Posted by: Sarah | November 10, 2009

Guest Post: Advice from the Career Services Director

Skip Sturman, Director of Career Services

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Having a door serve as your office logo admittedly invites ambiguity, especially during tough economic times. From our vantage point, safely ensconced inside Career Services, the door clearly is meant to be a beckoning passageway into a bright future. However for many in the Class of 2009, given the relentless drumbeat of depressing economic news, that welcoming door appears to be closing at a most inopportune time.

Okay, I will spare you the part about “when one door closes, another opens” but will say that, however narrow the aperture, enterprising job-seekers can still squeeze through. In a challenging job market, the trick is to visualize openings where others see only blockages.

Take finance, for example, that sine qua non for many Dartmouth job-seekers. Clearly many Wall Street firms are conspicuous by their absence from campus this year and wholesale hiring has gone the way of Lehman Brothers, at least for the time being. That being said, a splash of cold, harsh reality need not blind you to the abundance of niche specific finance opportunities hiding in plain sight.

Certainly microfinance and community lending are prime examples, combining the practicality of business with the allure of doing good. Then there are both the traditional and the social investment management firms which are experiencing a spike in demand even as individual and institutional portfolios plunge. The need to have money well invested remains palpable and takes a village of financially astute managers to satisfy.

Personally, I might take advantage of this lull in wholesale hiring to do some intrepid career exploring. Truth be told, there are any number of blended career opportunities out there which should have great appeal to hybrid job seekers. In the environmental arena alone you can find standard titles- Research Associate, Assessment Adviser or even Index Associate-served with a green twist.

There are Research Associates performing research and conducting data analysis in support of Ecological Footprint studies. Or Assessment Advisers doing environmental assessments and audits for clients in need of sustainability reports. Or Index Associates developing and managing environmental indexes for social investment research firms.

And then there are the emerging green titles which truly boggle the mind. My growing pantheon of favorites includes Green Portfolio Project Manager for the Environmental Defense Fund; Director, Climate Change and Energy Initiatives for Google.org; Wind Analyst for the renewable energy division of a Scottish company which develops wind farms; Sustainability Research Analyst for Progressive Investment Management. Well, you get the picture. It’s not your older brother or sister’s job market any more.

Whatever employment door you hope to walk through in the months ahead-be it hybrid or more traditional-you would do well to heed the words of “The Sandwich Board Guy”. In case your memory needs a jolt, according to CNBC.com, “Among the iconic images that summed up 2008 was that of Joshua Persky, the unemployed investment banker who slapped a sandwich board over his suit that said, “Experienced MIT Grad for Hire” and hit the streets of New York to try to reclaim his place on Wall Street.”

Now that The Sandwich Board Guy is once again gainfully employed doing valuations in New York City, he offers the following sage advice:

  • Be creative: You have to think outside the box to make others aware of what you need.
  • Be open to change: Flexibility is the key. You really just have to expand your horizons.
  • Persevere: It wasn’t because of the sign. I stuck it out and didn’t give up.

Finally, the one I like best:

  • Get professional help: Without [a career counselor’s] help, I wouldn’t be here.

Food for thought from a career counselor and The Sandwich Board Guy.


Editor’s Note: These comments were first posted several months ago and originally directed to the Class of 2009 although much of the content remains pertinent today.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for writing this Skip! Great ending, I hadn’t heard that story. Great blog, looking forward to reading more.


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