Eyes wide open, I count the cracks on my ceiling for what feels like the millionth time that night. I check the time on my phone screen—it’s 3:42 a.m. What will I do this summer? Why didn’t I start looking for internships earlier? Why does it seem like everyone I know is posting on LinkedIn? All of these questions and more race through my mind, making it utterly impossible to fall asleep.
Now, I don’t exactly know if this is a common experience among Vassar students, but what I do know is that I’m not alone. After all, the anxiety surrounding post-grad plans and summer internship searches is very real. Whether you’ve just scheduled that big interview, sent in about 50 different applications without hearing anything back or simply feel like it’s too late to even start looking, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
With that being said, I have some exciting news: there is help out there. Vassar students enjoy a wealth of resources and opportunities at our fingertips via the Career Development Office (CDO). From online databases and professional networks to one-on-one guidance, there is no shortage of career support on campus.
To better understand all the CDO has to offer, I sat down with Stacy Bingham, Director of Career Development and Assistant Dean of Studies. To start off, Bingham explained one of the most important resources available. “Within the office, we have folks who are trained counselors and advisors who meet with students. At a small liberal arts institution, one of the ways in which students really benefit is the opportunity to create close relationships with faculty, and I see that playing out in the Career Development Office as well,” said Bingham. “There’s a lot of years of expertise here, so it’s really something students can and should take advantage of.”
In addition to emphasizing the value of the CDO’s staff, Bingham stressed the importance of connecting with graduates. From Vassar’s alumnae/i network to regular career panels and workshops and events like Sophomore Career Connections, Bingham stated, “There is no better inspiration for life beyond Vassar than to look at the career paths and talk to the people who have paved the way.”
The third and equally important career resource provided by the CDO is access to online databases and networks. Handshake, in particular, acts as a great place for students to kick off their internship or job search, all without scheduling an appointment with one of the CDO’s staff. Bingham noted the value of this online resource, elaborating, “Last year’s graduating class was the first to have had Handshake as their job search database, and the number of students who actually found their jobs on Handshake doubled or tripled from the previous database.”
Another way in which the Career Development Office supports its students is through funding opportunities. Even if you’ve already secured a summer gig, you might still be worried about how to finance it, especially if it’s an unpaid opportunity. However, by doing a quick search on the CDO’s website, students are able to learn about the numerous ways in which the office can offer them financial support. One of the most well-known financial resources is that of the Internship Grant Fund (IGF). From this funding pool, the CDO may allot between $250 to $2500 to each student applicant, provided they’ve already secured an internship or job.
Besides the IGF, the CDO provides additional avenues of funding. According to the CDO’s website, “Career Development grants are intended to help offset the costs of expenses related to career preparation, job and internship search, and graduate/ professional school applications.”
Although alumnae/i may not access the CDO’s funding opportunities, many return time and time again in order to take advantage of the office staff’s expertise. Bingham explained, “It’s important to note that within the office, of course our primary constituents are students, but we also serve alumni as well. In a given year, they comprise about 15% of our counseling base. So it’s fairly significant—most are graduates of the last five years, but we also have alumni at all ages and stages coming back to seek advice and counsel.”
Besides those searching for career advice, many alumnae/i also return in order to participate in some of the career events hosted by the CDO. As many students know, one of the most important alumnae/i events is the above-mentioned Sophomore Career Connections. Bingham cited this event as one of her favorites, due to the sheer volume of students and alumnae/i who come together for a exciting, productive weekend.
To close out our time together, I asked Bingham about the most common question that she receives from students. She jumped right in: “‘Do I need to know what I want to do to come in and talk to somebody at the CDO?’ And of course, the answer is not at all!” So, whether you’re a first-year just beginning to think about what you may want to do someday, or a senior, terrified by the prospect of graduating in a few months, the Career Development Office is always ready to help. Say goodbye to sleepless nights, and start sending those exploratory emails!