After more than a third of the class of 2014 went into public service following graduation, the Office of Career Strategy has increased the number of resources available for students interested in these opportunities.
When OCS began collecting data detailing the summer and post-graduation endeavors of students, OCS Director Jeanine Dames said the office was surprised by the large number of students pursuing careers in public service directly after leaving Yale. The office defines public service in the broadest possible sense, Dames said — including any career at a government, non-profit, educational or non-governmental. She added that at Yale’s peer institutions, it is typical for students to wait two or three years before entering these types of careers.
“One of the reasons so many students choose to enter public service right away is because the curriculum here at Yale prepares them for a variety of careers, and the public service sector is very broad,” Dames said. “But I also think the financial aid model allows students to make these choices, because they’re not coming out [of school] with enormous amounts of debt.”
OCS Director of Strategic Initiatives and Public Service Careers Robyn Acampora said the office’s expansion of its public service programming is an attempt to cater to the large number of students seeking work in the field. OCS now has two advisors on staff who are dedicated to planning programming around the areas of government, nonprofit and education, she said. Acampora added that the office also organized several public service events in the fall, namely the Government Networking Event, the Education Networking Event and the Student Public Interest Internship Fair.
Acampora and OCS Assistant Director Stephanie Waite are currently planning a series of job search strategy sessions for seniors looking for public service careers.
“These sessions will focus on various areas such as non-profit, government and education, and we will identify challenges in the job search, facilitate group brainstorming for solutions and assist seniors in creating an action plan,” Acampora said.
She added that other upcoming events include a Social Innovation Recruiting Fair, an Education Panel featuring non-governmental organizations such as Teach for America, a nonprofit consulting panel, a session with Diplomat in Residence Charles Hill and a panel of young alumni in the non-profit sector.
Both Acampora and Dames said the job search for public service careers is radically different than the private sector career search, partly because public service employers often have more constrained budgets. Employers in the public sector are rarely able to travel to New Haven to conduct interviews, Acampora said, and they usually hire smaller numbers of graduates and do so later in the year.
Acampora said OCS has recently embarked on two initiatives to help students in these areas: targeted emails for seniors seeking public service work, which will highlight current job openings and events, and the Travel Reimbursement Program, in which OCS helps offset costs associated with traveling for interviews or auditions.
The Travel Reimbursement Program piloted two years ago as an interview program in Washington, D.C. for students interviewing for full-time public service careers, Dames said. Students were reimbursed up to $100 for their travel expenses. OCS surveyed students afterwards and asked whether they would have traveled for the interview had they not received funding, she added. More than half of the surveyed students said they would not have gone.
“We’ve expanded the program out, and some organizations and alumni sponsored it, and this past year we were able to support any senior in the class of 2014 who was going on a public service interview or an audition for the arts,” Dames said. “We were able to reimburse $100, which is a drop in the bucket, but it helps if you have to fly to San Francisco for an audition.”
Of the five students interviewed who said they were interested in public service careers, four said they were satisfied with the resources available to them on campus.
But Lucas Riccardi ’17, who is interested in a public service career, said that although OCS has made many efforts to help students navigate the public service job search, there are still other components of working in the public sector that students worry about, such as the ability to sustain themselves by working at a non-profit organization.
Another challenge students working in the public sector may face is a lack of structure, Katherine McDaniel ’14 said. However, McDaniel said her work at a Cambodian non-governmental organization has been extremely rewarding, despite the fact that it is slightly less predictable than other jobs
“I’m working for a Cambodian NGO called Buddhism for Development, which runs programs in health, education, agriculture, good governance, conflict resolution, etc. at the community level,” McDaniel said. “I like the work so far, though so far I’ve had to create structure for myself — I haven’t been handed anything like a semester syllabus. It’s a time to learn and grow, which by definition [means] dealing with some ambiguity and discomfort at first.”
Eileen Egan SPH ’83, co-chair of the Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance Membership Committee, said YANA often collaborates with OCS and Dwight Hall to put on events — one example being this month’s Social Innovation Recruiting Fair. Egan said she encourages more students to pursue careers at non-profit organizations, adding that she believes many students feel tempted to enter lucrative positions that are not as intrinsically rewarding.
“You’re not going to get rich working at a non-profit,” Egan said. “However, you can make a decent living, and if you’re a Yale graduate with passion and commitment and the resources that Yale graduates have, you can make a significant impact in your field.”