GECD's Career Exploration Series Gets High Marks

Samantha Neary, Career Assistant, GECD

Every March, GECD sponsors the Career Exploration Series (CES), a sequence of industry-specific panels and guest speakers that introduce students to the many nuances, thrills, challenges, and expectations of various career paths and opportunities. Barclays, Teach For America, Global Health Corps, and Novartis were among the 23 organizations that participated this year (a full list is included below). The series consisted of eight events focusing on the fields of academia, consulting, finance, big data, public service, product design, the federal government, and patent law. GECD Career Exploration SeriesEach event was also an opportunity for  MIT students to connect to alumni, recruiters, and experts with varied educational and professional backgrounds, and valuable insights into the different stages of career exploration and decision-making.

This year also marked the introduction of a CES student satisfaction and needs assessment, to help GECD understand the expectations and interests of participating students. The survey revealed that 95% of students were satisfied with the series, and 74% of students said the program met their expectations—encouraging numbers that can guide GECD efforts for subsequent CES programs. The assessment also provided useful information about other areas of interest; fields cited the most were consulting, academia, biotech, aerospace, IT, and healthcare.

Regardless of industry focus, CES panelists and guest speakers provided an abundance of advice garnered by their personal and professional experiences, including the following key takeaways:

  • Research typical interview processes for your field(s) of interest. Explore technical and behavioral expectations; find out the requirements of skill and ability screenings (often used in finance and technical fields); and be able to describe your approach to problem solving.
  • Learn the language of your industry. If students are exploring a field new to them, reviewing industry-specific literature and staying current with news and updates are excellent methods to become familiar with terminology, trends, popular issues, and company names. Finance panel member Emily Creedon BS ’13, a research associate at Wellington Management Company, noted that Vault Guides are an excellent resource for learning the functional areas of finance.
  • Explore professional training programs. For example, during the “Exploring Careers in the Federal Government”panel, Jason Parman, a federal HR consulting leader for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, detailed multiple approaches for students to get their foot in the door through Student Pathways Programs. Each program is tailored to particular levels of student experience and interest, and can begin a positive working relationship with the federal government. Parman said that when it comes to working within the federal government, “getting the first job is the hardest part.”
  • Recognize the positive and negative challenges common within specific fields. Anurupa Ganguly BS ’07, MEng ’09, an assistant director of K-12 mathematics for Boston Public Schools and a Teach for America participant, said that despite demonstrated passion and dedication to her work, prioritizing tasks and initiatives can be a challenge in the nonprofit world given limited staff, funding, and time.

So, what are perhaps the most crucial words of wisdom students needed to hear? Becky Kusko BS ’09, BU PhD ’14,  director of genomics at Immuneering Corporation, summed it up in the “Exploring Careers in Consulting” panel: “I have four final pieces of advice: 1. Network, 2. Network, 3. Network, and 4. Network. I cannot stress this point enough. It’s so important to be networking in consulting and in your career in general.”

Ultimately, CES 2015 was a remarkable success, providing students with not only industry-specific insight, but also the opportunity to explore their many options prior to the hectic fall recruiting season, and to connect with MIT alumni eager to share their experiences.

CES 2015 Participating Organizations:

  • Barclays
  • BitSight Technologies
  • Bracebridge Captial
  • Canback & Company
  • Continuum
  • Global Health Corps
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Immuneering Corporation
  • Insight Data Science
  • Manta Product Development
  • MIT
  • McKinsey & Company
  • Novartis
  • Optiver
  • Peace Corps
  • Public Radio Exchange
  • Radius
  • Stroud International
  • Teach For America
  • U.S. Federal Government
  • Wayfair
  • Wellington Management Company
  • Wolf Greenfield