSOM friends had been grooming themselves for internships since the beginning of the fall semester, with a curriculum of interview-prepping, resume-building, and LinkedIn-polishing.
“My friends are all in CSOM,” said Katie Herlihy, MCAS ’20, a psychology major. “They’ve been making phone calls since [the] summer to firms.”
On campus, it’s easy to get the impression that CSOM is an express ticket to the good life of six figures and second homes. The first big career event of the school year was held in September at Conte Forum, and although the Career Center advertised it as if it was open to all students, it was hard to find someone to give the time of day without a ’19 nametag.
“There were some companies that asked straight up, ‘Are you in CSOM?’” Gorack said.
Liberal arts students sometimes felt left out. Fulton frequently hosts financial professionals to provide CSOM students insight into work in the financial sector. Students in CSOM have marketable concentrations like corporate reporting and analysis and computer science. The implication, at least as understood by many liberal arts majors, is that the job market isn’t as kind to students who studied Plato as it is to those who took Portico.
“I was worried that nobody wanted to hire someone like me,” Herlihy said.
But Endeavor exists specifically to debunk that myth—to calm the worried mothers who receive phone calls from their kids declaring art history majors, and to give a platform to executives with English degrees.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would double major [in] English,” said John Harrington, BC ’90, a director of consultant relations at PNC Capital Advisors.
Students showed up to breakfast on Thursday in their best interpretations of the loosely defined business casual dress code. Some dressed as if they had Endeavor at 12 and intramurals at 2, while others donned bespoke suits with perfectly dimpled ties.
The Career Center scheduled three sessions for Thursday, during which various panels gave talks on their career industries.
There was a Communications/Marketing panel, a Financial Services panel, and panels on Education/Non-Profit, Health/Life Sciences, Technology/Start-Ups, and Government/Public Policy. Despite the variation in careers, all alumni shared a similar sentiment: Companies want graduates who know how to think, not what to think.
The alumni were not there to offer internships and jobs to the sophomores. Instead, they served as living proof of the value of a liberal arts education. They told their stories and encouraged the students to reach out to the BC alumni network.
After seeing proof of how far a liberal arts degree can bring its recipients, groups journeyed to offices on Friday to see BC alumni at work. One of the sites, Digitas, is an integrated advertising agency which boastfully recruits recently-graduated Eagles every hiring season.
Everything in Digitas is made of glass and is gluten free. There’s a self-serve latte station with all the toys the baristas at Starbucks have—soy, chai, skim, and grande. There’s a room that serves as a functioning pub on Thursday and Friday evenings, and the beer is free. There are margaritas on National Margarita Day, and after work employees participate in intramural soccer leagues and paw-rent outings.
Digitas put together a panel of BC graduates who now work there. One works in the financial office, another in its educational marketing office, and a third mines Twitter for trendable hashtags. All three boasted about the advantage their humanities majors give them over their quantitative coworkers.
“I learned there’s no wrong way to start,” Herlihy said. “My first internship doesn’t need to be exactly what I want to do 20 years from now. If I enjoy it, then good. If I don’t, then at least I’ll learn from it.”
Photo courtesy of Boston College Career Center