Reigning over UCS with cautious optimism

Jeanine Dames is the new mind behind UCS.
Jeanine Dames is the new mind behind UCS. // Allie Krause

Q. You worked with Allyson Moore both at UCS and at the School of Management. What are some things that you hope to do differently from Moore, and what are the legacies that you want to preserve?

A. My hope is to build upon many of the initiatives that Allyson put into place here. One thing that I hope to do, which she didn’t have as much time to work on, is to branch out to the various resources already available across the University. We want to ask: What are the need areas? How can we make the career search a clearer and more streamlined process for students? I look forward to really working across the University — with Yale College, faculty, the Entrepreneurial Institute — to really think about what our students are interested in as a whole.

 

Q. In your interview with the News this Tuesday, you mentioned new initiatives in the works as a result of student interest. Can you elaborate on what these programs will be and where the interest is coming from?

A. What I learned from working at the Graduate School is that it is very important for our programming to line up with student interests. Student interests change: They are very different from what they were five years ago and will change in another five years. And as new technologies emerge, so do new industries. Just this semester, coming up in the next month, we have four new programs that are career-recruiting events focusing on the public sector, nonprofits and engineering. Those are areas where students really wanted to see more representation.

 

Q. How are things different from five years ago?

A. Five years ago, when we look back, that was 2008 — a very different time. I was at SOM at the time, and that is when the economy really suffered dramatically, and it has been a very slow recovery. One of the interests that has re-emerged for students is not only the interest in entrepreneurship opportunities, but also the tech field, which is building again and becoming strong. It’s a very exciting thing to see, because there was a tech boom and bust in the early 2000s, but now they are slowly coming back, with companies like Google and Facebook.

 

Q. Data released by the Yale Office of Institutional Research in 2010 revealed that 25 percent of employed Yale graduates are in the consulting or finance industries. This became a major topic of conversation following the publication of Marina Keegan’s ’12 WEEKEND article (“Even Artichokes Have Doubts,” Sept. 30, 2011) investigating the recruitment structures of these companies. Why are these companies so accessible to Yale students?

A. You know, I’ve heard that number tossed around a lot, and if you look at the actual data you will see that the number is closer to 15 percent. Education is actually our No. 1 field in terms of what one line of work students pursue following graduation. In the past, it might have been that these corporations were more visible than other industries, but we are working to offer summer internships in a variety of fields so that students are aware of all of the opportunities that are open to them. In a continuation of the initiative that I led as deputy director of employment programs, we are offering more internships in STEM, more internships in government, more internships in global health and more opportunities in the arts.

 

Q. For many students thinking about employment following graduation, finance or consulting seem to be the default fields. Why do you think so many students are inclined to seek employment in these areas?

A. It’s very hard to say. I think a lot of it has to do with timing and the different forms of recruiting that work for different industries. Finance firms have a very structured recruiting process, so it’s important for students to know about other opportunities with different timelines and procedures. I am also wary about grouping consulting [positions] all together, because there’s nonprofit consulting, and there’s economic consulting and health care consulting — these are very different.

 

Q. STEM students in the past have expressed that they find it particularly difficult to receive career help. Is UCS working on programs that will address these concerns?

A. If there is anyone who has been discouraged in the past, I would highly recommend that they come back again. Initiatives in STEM career counseling have changed a lot since the summer, because we have a wonderful staff member, Ken Koopmans, who has taken on the job of reinvigorating this department. Our counseling approach is first to line up the student not only with their majors, but also with their interests, which could be separate. I’m a perfect example of that: I went to Cornell as an animal sciences major, and I wanted to be a veterinarian. But many years later, here I am advising undergraduates. Careers are not necessarily locked up.

 

Q. Your background in animal sciences is very interesting, and, I suppose, comforting for those of us who worry that our majors will determine what we do for the rest of our lives. Can you talk about the process you went through of finding your career, first as a lawyer, and now as a career-counseling director? When you were our age, did you ever imagine that you would be where you are today?

A. No [laughs] –— not at all. When I was your age — so at this point, in sophomore year — I was deciding if I wanted to go to veterinary school. I realized soon that I was not interested in the medical aspect of things, although I stayed with the major because I loved the animal sciences component. After undergrad, I knew that I had to follow my passion, and the passion for me was policy work: law school and learning about environmental law. If there are any pre-med, pre-vet or pre-dental students out there are having doubts about whether to go to medical school, I would encourage them to take a step back and reflect. The end of sophomore year often seems to bring with it that epiphany moment.

 

Q. One thing that students are almost universally concerned about across the board, regardless of whatever industry they’re interested in, is just getting a job in this kind of market. What kind of advice would you give to undergrads looking for a job after graduation?

A. Come meet with us. One of the things I tell students when I meet with them personally is that you should think about your career search as an additional class. What is the time you would dedicate to an additional class? Maybe two to three hours a week — and there’s no exam. And that’s what you should be dedicating to your career choice. Students on campus here are so busy that unless you set aside the time to think, “This week I’m going to look into organizations that are doing interesting work,” “This week I’m going to start thinking about job positions,” “This week I’m going to work on my résumé” — unless you set aside the time to do that, it’s very difficult to keep track. And why I think that’s important is because sometimes, there are amazing opportunities that have very early deadlines. A perfect example is some of those very large government organizations that require a security clearance. If you miss the deadline for the CIA, unfortunately, they don’t really make exceptions.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the job market, because, compared to when I was here in 2008, the job market is looking very good. Back then, whole organizations were going away, and the poor nonprofits had no money to hire anybody.

 

Q. In recent years, many undergraduates have left liberal arts education behind in favor of pursuing vocational, job-specific training. With this in mind, how do employers view a Yale degree?

A. To put it simply: very positively. Sometimes students are concerned — completely unwarrantedly concerned — that they will be hurt by a liberal arts education. Employers across the board highly value a liberal arts education. The liberal arts education makes students learn to think. You know there’s the old quote that success is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent opportunity — if you have done the legwork, then you will be prepared when luck turns your way.

 

Q. To close, how would you summarize your vision for your time here?

A. Open-door policy. Our door is always open to students, and I want students to feel comfortable knowing that we are here to help them.

 

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