By Emily Glory Peters
Uncertainty: a term competing with unprecedented for the word of the year. Commonly experienced by recent graduates piloting post-college careers, this sense of uncertainty has recently intensified for many Scripps alums confronting shifting work environments, furloughs, and other disruptions due to COVID-19. Creating new ways to support the greater alumnae community on their career journeys had long been on the College’s radar prior to the pandemic, says Scripps’ Director of Alumnae Engagement Jess Butler ’09. But this spring, plans accelerated.
“We knew our alums had a hunger for career-based support from the College. COVID-19 gave us an opportunity to try it out in a virtual context,” says Butler. In April, her team and Scripps’ Career Planning & Resources partnered to present Career Conversations, a new live webinar series designed to help alums embrace—and overcome—uncertainty in their own careers.
Made possible by a generous gift from an anonymous alumna, the four-part series featured speakers Serena Santillanes and Sarah Goldflam from Career Journeys, a Pasadena-based career counseling practice and longtime partner of Scripps College. Together with Santillanes and Goldflam, alumnae spanning state lines and class years gathered via Zoom to explore career success strategies, including building stress tolerance, fostering career hope amid confusion, time management tactics and resources, and how to conduct an intensive mid-career resumé review. All sessions were tailored to address the current uncertainty of the moment.
“The timing of Career Conversation was fortuitous, as I was between jobs and experiencing the challenges of the pandemic on the job market,” says Elizabeth Cundiff ’84, a session attendee. “The information and self-assessment tools provided by Career Journeys were very helpful, and it was great to hear their experiences working with Scripps alums. Their Career Resilience quiz really resonated with me—especially with its focus on managing the sustainability of your career no matter where you are in your career path.”
Although the series is new, donor support has long provided Scripps alumnae with access to critical career guidance. In 2006, the same alumna whose generosity made Career Conversations possible also helped establish Career Planning & Resources’ current Bridge Program, where alumnae can take advantage of four free hours of individual career counseling with Career Journeys, including the option to continue counseling at a special rate negotiated for Scripps mentees. And while CP&R’s priority and expertise lies in preparing students to make successful post-graduate transitions, CP&R Director Rachael Acello knows that’s only the first step in a lifelong trajectory.
“For many students, the first few years after Scripps can be daunting to navigate, which is why we offer our full suite of counseling services for up to two years post-graduation. But career challenges certainly don’t magically end at that point,” she says. Expanding high-touch, career-focused programming like the Bridge Program has arisen as a priority for the College to better support alumnae past the two-year graduation mark, Acello adds, noting that “The Career Conversations series was our latest iteration of this effort to extend these benefits to alums regardless of location—and to remind them they aren’t alone.”
Early survey feedback on Career Conversations has confirmed that the alum community is receptive to and eager for more of this kind of career support. For Butler, the series is an example of the kind of forthcoming programming from Alumnae Engagement that will not only help Scripps alums conquer uncertainty, but connect with their community in the process.
“What’s so amazing about Scripps alums is how they go to bat for each other in a way I’ve never seen. The role of Alumnae Engagement is to continue to foster those connections,” says Butler. “As we move through and beyond the pandemic, we’ll be staying up-to-date on best practices, especially with career support, partnering with CP&R and other experts in their fields to guide us, and creating more opportunities for our alums to participate in new programs.”
Scripps’ Office of Alumnae Engagement and CP&R are powerful social connectors and propellers for personal and career advancement. To get involved with Scripps Alumnae Association, click here. To make a gift in support of future career-related programming, click here.