Seniors Contemplate Life After Oberlin, Career Opportunities


Evan Davies

Richard Berman, director of Career Services, stares contemplatively into the distance during his talk, Zero Bullsh*t: The Truth About Finding a Gig After Oberlin. The administration has recently placed increased emphasis on helping recent Oberlin graduates with their careers.

Oliver Bok, Editor in Chief

Outside Craig Lecture Hall on Thursday, seniors chatted while waiting for the doors of the lecture hall to open for Zero Bullsh*t: The Truth About Finding a Gig After Oberlin, a talk by Career Center Director Richard Berman, one of multiple talks in the Career Center’s Life After Oberlin series. The series is part of the administration’s increased attempts to connect students with career opportunities and comes as seniors are increasingly preoccupied with figuring out what to do after accepting their diplomas.

According to President Marvin Krislov, helping Oberlin students find positions after college is one of the areas the administration and the Strategic Planning Steering Committee is focusing on the most.

“We’ve created 51 quality internships this summer at $4,000 and $5,000 each,” Krislov said, referring to the internship funding the College announced last fall. “It’s a big push. We’ve gotten money from a foundation, and we’ve gotten money from some alums. That has been a big concern: that quality internships are available only to those who can afford not to be paid.”

Krislov also mentioned his own offer to personally meet with any Oberlin seniors about their post-graduation plans and said that he was willing to help juniors as well.

“We’re trying to work really closely with the alumni association to connect alumni with students,” Krislov said. “There are ongoing discussions about how faculty and staff can work with students and help them think about career options. But even a lot of our most capable students just don’t want to focus on this. And we don’t want to create anxiety, but avoiding [the issue] is not going to get you a summer job.”

According to last spring’s senior survey, a poll sent out to the entire senior class in May 2014 that had a 75 percent response rate, 59 percent of the class of 2014 planned to work full time and 23.6 percent planned to work part time in the fall. Roughly 15 percent planned to attend graduate school full time.

For students who reported planning to work full time, 60 percent described themselves as “currently searching” for a full-time gig, 10 percent said they were considering offers and 19 percent said they had already accepted a position. An additional 9 percent said they had not begun their job-search.

A Daily Beast article published last year using data from deemed Oberlin College the worst “return on investment” of any college with at least a 75 percent graduation rate. To Berman, the Daily Beast listicle was deeply flawed.

“First of all, when you look at the data, their ‘n’ — the number of people they base the survey response on — is pathetically small,” Berman said in an interview with the Review. “But there are greater problems. To do a level playing field in terms of the data they report, they factor out all the alumni who are enrolled in or have completed advanced degrees because they want to just measure people that only got Bachelor’s [degrees]. And for most highly rated liberal arts colleges, you’ll see a correlation with a greater percentage completing advanced degrees. I think at Oberlin, within five years, upwards of 60 percent of our graduates report having completed or being enrolled in advanced degrees, and they’re totally factored out of the surveys.”

Berman also said many Oberlin students don’t look for jobs in high-paying industries, which means that sources like Payscale, which use salary as their sole metric, fail to accurately measure Oberlin alums’ post-college satisfaction and success.

The data from last spring’s senior survey seem to support Berman’s position, as the two most popular post-graduate professions for Oberlin students planning on working full time are teaching and art/performing, in that order. In contrast, the two most popular professions at the most selective private universities are consulting and finance, respectively.

Berman also noted how career centers, at Oberlin and nationwide, have grown in importance and resources after the economy crashed.

“Career centers went from being marginalized to being kind of in the fishbowl of institutional leadership,” Berman said. “My reaction was: It’s about time. I’ve been making the same argument for 30 years at five different liberal arts colleges that you have to invest in this, and you should look at the career center as a revenue-generating center rather than a cost center.”

For many of the seniors standing in front of Craig, the future looked uncertain.

“I don’t have plans right now, I’m looking for jobs basically,” said College senior David Lawrence. “I pretty much just want to go to some city, I don’t really know exactly where.” He added that he’s looking for jobs that use Geographical Information System, a system for presenting data in map form.

“I have a summer job here, just continuing research in the lab, since I work in the neuro-lab,” said College senior Katie Hirabayashi. “But after that, I don’t know. I’m going to be looking for assistant researcher jobs in neuroscience, but I’m open to other things too.”

For others, at least part of life after Oberlin has started to come into focus.

“I’m going to be working at this artist residency place in Vermont, I’m going to be a photographer-videographer for them,” said College senior Evan Davies, who took the photo for this article. Davies also said that he found out about the organization using ObieOpps.

“I’ll be in the Peace Corps next year. I leave in June, and I’ll be in Comoros, Africa, for the next two years,” said College senior Sean Seaman.

Some seniors have used the Career Center more than others, but everyone the Review talked to had at some point gone to the Career Center for help with resumes, cover letters or applications. Some students relied on faculty for career help as well.

“My advisor has been super helpful,” said Hirabayashi. “She’s really pushed me to look for things, and I think having someone there to tell me, ‘Oh, here’s a job opening,’ and ‘Have you been doing your job applications lately?’ has been really helpful.”