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Career Services Then & Now
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
Bentley’s ranking as No. 1 in career services by the Princeton Review is the most recent national nod to our career programs. But the school has a long history of helping graduates find jobs throughout their lifetimes. A Placement Bureau was the very first service offered to Bentley students, and available free of charge.
Mr. Bentley and fellow faculty frequently appealed to friends, professional acquaintances and alumni for open opportunities at their places of business. By 1919, more than 180 students and alumni had been placed. These young graduates, who then kept an eye out for positions for the next class, built the foundations of the robust alumni career-networking program we enjoy today.
What began as an ad hoc service became an official department in the 1930s. Pamphlets and letters were published to advise graduates on common interview questions, ways to sell themselves and their skills, and how to plan for a career. For alumni who might have trouble finding placement — Mr. Bentley particularly worried about those with foreign backgrounds — the department doors were always open for “frank, impartial advice,” reads a 1941 catalogue. Sometimes, that meant changing an Old World last name to something easier to pronounce and remember.
As decades passed and the campus moved, many alumni well remember sifting through career catalogue after career catalogue in the new office or using early computer databases. Career Fairs began in the 1970s, with about 100 employers coming to campus, as well as career-oriented workshops.
During hard times, such as the 1980s when the country was in a recession, the Bentley Observer magazine often listed open positions at the end of each issue. For a time, the Placement Department published a newsletter of employment opportunities.
After the economic crisis of 2008, many alumni found themselves out of work. “I was pretty devastated and overwhelmed,” says Phyllis (Keplin) Hodge ’79. “I had been with my firm for 27 years. I wasn’t sure where to get started.”
Bentley and Barbara Hyle, former director of alumni career services, were the solution. Elizabeth Doulbakian ’08 describes Hyle’s efforts over her 14-year tenure as “relentless.” The combination of expert guidance and alumni camaraderie was invaluable to Doulbakian’s spirit and motivation to engage in her job search.
“I met incredible people just willing to help,” says Mark Pieleski ’80. “I was out of work for 26 very long, painful months. I’m absolutely convinced all of the preparation I did here was a major factor in successfully landing a job.”
Today, Alumni Career Services offers a wealth of programs in person and online. While the office has grown far beyond a single room filled with catalogues, the staff uphold Mr. Bentley’s legacy of helping alumni throughout their lives — and it’s still free of charge.
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.