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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Campus Life July 17, 2023

Career Communities

The Lazarus Center for Career Development will offer an exciting new way for students to access career information and build their network of connections

Career communities will enable Smith students to build strong connections.
With the soaring cost of American higher education, students and their families are increasingly looking at colleges through a “return-on-investment” lens. “If a student is not going on to earn an advanced degree after graduation, they want to know they will graduate with a job, competitive salary, prospects for career mobility, and professional satisfaction,” says Faith McClellan, Smith's dean of career development.

To that end, the Lazarus Center for Career Development is launching a number of initiatives to provide opportunities for students to better prepare for careers and stand out among other job applicants. The first—career communities—is set to start this fall.

“We are committed to ensuring that any Smith student with a particular career goal can see a clear pathway forward to that vision,” says Manat Wooten, director of career communities. “To do that, we need to provide more targeted and industry-specific support—that’s where the career communities model comes in."

Career communities will be grouped into six areas: business, finance, consulting, and entrepreneurship; government law, international affairs, and policy; arts, media, and communications; education, social impact, and nonprofit; STEM; and health professions. Each community will be comprised of alums professionals, industry specialists, potential employers, and faculty, along with students. After students select their community, they will have access to a wide variety of programming that will include skill-building workshops, and experiential activities such as job shadowing and site visits. 

Building relationships is a key component of the career communities concept, and, according to Deborah Wijnhoven, assistant dean of employer partnerships and career communities, “Building relationships is the key to success for students in both finding a job and building a long-term career plan.” Through the new initiative, students will not only be able to obtain advice from experts, they will also be able to find mentors and develop a support team that will follow them throughout their time as a student and for five years after graduation.

There are numerous benefits for students to the career communities’ approach. Students will receive personalized assistance from coaches who know the field and can address advantages of pursuing a particular field, as well as challenges. Students will also have the support of a like-minded community, with people who care about their development and outcomes. 

“The career communities model is part of a broader effort to break down the traditional walls of the career center,” says Wooten. “Research shows that if students can identify an internal advocate for their job search—someone connected to the employer—they are 10 times more likely to earn the position. Learning how to build social capital within an industry takes practice—and that’s where advice from career center staff and interaction with career communities can help.”

In addition, there is a lot of flexibility within the five designated career communities. Students can opt out of a specific career community anytime or join more than one. “We’re really excited that within each community, members will be able to identify emerging career opportunities,” McClellan says. “Nothing is locked in, and the options are limitless.”

The career communities’ model, which has already been adapted by many of Smith’s liberal arts peers, has been demonstrated to support student engagement and retention in career development programming. It’s just one part of a broader trend to reimagine career development in higher education, by breaking down the traditional walls of a career center.

McClellan thinks this new approach, pairing career development with a liberal arts education is a perfect match for Smith. “Our students do need hard skills,” she says, “but employers consistently say they hire candidates who can innovate, and problem solve. At its core, that’s what a liberal arts education does.”

Career communities will be open to students in September 2023 via the Lazarus Center for Career Development