New program supports 'common good and creative' careers

Students and alumni hoping to explore careers in public service and the arts can now find support and resources at the Office of Career Strategy (OCS) through its new initiative “Common Good and Creative Careers” (CGCC).

CGCC combines many distinct career paths — education, social enterprise, nonprofit and nonprofit consulting, government, marketing, journalism, theater, and more — under the umbrella label “common good and/or creative,” which allows for more targeted and specific support. While resources for students interested in these fields existed prior to CGCC, they were disparate and not well known among students, said Robyn Acampora, director of strategic initiatives and public service careers, who hopes that CGCC will change that. 

“When we asked students for feedback last year, they knew about services that were offered, but they didn’t associate it with our office,” Acampora said. “Our vision is that by giving [these resources] a name, students will associate it with us and know that this is a place they can go for support and advice.”

Resources include travel reimbursements for attending job interviews or auditions; information about available fellowships and internships; access to recruiting events featuring dozens of employers; the ability to search OCS’s job posting database by CGCC careers; one-on-one guidance from three OCS advisers who focus on CGCC fields; and more. The three advisers are Acampora, who specializes in nonprofits and social enterprise; Derek Webster, associate director for the arts, who emphasizes the creative arts and communications; and Stephanie Waite, senior associate director, who focuses on government and education.

“I think students who are interested in careers that lack a clear path need an objective partner to help with that process,” said Webster, who graduated from Yale in 1999 with a degree in film studies. He moved to Hollywood to pursue screenplay writing and spent many years in that and related fields. Through his role at OCS, he hopes to “help students who are interested in that and similar arenas to not make the same mistakes I did, or at least skip a few along the way.”

Surveys of students and recent alumni, which OCS has administered since 2013, show that 30%-40% of Yale students enter the types of careers CGCC seeks to support. Just this month, OCS received preliminary data from the class of 2016 showing that the percentage of students who entered jobs in nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), government, or public entities is 37.3% — the highest yet.

“‘The arts’ refers to architecture and design, media and entertainment, fine and visual arts, theater and performing arts, and literary arts. So ‘the arts’ covers a lot of ground and that’s why it had never really been looked at as a group,” Webster explained. “But if we combine them in the sense that they’re all creative, the percentage of students entering these careers becomes much larger.”

Since the percentage of students entering common good and creative fields rivals that of students going into consulting and finance, which have prominent on-campus recruiting presences each fall, the staff at OCS decided students needed a similarly supportive structure.

“It makes sense to have this,” Webster said. “These careers are untraditional, and there can be difficulties to pursuing them. By grouping them together we’re saying ‘we know you’re doing something impactful, and we want you to know that we can provide you with support.’”

Acampora emphasized the importance of combating misconceptions about job searching among Yale seniors — namely, that most pursue careers in finance and consulting and that OCS serves mainly as a funnel for these interests.

“In the fall, there are all these students in suits and ties going to on-campus recruiting for other fields, and that structure is lacking for these CGCC fields,” she said. Acampora herself has studied and worked in social enterprise and nonprofit management in New York and elsewhere at Yale, and looks forward to helping students find jobs in which they “get to use their business sense but also do good.”

Earlier in the year, CGCC hosted government and nonprofit networking events. Attendees included the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the FBI, the Office of Senator Chris Murphy, the U.S. Marine Corps, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the Peace Corps, the Student Conservation Assocation, and Unite For Sight.

CGCC also plans to bring alumni who found success in common good and creative careers back to campus to share their stories. This, the OCS staff members hope, will lessen student fears and show them that long-term, socially impactful careers are possible.

“Organizations that have a social impact are definitely growing in popularity for students, so why not have a team to support them?” Acampora said.

Interested students can learn more on the CGCC Facebook page, and a new website will be rolled out in January 2017.