Almost every Sunday night, the CMC Career Services team emails out the “Career Inform” to the student body. Almost every Sunday night, I skim through this email, notice that there are no public policy-oriented positions or organizations listed, and disappointedly close out of the inform. This always confuses me, because when I was a high school senior, what excited me about CMC was its strong focus on public policy and its emphasis on the integration of liberal arts and critical analysis skills into the policy-making process. CMC was a school founded in the wake of the GI Bill that understood the value of public service and the importance of pushing students to find solutions for all the societal issues they learn about during their classes. But I’m not so sure I believe that about CMC anymore.
I’ve received about 40 of these Career Informs during my time at CMC. Within these 40 emails, there have been 340 listings for information sessions, resume drops, and application deadlines for jobs and internships (excluding things like career fairs, alumni panels, and grad school events). Of these 340 postings, 95 were for consulting/professional services firms, 114 for banks and financial firms, 87 for other corporations, and 28 for non-profits. Do you know how many were for government/policy organizations? 16. Yep, 16. Less than five percent of all the organizations represented in the Career Informs were political in nature.
To me, the Career Inform is a pretty good indicator of what CMC as an institution expects most of its students’ futures to look like. And as far as I can tell, there’s a pretty narrow platform of careers that CMC apparently deems appropriate for us.
I’m sure some of you are sitting there thinking, “Well, he’s just an idiot. What did he expect from a school with the motto ‘Civilization Prospers with Commerce’?” I’m not a complete idiot—I understand that CMC will always focus heavily on the business world. But our mission also talks about promoting “understanding of public policy issues,” and “responsible leadership in government.” Does CMC no longer stand by those words?
It’s true that if you meet with a Career Consultant, they’ll probably do a pretty good job of helping you apply for some policy-related positions and prep for the ensuing interviews. It’s not that I doubt that the CMC Career Services Center has the ability to guide students on a path of public service. I just don’t see an emphasis placed on that path in their messaging to CMC students. I don’t even see them proposing it as a viable option.
Why do we tell our accounting students that they can work for Ernst & Young or KPMG, but not that they can also work for the White House Office of Management and Budget to help create the President’s financial plan or the Los Angeles Comptroller’s office to implement proper accounting procedures and protect pensions? Why do we show our Psychology students how they can work for an executive search consulting firm, but not how they can do research in the University of Chicago Crime Lab to help understand underground gun markets, or how they can use their behavioral analysis skills to help design effective education policy? Why do our Philosophy and International Relations students know that CMC can help them work for Bain & Company, but not that they also have opportunities in the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance or the International Organization for Migration? I mean, it’s not like consulting and finance necessarily need any more assistance from CMC to attract students. Almost half of the last 73 recruiters to come to CMC were from professional services firms, and a similar proportion of the class of 2014 who entered the job force went to work for these very companies.
There are countless other examples, but I think it’s clear that there’s a whole basket of possible careers that CMC hasn’t done the best job of exposing us to. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for one or two Career Consultants to take on the responsibility of finding some policy-related jobs to add to each Career Inform or to reach out to the numerous alumni working in these fields to host information sessions or even just conduct resume drops.
But even looking beyond what Career Services can do, I want to encourage CMC students to take control of the direction of their searches. It may seem daunting, but thinking about your summer or post-grad plans does not require meetings with career advisors, especially when you want to explore the public sector and related fields. Know that there are email listservs (Jobwonk, US House Employment, etc.), that USA JOBS posts all open federal positions, and that almost all think tanks, local governments, and advocacy organizations make their employment opportunities easy to find. Use the alumni database and reach out to CMC grads who are doing work that you find fascinating. It’s a cliché, but understand the power you have at your fingertips and how easy (and honestly, occasionally overwhelming) it is to find and consider career paths that you’ve never even imagined. There’s a lot out there beyond Deloitte. Sometimes, you just have to look.