For Students, A Resource for Professional Experience

Bad news or good news first? Let’s start with the bad news. We all know that the economy has and continues to look scary; companies and organizations are downsizing, and job offers for undergraduates are decreasing by the month.

Look at a list of job openings, and many read: “professional experience required.” First, what does that exactly mean? Second, where are undergraduate students supposed to get this “professional” experience? That’s the other wave of bad news: many undergraduates leave college having completed a core of rigorous academics yet with little to no work experience gained. Yes, there are internships, but often times, student internships overpromise and under-deliver, leaving students without necessary hands-on experience. Bottom-line: the opportunities for an undergraduate to gain this “professional experience” are rather limited.

Well that was depressing. Is there a solution to this employment problem? The good news is that in the past few years, a supply has indeed been working to meet this demand for professional development opportunities: student nonprofit consulting. Among certain universities across the country, students have begun to form organizations that pair undergrads with nonprofit organizations to provide them with consulting services. Student nonprofit consulting has emerged as a way for students to give back to their communities while at the same time develop professional skills and experience. Northwestern University, Michigan State University, University of Iowa, Harvard University, UC Berkley, and our neighbors at USC and UCLA are all host to student consulting groups, and each recognizes the ability of such organizations to integrate students with their communities while providing concrete work experience for students.

Don’t be jealous, CMC has student consulting too; we have SOURCE (Student Outreach Utilizing Resources and Community Exchange). Founded in 2005 by two CMC students, SOURCE is a student-run organization that recruits CMC students to provide local nonprofit organizations with consulting products that include program evaluation, cost-benefit analysis, website design, marketing, grant writing, social media, and IT support. Being a part of SOURCE allows you to work on meaningful projects, develop real-life skills, work closely with other CMC students, branch out of the CMC bubble, and get paid at the same time. While completely student-run, SOURCE has access to professionals in consulting and nonprofit consulting through its Advisory Committee for advice and expertise.

CMC Senior Andy Segal is a Lead Consultant with SOURCE and has seen the practical implications of his work in his summer investment banking internship with Credit Suisse.  Says Segal of his experience, “SOURCE gave me a distinct advantage during my summer internship at a bulge bracket investment bank, as I had ample experience communicating with professionals, leading meetings, creating client worthy presentations, and working with a team to create a quality deliverable product.”

Mary Doyle, also a senior and Lead Consultant at SOURCE, found SOURCE to be especially helpful with her internship at Accenture’s nonprofit consulting group, New Sector Alliance. “SOURCE allows students to recognize their abilities as capacity builders,” says Doyle. “Bringing unique resources to local organizations is hugely empowering, and while SOURCE consultants maintain partnerships with off-campus organizations, they're granted real-world access that is unparalleled amid other CMC activities.”

Whether you want to pursue a career in private consulting, the nonprofit sector, or any other field for that matter, SOURCE has proven itself to be an invaluable resource for learning essential skills about the real world. If companies and organizations are looking for professional experience, what better experience could you get than to get out of the Claremont bubble and make a real impact through nonprofit consulting.

To learn more about SOURCE and how you can apply, please attend the upcoming Information Session on September 5th at 7:30-8:30 PM in Davidson Lecture Hall. Contact SOURCE Managers Veronica Pugin (vpugin12@cmc.edu) and Kate Johnson (kjohnson13@cmc.edu) for more information.