How Yale University is helping US students find meaningful careers | Top Universities

How Yale University is helping US students find meaningful careers

By Aisha K

Updated August 9, 2022 Updated August 9, 2022

Widely regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Yale University’s reputation as an educational powerhouse is reflected in the QS World University Rankings 2023, where it’s ranked 18th.

One of the indicators Yale scores particularly well on is the Employment Outcomes indicator – an institution’s ability to ensure a high level of employability for their graduates, while also nurturing future leaders who go on to make an impact in their respective fields. Although this indicator is unweighted (meaning it doesn’t count towards their overall score) for this year’s ranking, impressively Yale ranks in fourth place, ahead of the likes of Princeton University and the University of Oxford.

To learn more about how the Ivy League university is empowering its graduates to find impactful careers, we spoke to Meredith Mira, Senior Associate Director at Yale University’s Office of Career Strategy.

How does Yale University help US domestic students find fulfilling careers after graduation, particularly for those who are looking to make an impact in their communities?

As someone who has been in this role for nine years, there are a few things that come to mind when thinking about this question. My first thought is, “who is this student? What do they care about and what are their core values? What makes them tick as a person?”

Students often come into my office thinking that I’ll be looking through their resumes and cover letters, which we definitely do, but if I don’t start with who the student is and what they care about then I haven’t done my job well.

My primary goal for these appointments is to elicit each student’s story regarding the things that matter to them; I then use this story as a jumping-off point to engage them in a broader discussion about their career trajectory and next steps. Sometimes students don’t even realise that the things that matter to them can inform their career decisions. I’ll hear stories about the things they enjoyed in high school, such as theatre or playing violin, and they assume they can’t pursue those things – or things tangentially related to those things – as a career.

My response to that would be, “What drove you to want to do those activities to begin with?” They would have spent hours and hours perfecting their craft whereas a lot of their peers hadn’t and there’s something behind that. I’m interested in knowing if we can lift that up into something that translates to a career path. I think that is a huge part of helping a student move towards a fulfilling career that makes an impact that matters to them.

In terms of the technical side of advising, we have honed our craft in teaching how to write resumes and cover letters that are reflective of each student’s skills. What most students don’t realise is that resumes can also be a narrative that tells their story.

We want students to pay a lot of attention not just to what they did in an internship, but also how they contributed and what imprint they made on the things they did. Many students will just write their tasks or responsibilities; I’m asking them to take this a step further to highlight how they contributed, how they helped someone or something, and what impact they made. By focusing on these details, we can dig further into the things they care about and the things they’re good at as a way of supporting their story.

Can you tell me more about your work in terms of shaping graduate career paths for domestic students who are first-generation or from underrepresented backgrounds?

It is absolutely my job to understand and to think about what it means to be Black at Yale, or Latinx or Hispanic, or a first-generation low-income student, or any other underrepresented group on campus.

The reason I’m able to support students from a wide range of backgrounds is because I’m not afraid to have difficult conversations about potentially sensitive and challenging topics. I’ve thought a lot about my own racial identity and I think that’s a huge part of being an advisor of any kind. I feel comfortable talking to students about race and inequality, knowing I’ve done the work on myself and understanding the intersection of my identity.

What also helps is having knowledge of the different academic disciplines and majors at Yale, which enables me to have more complex conversations with students. Being able to talk to students about what they're spending the vast majority of their time doing at Yale with their academics really matters, as well as understanding the kinds of classes and majors that have an analysis of power and inequality.

Importantly, I invite these students to share their story and lived experiences. There have been numerous times where I'm talking to students about their lives, and they’ll tell me they didn't imagine they’d be talking about this topic in our session and they’ll thank me for asking them about it.

When they see me writing things down about their lives, and referencing back and drawing little maps and circling things, I think they see that their lives matter. It's really profound and I think it especially matters for students who come in initially thinking they don't belong here.

What do you think employers are looking for in new graduates?

I think employers are looking for an ability to communicate with clarity, especially when working remotely and needing to keep people abreast of what you’re doing.

Employers are recognising the need for people to have an ability to communicate with people across many different levels in an organisation. They need to also make sure that people have the ability to motivate themselves to get their work done. I think recent graduates have particularly struggled with communication in professional settings because so much of their learning has been remote due to COVID – they haven’t had as much opportunity to practice.

The second point would be an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), particularly in a US context within the last few years, where numerous social justice challenges have brought DEI topics back into the foreground. Companies are now thinking about how they can support a wide range of people and are increasing their recruitment and special programmes to bring in underrepresented students.

Yale University

What are some common pathways for Yale graduates?

Every year, the director of our office sends out a first destination report, which collects data on things including industries that our graduates work in, median income, top 20 employers and top locations within the US and abroad.

For example, looking at the class of 2021, in terms of common industries, almost 23 percent of graduates work in finance, 17 percent work in academia and education and 12 percent work in tech.

The other 50 percent of students are working in non-profits, government, journalism or other careers in the arts. Yale has a real core of humanities and the arts, which tends to produce a significant number of students who pursue jobs within the “common good and creative careers” pathways after they graduate.

Why should US students choose to study at Yale University if they want to have a successful career?

There are numerous institutions across the US that make stronger arguments about the relationship between a student’s course of study and what kind of return of investment they will get once they graduate. At Yale, the focus is instead on the production and dissemination of new knowledge rather than professional preparation.

Certainly, Yale students are prepared to go into the workforce, but as an institution, Yale is more interested in helping students build the capacity to consume extensive information about pressing topics, critically analyse it, develop important conclusions and act upon them.

I think that’s why students come to Yale - they want to think about big issues and take on some of the major problems of our time. Students can progress quickly in whatever job they pursue because they’re able to think broadly and ask interesting questions. Some of the most successful students take their training and go beyond it, creating new knowledge that puts them at the cutting edge their chosen field.

In addition, there are many interesting relationships that students can grow and develop at Yale. What makes a place like Yale thrive is that you’re in contact with big thinkers who are often in positions of power – this means something when it comes to post-graduate opportunities. Relationships matter.

What kind of financial aid does Yale offer?

Historically, Yale has been very good at providing financial support for students coming from low-income backgrounds. A large percentage of those students are graduating with very little debt because of how much money Yale has dedicated to need-based scholarships. In the time that I’ve been working here, I’ve seen an increase in the number of students receiving Pell Grants, along with recruitment of students from rural areas in the US and high schools that don’t typically send students to Yale.

The Office of Financial Aid have helped create the Summer Experience Award, which is for students on financial aid, regardless of whether you get 10 percent aid or 100 percent. It gives students $4,000 ($6,000 for experiences abroad) towards an unpaid internship in a non-profit organisation or research or government role.

It’s a great opportunity because it means students can take on unpaid or underfunded roles in organisations that interest them, where typically only middle or upper-income students would have been able to do that in the past.

We have the International Study Award which is based on a student’s percentage of financial aid. So, for example, if a student was on 50 percent financial aid, they can get 50 percent of funding towards a study abroad programme. Also, a few years ago, Yale implemented the Safety Net scheme which gives low-income students funding towards certain things such as winter clothing or an emergency flight back home.

I see a lot of movement happening and programmes being opened up to financially support more people, which is really positive.

This article was originally published in August 2022 .

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Written by

Aisha is Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, creating and publishing a wide range of articles for an international student audience. A native Londoner, Aisha graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in Philosophy and has previously worked in the civil service. 

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