UCS emphasizes alumni services

As the season for job and internship searches continues, the Undergraduate Career Services is not open only to undergraduates — alumni are increasingly using the office’s resources, both in person and online.

During her first year on the job, UCS Director Jeanine Dames has made expanding alumni relations a priority for the office. Since the fall, UCS has provided online workshops and other resources to help alumni in all stages of career development. Administrators interviewed said that improving alumni services will remain a focus for UCS in coming years.

“I believe a lot in alumni career relations,” Dames said, adding that she believes it is important for the University to guide its students even after they graduate.

Dames, who specialized in working with alumni as the director of the Yale Law School Career Development Office prior to leading UCS, said that alumni are often more reliant on career services because they lack the resources and nurturing environment that undergraduates enjoy. She cited deans, faculty and masters as examples of the types of resources students lose upon graduation.

This fall, Elayne Mazzarella, deputy director of UCS and the director of career counseling, became the first UCS specialist for alumni relations. Dames said in November that Mazzarella’s appointment was a testament to UCS’s commitment to its alumni.

Dames said Mazzarella is a valuable asset to alumni because she has 10 years of experience at UCS and can help Yale College graduates chart a long-term vision for their careers. Mazzarella can serve as a confidential mentor to graduates when they have questions that they would not want to ask employers or their colleagues, Dames added.

“Sometimes you don’t want to tip your hat to your employer or boss, and we can be that safe space where you could reveal a desire to change industries or jobs,” she said. She added that the entire office was a completely independent resource for graduates, unlike some executive recruiters or employees of search firms, who may have may have motives that do not align with those of the graduate — especially if their compensations are tied to the graduate changing jobs or industries.

UCS has dedicated an entire page of its website to Yale College graduates where it lists resources accessible to alumni. This December, UCS posted two online workshops — entitled “Know Yourself When Job Hunting” and “Success During Your First Year on the Job” respectively — that cater specifically to the needs of recent graduates.

Nick Letizio ’13 said the online UCS resources helped him not only to devise a long-term career plan, but also to become a more valuable asset to his employer.

“You can easily make the mistake [in thinking] that you don’t need UCS after you get a job,” he said.

Chris Clarke ’13 said that he hoped the number of online workshops, known as “webinars,” would increase because they were a convenient and flexible way for alumni with demanding schedules to obtain career advice.

Beyond making all of its career advisors and various web resources available to all Yale College graduates, UCS also has a page that lists executive recruiters and search firms that alumni can use during a job search, along with tips on how to engage with recruiting firms.

Starting this year, UCS has also negotiated with external career coaches in six major markets to provide one complementary 20-minute session to each Yale graduate. Although Dames said UCS advisors are always accessible and are often a graduate’s best first stop in the process, she added that the external career coach often knows more about the graduate’s specific industry or the state of the job market in a specific region.

“The external career coaches are best suited for someone who, for whatever reason, is geographically limited to a specific region and needs to find a job in that area,” Dames said, adding that to the best of her knowledge, this service is unique to Yale’s graduates. The office plans to create more relationships with career coaches in the Midwest, South and Pacific Northwest in the near future, she said.

All seven alumni interviewed said that they were appreciative of the resources UCS provides. Ari Meyers ’91 said that UCS was invaluable in helping him navigate a career change into the field of Nursing.

Sasha Gordon ’09 said she used UCS to help her make the next step after spending her first two years after college at a think-tank in DC. Although she said that while she was at Yale UCS was often branded as “useless” for students who were not interested in Teach for America, consulting, investment banking, business school, law school or medical school, Gordon said she thinks UCS can be a very positive resource if alumni ask the right questions. She added that her advisor at UCS was very kind and helpful during her job search.

Because many schools’ alumni services are only disclosed on password-protected alumni websites, it is difficult to ascertain how Yale’s services compare to those of its peers. But both Dames and Mazzarella said that the office conducted a peer review this past summer when considering ways it could improve alumni services.

According to Mazzarella, Yale offers a comprehensive and full spectrum of services that matches well with those of its peers.

“Some schools offer individual counseling, others post resources on their website. Some make certain undergraduate resources available to their graduates, but we combine and offer all these services,” she said.

While UCS makes its advisors and undergraduate resources available to all alumni, some of Yale’s peer schools set specific time limits on alumni career support. Harvard’s alumni only have access to the university’s Office of Career Services for the first five years after their graduation. According to Harvard’s career services website, “after five years, alumni are entitled to one career consultation per year, either in person, by Skype or phone.” Both Cornell and Dartmouth post online resources for their graduates but do not provide appointments or consultations with their undergraduate career advisors. In contrast, Dames said that UCS advisors interact with alumni of all ages, including those nearing retirement who are seeking advice on how to stay active.

Through Symplicity, the new online resource system which replaced eRecruiting in September, Dames said that alumni can now have the same access to job opportunities as current students. Still, alumni will not have access to the proposed page where students qualitatively answer questions about their prior work experience. Dames said this is because in many cases, alumni are the supervisors of current students during their internships, and the office wants to encourage students to be candid and thorough in their answers.

Stephen Blum ’74, the senior director of strategic initiatives at the Association of Yale Alumni, said UCS is one of AYA’s staunchest allies. Blum said the two groups meet frequently to discuss further opportunities for collaboration, including new ways in which AYA and UCS can improve alumni services. He cited the AYA’s exploration of ways to build a specific forum for “peer alum to alum” mentorship on Symplicity as one such future goal.

Alison Grubbs ’12 said her experiences with UCS as an alumna made her more likely to give back to the University. Grubbs, who works in the education and nonprofit industries, said that she is often asked by UCS to come back and give talks to current undergraduates or guide students who are looking for internships in these fields.

“It’s a nice reciprocal relationship,” Grubbs said, adding that she spoke to UCS in spurts whenever she was thinking of making the next step in her career.

Since it was inaugurated in September, 5,802 alumni have used Symplicity.

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