Alumni Supporting Students and Recent Alums Entering the Workforce in Tumultuous Times

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Hailey SprinklesEntering her senior year last fall, Hailey Sprinkles ’20 had so much to look forward to—the senior boat cruise around Manhattan, hosting her extended North Carolina family for graduation festivities, and securing a post-grad job in publishing. In the spring, her enthusiasm grew as she began interning at Untitled, a feminist art and culture magazine located in TriBeCa. Then coronavirus hit, bringing life to a halt.

Like most graduating seniors, Sprinkles felt unprepared in the midst of a global pandemic to transition from being a full-time student to a recent grad. However, wanting to stay in New York, she felt an urgency to find employment. “Because I am a middle-class kid, getting a job here was make or break in being able to stay,” she says.

Nicole NeerGiven the economic uncertainty, layoffs, and rising unemployment rates, the job market became highly competitive. Prior to graduation, Sprinkles had attended an in-person alumni networking event and also found her internship through the College’s Career Services. So when it came time to seek employment, Sprinkles turned to Career Services once again, which is how she found a listing from Nicole Neer ’09 that piqued her interest.

Neer, the founder of Bloom Administrative Services, was looking for a content creator for her marketing agency. She responded to President Cristle Collins Judd’s call to the Sarah Lawrence community to list professional positions on Share an Opportunity, a new initiative that Career Services launched in May, matching students and recent graduates with professional opportunities posted by alumni and others, including parents, in the SLC community. With instrumental help from President Judd, this initiative was created in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting instability of the job market. Members of the Sarah Lawrence community are invited to post entry-level positions, fellowships, short-term projects, internships, and volunteer posts.

After Neer submitted her listing, Career Services posted the job on SLC Connect, a LinkedIn-type platform exclusively for Sarah Lawrence students and alumni to forge new relationships, strengthen existing ones, provide guidance to current students on their future plans, or share wisdom and challenges with fellow alums.

Perusing SLC Connect, Sprinkles saw that her background and skillset were potentially a good fit for the part-time position, so she sent in her application.

From the start, Sprinkles and Neer clicked. They had both studied writing and psychology at Sarah Lawrence, and each had studied with faculty member Carl Barenboim. For Sprinkles, it was refreshing to connect with a fellow alum. “Being able to interview with someone who went to the same school as you feels more personal, more than just a face and a name,” says Sprinkles.

Neer felt the same, adding, “Our interview was kind of like the interviews you’d have with a professor at the beginning of the semester. We talked about life, her writing experience, and that helped me get a feel for who she is as a person.”

The position has turned out to be such a good match that Sprinkles is now a permanent member of the team, working up to 30 hours a week, helping with marketing and social media management. “I love the work, and I love Nicole. I am learning so much,” she says.

For Neer, hiring a fellow alum made sense, given the innate curiosity Sarah Lawrence students possess and the due diligence that is required to complete conference work. She says, “In marketing, being curious and willing to learn about new things is key.”

Andrea CorbinWith students and recent alums facing unprecedented challenges, Share an Opportunity and SLC Connect offer them a vital source of information, support, and concrete employment leads. These resources can also be beneficial for students whose post-graduate plans were unchanged by the pandemic, like Andrea Corbin ’20, who had already been accepted into a doctoral program in biomedical engineering at the University of Utah. Corbin was abroad at the University of Leeds when the pandemic prompted her to move home to live with her parents in Oregon, waiting for research at the University of Utah to resume.

Dr. Blair DarneyIn late April, with time on her hands, Corbin thought, I might as well see if Sarah Lawrence has any interesting opportunities. Corbin found a listing by Dr. Blair Darney ’94, a reproductive health researcher and faculty member at Oregon Health & Science University, who was looking for a student to assist her team in drafting an academic paper on the use of contraceptive implants in Mexico over time. A driving factor for Darney in reaching out to Career Services was her first-hand knowledge of Sarah Lawrence students. “I know that SLC students are critical thinkers and self-directed,” she says.

Corbin, as it turned out, was a great fit for the role on Darney’s team. Corbin is writing sections of the publication, reviewing literature, and digging into data analysis with researchers in Mexico.

For Corbin, the project has been meaningful. She is learning a lot—gaining experience in publishing scientific research papers, which she can directly apply to her doctoral studies. Also, Corbin, who has been passionate about science since high school, finds inspiration in Darney, a fellow Sarah Lawrence alum forging a path in science. “It’s been nice for me to see someone like Blair who has been successful in the STEM world, post-graduation, and think, yes, Sarah Lawrence students can do this,” Corbin says.

In addition to creating a focus on online resources, the pandemic also led to changes in Career Services-sponsored events, which went virtual and have been more focused on preparing for shifts in today’s uniquely challenging job market. One COVID-19 silver lining is the world of possibilities opening up around remote opportunities. Many students have obtained remote internships for the fall, now that they are not limited to positions in the greater New York area during the academic year. As well, alumni who live far away have been able to connect with students and offer wisdom by participating in online events that they would otherwise have been unable to contribute to.

Dominique FlukerFor example, Dominique Fluker ’14, who is the Content Marketing Manager for Glassdoor and based in California, has volunteered for two panels since March—How to Make Connections and Build Your Personal Brand and Evolving with the Job Market. A senior contributor to ForbesWomen, Fluker brings her expertise about navigating the job market and offers career tips and advice for job seekers.

Fluker, who is a first-generation college student, is passionate about giving back to the College and helping students and recent grads, particularly now. “I remember being in their shoes without COVID-19, and I was still anxious about getting a job,” she says, recalling the stress of juggling work, internships, and trying to get a post-grad job. “Fortunately, I was able to land on my feet. Career Services really helped with internships and my career, and I am very happy to help anytime.”

In Fluker’s view, Sarah Lawrence’s interdisciplinary education allows students to be nimble, resourceful, and adaptable—qualities that are well-suited to today’s economic climate. The College’s strong focus on writing is also an asset she believes will help students weather all kinds of challenges. “The writing skills you learn at Sarah Lawrence really do help. You have to be disciplined enough to crank out conference papers and defend your ideas. If you have effective writing and communication skills, you can carve out different avenues for yourself in the professional world,” she says.

Fanni GaborFanni Gabor ’12, a senior recruiter for Ogilvy, also has a long-standing relationship with Career Services. In April, Gabor participated in an online recruiting event, specifically focused on how to get a job in the age of COVID-19. From the hiring perspective, Gabor believes that being open-minded—a very Sarah Lawrence trait—is an enormous asset. “Sarah Lawrence has a higher concentration of people who are naturally very curious, passionate, and try to figure out a way of aligning their careers, their hobbies, and their overall lives as best as they can with that passion,” she says. “The business world wants more of—and values—creativity, but it’s not as commonly available as it should be.”

Gabor feels strongly about connecting with current students, noting, “Those who give 120% to their studies will get quite far—they have practice doing something because they are genuinely interested in doing it."

Neer has learned that with her recent experience. She says, “It’s powerful connecting with the Sarah Lawrence community. That shared experience is crucial. The next time we’re looking for a team member, Career Services will be my first call. This has been such a great experience.”

Angela Cherubini, Director of the Office of Career Services, is hopeful that these resources will continue to help students and recent alums. She says, “We are so grateful for our alumni community, they have really come through by providing internships and entry-level jobs to our students during these challenging times. Seeing our community come together is really inspiring. We are so happy to be able to facilitate these connections in such meaningful ways.”

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Written by Suzanne Guillette MFA '05

About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.