Larinda Cole has loved clothing from a young age, so she pursued a career in fashion and marketing. She advanced from corporate roles to a full-time faculty position teaching fashion merchandising at Virginia State University and Newbury College. There, she discovered her other passion: career development. She joined Babson three years ago as an associate director in the Undergraduate Center for Career Development (CCD). Now, she’s advising Babson students on everything from career readiness to racial justice to, of course, fashion.
What are students’ biggest concerns right now, and how is CCD helping them?
“Is the industry that they are most interested in still hiring? ‘Am I going to get a job?’ I think that’s number one, especially for seniors. So, I’m working with students to have a multipronged approach to what they can apply to now and also being thoughtful about what’s going to happen in 2021. One of the things we really focus on is getting to know industry people and alumni and going to the virtual events we’ve been hosting. Alumni have been so generous with their time. We had a robust summer program that we’ve never had before. Students recognize that times have changed, industries have had some fluctuations, and companies may not be hiring right now. I think a lot of them already are in that preparation mode and are already working toward Plan Bs and Plan Cs, just in case.”
How well prepared have Babson students been to handle this transformation?
“The great thing about Babson students is they are entrepreneurial, and they’re OK taking risks. It comes down to resilience and being resourceful. It’s part of what we teach, Babson ET&A™ (Entrepreneurial Thought & Action®); resilience and being resourceful is embedded in that. I also think our students are full of grace, and that is something that employers are looking for, too, because you have to be calm and cool and forgiving of people because everything is not going to be perfect. I think the lesson here is the students have shown and are continuing to show that they can keep their cool and that they can still do well despite the circumstances.”
How have the events this summer around racial justice impacted conversations with students about their careers?
“The tipping point, I think, was the George Floyd murder. When the College made a statement that they will be doing something, we asked (in CCD), ‘What can we do?’ We know it’s all part of our responsibility as members of this community, and we know that our students are affected. We reached out to different departments across campus and created the Standing Together series.
“With everything that happened this summer, which is still going on, we are now focusing on, if you say you want to hire diverse students from Babson, what does that look like? We’re really working with students about what matters the most to them and are those values being reflected in the companies that are applying to. It is definitely an ongoing conversation.”
“It’s important that students see someone who looks like them that can support them in their career journey and to see someone who has had my experience and to know that they can do it.”
Larinda Cole, Undergraduate Center for Career Development
How have the events this year affected you personally?
“In my role and everything that’s happened this summer, I put myself more out there as a woman of color to step into a role more closely related to DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) than what I typically do. That was a risk for me, but it’s important that students see someone who looks like them that can support them in their career journey and to see someone who has had my experience and to know that they can do it. This year, I was a little more revealing of who I am as far as my own identity to students.”
How important is fashion and style to you now?
“When we were on campus, people knew me by what I wore. I love the staff coffees, because it was my one day a month to debut a fantastic outfit since everybody would see me there. Style is still important to me. I may be behind the scenes more and helping students prepare for interviews and careers, but I’m still sometimes coaching them, if they need it, on what to wear, and how to represent yourself as a brand. It’s just part of my own DNA.”
Two More for Larinda Cole
What does Babson mean to you?
“Babson, to me, is really community, bringing people together and taking risks while solving problems. That could mean a lot of things for a lot of people, but everyone within the organization is innovating and making change and getting their job done. I started at Babson on my birthday, and it was a great gift. I love my department and the people I work with, and I love advising students. It’s just a great community to be a part of.”
Right now, what are you …
- Reading? “I just read Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ new book, Speaking for Myself: Faith, Freedom, and the Fight of Our Lives Inside the Trump White House. It’s interesting.”
- Watching? “I’m watching MSNBC late evenings with my dad, Baby Boomer.”
- Listening to? “Doctor Thema. She has this series called ‘The Homecoming Podcast,’ and it’s excellent. She’s a licensed psychologist, ordained minister, and sacred artist.”
- Doing in your free time? “I’ve taken up bicycling at national and state parks, all in Virginia.”
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