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Senior support group helps ease the fears about life after Mills

Jackie Kennedy

The annual Transition To Work Support Group for seniors and second-year graduate students is once again in progress.
This group, designed to benefit seniors and graduate students, is organized each year by the Mills College Career Center and will meet every Thursday in the Cowell building throughout the semester.

Unlike a standard career workshop, the group, which balances discussion of independent living tips, emotional support and standard career advice, is facilitated partially by participating seniors and graduate students.

Graduate and undergraduate students alike take part in designing the agenda for each meeting, possibly inviting speakers, or facilitating sessions geared toward topics about which they are well informed. Possible speakers for this year include a staff member such as Mills College Internship Coordinator, Pooja Sharma or a faculty member with insight into a particular profession.

“It’s much more flexible, much more fluid, [and] quickly responsive to the needs of the members,” said Kate Dey, head of the Career Center.

Students may find it useful when learning about the process of searching for housing, creating a resume, or commiserating about an unsuccessful interview. Topics of conversationsuch as appropriate answers to interview questions or the safest way to choose a housemate using Craigslist are also addressed by participant concerns and experiences. This information will help prepare seniors and graduate students who are new to the professional market or have lived on campus for a number of years befor entering life outside school.

“The focused career part is often the safe place,” said Dey.
She admits that talking about matters such as database searching and answering interview questions often prompts participants to diverge into discussion of personal hopes and fears about transition processes.

For senior Suzanne Permanna, networking and support are the most important assets she can derive from the group, since she will soon be entering an unfamiliar job market.

“Most of us are a little apprehensive because we’ve been in school for so long,” Permanna said.

In past years, the primary attendees of Transition To Work have been seniors living on campus. Still, the Career Center recognizes the importance of participation from graduate students as well.

“A graduate student has a great deal of experience they can bring to an undergrad in the process,” said Dey.

According to Dey, graduate students, less involved in campus events than undergraduates, were not made aware that the group existed, making the ratio of graduate students to seniors unequal. Because of this, one of the greatest challenges the Career Center faces has been including commuting and non-traditional-aged students that in the past have been underrepresented in Transition To Work.

Transition To Work Support Group, which can accept no more that 12 members, was initiated by Dey when she interned at the Mills Career Center five years ago. It has been facilitated by the current intern in each succeeding year. This year’s leader is Julie Salzman, who has interned at Mills since Fall of ’06 and is completing her Masters of Science in counseling at San Francisco State.

While Salzman is the primary facilitator, she said other Career Center staff with expertise in a particular area such as internships or networking may become involved as well. “I think of the group organically,” said Salzman. “I want to see where the group is at and where they are interested in going.”