How Career Education Advisors Helped Guide One 2020 Grad’s Career Path

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Members of the class of 2020 were the first to graduate amid the burden of COVID-19 restrictions and online-only experiences. Sent home in March of their final semester, they faced adjusting their plans and expectations for commencement, job hunting, traveling, and more. In light of those issues, Wellesley’s Career Education team was buoyed by the recent news from its First Destination survey: Within six months of graduation, 94 percent of the class had found employment, been accepted into graduate programs, joined service/volunteer programs, or joined the military.

When Louisa Oppenheim ’20 read President Paula A. Johnson’s email that said the community needed to leave campus, she said she was numb from the news and comforting her friends, who were crying. It wasn’t until later, when she went to play cello one last time in a practice room, that it really sunk in. “I was like, I need to practice because I have my last in-person lesson tomorrow,” she said. “And then once I get into that practice room and I’m all alone, I start crying.”

Oppenheim had made it a habit to visit the Career Education offices before the pandemic, so when she returned home to Connecticut to finish her semester and continue job hunting, she felt comfortable connecting with them via Zoom. “I was, like many people in my class, sent home unexpectedly, freaking out about the future in the crowded job market and things like that,” she said. She reached out early on to Marisa Crowley ’05, college career mentor, and met with her regularly to talk about her application process.

A psychology major, Oppenheim wanted to find a research position because she had experience as a research assistant in the psychology department, but she was not hearing back from the places to which she had applied. The silence gave her time to reflect on whether she would benefit from experiencing other facets of psychology.

Oppenheim met regularly with Crowley to review application materials, and she said Crowley helped guide her toward considering clinical opportunities, too. Today, Oppenheim is a mental health counselor at Walden Behavioral Care, where she works with people overcoming eating disorders—an experience that has solidified her interest in clinical work. She is considering pursuing a master’s in social work.

Oppenheim credited Career Education with helping her find a number of opportunities that were pivotal to her career exploration. She received funding for two internships that allowed her to work at nonprofits, one focused on eating disorders and another abroad, in Tokyo, focused on mental health; the internships helped confirm her interests in those issues, and the knowledge she gained informs the work she does now. Oppenheim said conducting interviews with directors, supervisors and clinicians during the internships helped her see the opportunities available in direct clinical experience.

Her advice to other students is to get in the habit of visiting the Career Education advisors for guidance, and to keep in mind that “it’s okay if things don’t turn out exactly the way you expect.” She noted her turn to clinical work as an example, after having assumed for so long that she’d go into research. “I had those experiences with Career Education,” she said, “and as I grew throughout my time at Wellesley, I discovered that I also wanted to gain experience in more people-oriented clinical roles.”