Mid-Pandemic Help for Launching a Career

Illustration of a woman in a business suit with wings taking flight while another woman on the ground cheers

Robert Neubecker C/O Theispot.com

Back home in Texas before finishing her senior year, Katie White ’20 struggled to juggle online learning with trying to find a job. Logging on to LinkedIn, she was disheartened to find that newly posted jobs already had hundreds of applicants.

Before the pandemic, White was confident she could find a fulfilling job in marketing or user experience that matched her skill set. But now, in the age of the coronavirus, she’s not so sure. “The job market is more competitive than ever,” White says. “It’s really scary, and it’s a very tough time for seniors.”

Now, White, along with other recent Wellesley graduates, has a new program at her disposal to help her navigate the complicated and uncertain job market she finds herself in: the Senior Support Network.

Spearheaded by the College’s Career Education office, the program is part of a broader strategy, Hive 2020, to support students and alumnae in the midst of COVID-19. Through the Senior Support Network, interested seniors were matched with an alumnae mentor in their field of interest, in addition to Career Education staff members. The program harnesses the power and reach of the Wellesley network.

“Our goal is to build this network around each senior to provide them with support throughout the summer and beyond,” says Jennifer Pollard, director of operations and analytics for Career Education. “Networks of support have always been a critical aspect to building a successful career. Now, more than ever, the Wellesley community will be a lifeline for students as they explore and embark upon careers in a changed world.”

More than 500 alumnae have volunteered to support Wellesley seniors, with many offering to mentor more than one student. Alumnae have connected with seniors by phone or video chat, shared information about how their industry is evolving in the midst of the pandemic, and given tips for breaking in. They’re helping seniors adapt to the changing job market and navigate remote work.

Through an online form, faculty and staff can refer students to the program. By mid-June, the College was able to match all 335 interested seniors with alumnae, and it’s considering extending the program to incoming seniors in the fall.

“Seniors are relying on the Wellesley network,” says White. “The Senior Support Network has helped people forge more connections at a time when you can’t just go out and have a coffee with someone.”

In addition to the Senior Support Network, Career Education has also launched micro-internships—two-week virtual internships with alumnae—and Career, Coffee, and Conversation—a drop-in conversation series for seniors.

Students can participate in Alumnae Career Conversations as well, which are one-hour, moderated Q&As between an alumna and a staff career community advisor. The Career Office is also supporting alumnae, offering counseling to those out of work.

Elyse Cherry ’75, CEO of the Boston-based community finance institution BlueHub Capital, jumped to sign up for the Senior Support Network after years of mentoring Wellesley students through a variety of Career Education programs.

“Lending a hand to Wellesley students is a great way to build the world we want and to have that world continue beyond our individual lives,” Cherry says. “Besides, none of us got where we are now on our own.” Mentoring, she says, is “both a pleasure and an obligation to the ones who came before.”

Cherry has participated in speed mentoring programs with Wellesley students and hosted students during a job-shadow program in January. Each summer, she also welcomes a Wellesley student into her office through the college’s Lumpkin Summer Institute for Service Learning program. This year, she is hosting a student virtually.

“Students are coming out into a difficult world,” Cherry says, “but it’s a world that needs their expertise and compassion and intellect. I view the connections I make with Wellesley students and alumnae as ongoing relationships. It’s a great pleasure to see people moving forward in their careers.”

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