As director of the nation’s top-ranked college career services office (No. 1 or No. 2 for “Best Career Placement” since 2016), Sarah Park oversees career development, employer relations and recruiting. She has worked at various institutions across the U.S., from small liberal arts institutions (Pomona and Claremont McKenna) to large research universities (UCLA and University of Georgia) and has held positions in residential living, academic advising, international student and scholar advising, diversity and inclusion, and career development. Since joining the Division of Student Affairs in December 2018, she has been developing new programming tailored to the specific career needs and interests of Harvey Mudd students. She is focused on the whole student experience and makes inclusivity and access for all students—“building intersection into all programming,” as she describes it—the foundation of her practice.
How are you “building intersection into all programming?”
Inclusion is important as is recognizing dimensions and intersectionality of identities. I want to weave diversity and inclusion into our career education programming. For example, if we have an industry panel, I prompt the panelists to speak about their experiences and organizational culture—recognizing their identities. If we do a resume workshop, I discuss how bias could impact moving forward in an application process. Finding a graduate program, internship, research opportunity or job is more than just applying and accepting; fit matters. And each person needs to explore what might be important to them when selecting career opportunities.
How soon should students connect with Career Services?
Students can connect with us as soon as they step foot on campus—career exploration can start as early as they want. We can help students gain a better understanding of their interests, personality, values and skills, which can help them decide on a major or career trajectory. We can help students with resumes, connecting with opportunities and people, informational interviews—all things related to a career.
What’s an OCS resource that you wish more students and/or alumni took advantage of?
Handshake (an online recruitment and job posting tool shared with all The Claremont Colleges) and our workshops and information sessions. On Handshake, students can schedule appointments with our office, apply for internships and jobs, and see upcoming events. Almost every week, we have employers visit campus for information sessions, and we host career education workshops, all of which are highlighted in our weekly newsletter sent to students.
What topics and student needs are you addressing in your programming?
We hope to provide students with the resources and skills needed not only for their first job out of school but for opportunities throughout their careers. I see our office working more collaboratively with students, academic departments and staff to develop ways for students to explore, prepare and engage with career opportunities. We are working with institutional research staff to conduct focus groups with students so we get a better understanding of what areas students are interested in and in what ways they want to interact with employers and/or industry experts.
The idea of work-life balance is becoming more important to job seekers. What other criteria do you discuss with students as they think about a career?
When I meet with students, I try to get a better understanding of their values and interests, to help them weigh options and figure out the best fit for them. Salary is one factor to consider, but there are many others, like benefits, location, support systems (affinity groups, family, friends, etc.), opportunity for professional development or mobility. Sometimes students think they are limited by industry but it’s important to pay attention to function; for example, a person can be a data scientist in many different industries.
How can parents and alumni help Career Services support current students?
We can’t do it without the support from our alumni and families. We always appreciate internship and shadowing opportunities for students. We help students explore different companies and industries by doing site visits; they are able to see varying work environments, meet others in industries they are interested in and hopefully make connections. We can always use volunteers as external resume reviewers and mock interviewers for programs. Introductions to recruiters or human resources personnel is always appreciated.