Boston College’s Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Career Services, Joe Du Pont, has a long job title and an even longer resume. His LinkedIn profile is a veritable work of art. With degrees from Duke, Georgetown and NYU, Du Pont went on to serve in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, teach religion at a Catholic high school, practice law for six years, run career offices at NYU, Teach For America and Brandeis University, and now take charge of BC’s own Career Center.
It is a progression that Du Pont admits looks linear in the rear-view mirror, but at the time was anything but straightforward. Still, underlying all this professional zigging and zagging were Du Pont’s bedrock passions: “What I liked the most was helping people, direct service, empowering people, creating a system that would be more equitable or fair.” Whether working as a lawyer, organizing for Teach For America, or serving students in a career services office, Du Pont always loved doing for others—or rather, empowering others to do for themselves.
Hefty resume and education aside, what Du Pont most tangibly brings to his new position here at BC is his clear enthusiasm for instilling confidence in the students he advises, all while maintaining a voice calm enough to talk even the most high strung students out of a career panic attack.
Stereotype tells us that the most confused visitors to the Career Center are MCAS students. Concentrations like Finance and Accounting in CSOM, or the Nursing major in CSON appear to channel directly into jobs. History majors could end up anywhere from academia or curating in a museum to working in higher education like Du Pont, a history major himself.
Yet you’d be hard pressed to find a History major bragging about the limitlessness of his or her opportunities; more often students understand this open-endedness as the absence of a career.
Du Pont expels this myth, explaining, “Even within CSOM, CSON and LSOE there are tons of choices that people have to make about what specifically they want to do,” he says. “There’s always this period of career exploration that people have to go through.” The question then is, how do you explore in an organic way, while still pursuing actual career paths with a sense of realism?
The Career Center’s latest response to this duality of confusion and lack of realism is the Endeavor program. On January 14 and 15, BC undergraduate students studying liberal arts majors had the opportunity to listen to guest speakers talk about their careers, as well as to visit the physical offices in which alumni and other adult participants worked.
Both hearing about specific jobs in detail and seeing them in action gave students an idea not only of the kinds of skills certain jobs require (and the wide number of jobs where they will have the opportunity to apply their skills), but how various work environments look and feel.
“The idea that you need to work in something that’s directly related to your major is a myth,” says Du Pont, “and when you get a BC education, a liberal arts education, you’re in a great position to do all sorts of things.”
For many students, career exploration begins with an internship—an experience that along with its practical value is nonetheless bogged down with unnecessary stresses. Du Pont warns, “People often jump to the internship question without thinking about what do they want to do, or how do their skills or interests tie to particular careers.”
Before jumping impulsively into internships just because everyone else seems to be doing them, students would do better to ask themselves, “Why do they want that particular experience? And are there ways to get there without having an internship?” The answer may very well be "No, an internship is necessary," but before making that judgment, Du Pont advises, “Take a deep breath and step back.”
And then all at once, Du Pont pivots to an in-depth tutorial of the ins and outs of LinkedIn. “You might be thinking, I want to intern in DC this summer; how the heck did so-and-so end up down there?” he asks playfully.
After using Advanced Search to find members of the Boston College Career Community—12,000 current students and alumni who joined the group to give one another career advice—who work in the Government Relations industry, Du Pont scrolls through pages of BC alums working at government agencies, corporate banks, and the mayor’s office.
Clicking on the profile of one example alumnus who currently works for a lobbying group, Du Pont explains, “Not only is it important to see what she’s doing, but what did her progression look like? Now, she’s been all government all the time so she’s someone you want to talk to, but you want to talk to someone who’s not this too.” All at once, his voice is exploding with excitement about the infinite connections one could make—the millions of paths and permutations open to BC grads.
He peruses her page for a moment longer, and then he’s off again: “One second degree connection, who are these people?” Profiles lead to more profiles and companies that hyperlink to related companies; it’s a digital landscape with a seemingly infinite number of rocks you could turn over to discover the next career connection.
“There isn’t one silver bullet for [finding a career], but there’s all sorts of ways for you to explore a little bit.” Some of these ways might be the Career Center’s Winter Break externship program, the upcoming Practice Interview Night on February 9, or an alumni panel event entitled “Oh the Places You’ll Go with a Humanities Degree!”
Events like these are all a part of the Career Center’s new model of advising—one that moves seamlessly from general exploration to more specific career counseling. Students who are largely unsure of what kind of career they want have the opportunity to engage with a Career Exploration Team, and then begin meeting with advisors who are tied to the particular schools.
This past summer was the first year that the Career Center presented at orientation, which also serves the Center’s goal to “Do more for students earlier in their time at BC and quell some of that anxiety that tends to fester junior or senior year,” says Du Pont.
“At the end of the day what we’re trying to do is create a University-wide initiative where people want to help students with their career success,” he says “And that’s very present here.” Whether it is professor mentors, counselors in the Career Center, academic advisors or parents, career guidance can and should come from many sources.
But at the end of the day, there are certain questions only students themselves can answer; incidentally, these questions are the most important. Du Pont cites questions famously posed by BC’s own Father Himes: “What am I good at? What brings me joy? What does the world need?”
Taking these questions into consideration, students’ long term visions should center around what kinds of people they want to be, what kinds of skills they are comfortable using on a daily basis and what kind of work environment would be most engaging for them. The individual jobs will vary widely—something Du Pont has confidence BC students can skillfully adapt to—but what is of utmost importance is keeping these core qualities and goals perpetually in mind.
“If you’re doing something that you’re excited about, that you think is important, that you think there’s a need for in the world,” Du Pont says, “that’s a great place to be.”