Finding meaningful work: Career Services
By Stuart W. Showalter, director of career services
Finding meaningful work after college is one of the important strategic
goals students set for themselves when they enter college
and parents, too, clearly expect that a college education will chart
some kind of career direction.
Every other year, first-year students are asked a series of nationally
normed questions about their college choice and their goals for
the immediate future. During the past half-decade two-thirds of
Goshen College students responded that to be able to get a
better job is a very important reason for going to college.
Only two other reasons ranked higher in the 2000 survey: To
learn things that interest me (called very important by 84 percent)
and to gain general education (noted as very important
by 71 percent). Only 41 percent of the 2000 respondents said that
to make more money is an important reason for going
In Goshen College Career Services, we assist students in the process
of assessing their interests and aptitudes and introducing them
to a variety of service, internship and employment opportunities.
To keep us focused, we adopted a mission statement in the year 2000
for our department: Career services: helping students discover
During the past five years, career services has expanded its scope,
strengthened by a significant grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. Fred
Litwiller, retired director of career services, was instrumental
in conceptualizing and administering the activities funded by the
In year one, career services was relocated adjacent to a high-traffic
area of the Administration Building, and a computer classroom was
created and equipped to enable students to publish their résumés
on the World Wide Web. The career services staff was then expanded
to strengthen GCs connections to Indiana businesses and not-for-profit
organizations. And career services Web pages were greatly enhanced,
culminating in the creation of the Goshen College Job Bank
a virtual meeting place for employers, students and alumni.
The GC Job Bank, found at, www.goshen.edu/careerserv/jobs/
represents a giant stride forward, benefiting both students and
employers. Under the direction of GC Web specialist Pete Oakley,
the job bank went public last summer and immediately captured the
attention of users. A total of 619 job openings have been posted
since Aug. 1, 2001. The database also includes profiles of 927 employers.
Employers have been posting position announcements directly to the
site in 15 categories, including four categories for voluntary service
opportunities and three categories of internships. More than half
of the positions posted to date represented full-time jobs.
The newest category, teaching position, was added in
December 2001 and has already attracted nearly 60 job announcements.
Seniors and others certified to teach can now learn about openings
in their field after clicking the mouse on their computer just a
few times. Nelda Johnson, long-time assistant in career services
who administers the posting of teaching vacancies to the Web, no
longer needs to send paper announcements in hit-or-miss fashion
to teacher candidates.
Employers also have more information at their fingertips at www.goshen.edu/careerserv/employers
where they can search directly through résumés posted
by students. The online job bank enables them to screen candidates
by major or class year for example, seniors only. In February
2002, an employer would have found 81 different résumés
to review. Additional résumés continued to be posted
as seniors consider post-commencement work or some form of service
and other students take initiative to land a summer internship.
While appreciating the efficiency and power of our new Web pages,
career services is strongly committed to helping students learn
about the world of work and service in interpersonal settings. Our
efforts begin with an orientation session for all new students and
their parents during their first weekend on campus, and might end
with a career counseling session with an alumnus who graduated a
year or two earlier.
Here are some ways we connect directly with GC students:
- administering and interpreting vocational interest tests
- teaching Vocational Choices
- conducting workshops on résumé writing and applying
for graduate school
- critiquing individual cover letters, résumés
and graduate school statements
- meeting individually with students to help them post a Web
- advising students on job and internship opportunities
- discussing the job search process in senior seminars
- conducting videotaped mock interviews
- hosting etiquette dinners with an emphasis on the interview
- arranging appointments for employers and providing an interview
- arranging for a fall Service Fair with area not-for-profit
- facilitating campus visits twice a year by various church
- hosting recruiters during an annual Mennonite Camp Day
- sponsoring an annual Job and Internship Fair during
the spring semester
- developing and administering the Service Inquiry Program (SIP)
and Camping Inquiry Program (CIP) to provide internships for
10-12 students annually (see article, "Discovering
call through service.").
We also work with faculty, other administrators in the student life
division and employers to create better work and service opportunities
for students after they leave GC.
Three years ago, our staff, especially assistant director Anita
Yoder, provided leadership in creating the colleges Celebrate
Service Day. On a Wednesday in September, GC students, faculty and
staff disperse into the community to volunteer with a variety of
agencies. Faculty have noted the success of the day and approved
a three-year extension of this effort during a January meeting.
The fourth Celebrate Service Day will be held Sept. 25, 2002.
Participants have noted the value of such a day in their evaluations:
- One student said, Things went really well for our group.
We (at least I did!) had a great time. It was a great experience.
- A faculty member wrote: I was especially pleased at
being able to design a service activity that utilized my students
skills and interests directly. That was valuable for us all
to see that we could serve in our own discipline.
- An area agency responded to the day, I think it is a
wonderful thing. Please continue. I think that helping the students
realize that they both give and receive during service projects
is really important. Thank you for sending a group. We look
forward to next year.
- Secondary benefits from the day include students gaining
knowledge of agencies where they have later volunteered, the
development of internship opportunities and faculty appointments
to agency boards.
Also behind the scenes, career services staff work with faculty
in developing new relationships with a number of companies, such
as in small groups during business lunches. An unusual venture last
August was the Maple Leaf Road Show faculty day-trips to
meet with area employers. Science faculty learned about contemporary
workplace trends from managers at CTB Corp. in Milford and at DePuy
Systems and Grossnickle Eye Center in Warsaw, Ind. Humanities faculty
members traveled to the Elkhart County Visitors Center, where they
were joined by representatives from Essenhaus (Middlebury, Ind.),
and then visited Blessing Music Company and the United Way headquarters,
where speakers included representatives from ADEC, Hospice and Child
Abuse Prevention Services.
Career services also developed and maintains an active linkage with
Indiana Campus Compact, an organization which encourages colleges
and universities to become more engaged with their local communities.
Four faculty members secured modest grants from ICC, enabling them
to teach their students in new ways while improving relationships
with the community. Our ICC connection helped us host a fall regional
meeting for other area colleges and universities, with a keynote
address from Edward Zlotkowski, a national expert on community-based
We continually strive to fulfill our mission of helping students
to discover their vocation. With Parker Palmer in Let Your Life
(see article on p. 10), we see vocation not as a
goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation
does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach
but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation
does not come from a voice out there calling me to become
something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling
me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood
given me at birth by God.