Just Live Your Life

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about creating your future and seizing opportunities when they are presented.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with students in the “Life Entrepreneur Program (LEP)” this year. The program “prepares students to craft meaningful and flexible life plans in light of the ever changing, fast paced world outside of Elon”. We looked at each student’s strengths and helped them to discover their core identify. We looked at how they use these strengths and helped them realize the unique talents they have to contribute to the world. They prepared their resumes, interview skills and their all-important 1-minute pitches in order to be ready when opportunity knocks. “These skills will help students better align their core identity with their professional and personal goals.”

In the book titled “Luck is No Accident”, the author explains that we must remain open to change and accept where we are at the moment, knowing that there is a purpose. In the end all of the dots somehow seem to connect, even when you’re not sure they can. This was an evident theme that arose as guests shared their stories during a young professionals panel I hosted for a group of Transition Strategies students. One of our panelists realized mid-way through a doctoral program that it was the wrong path and completely changed direction. The individuals this person met and the experiences they had however led to the next opportunity and the next culminating in a position and a place in life they are very happy with.

So, are you charting your own course or letting someone or something else do it for you? My hope is that you set a goal to follow your passions and interests, even when the vision is fuzzy. Chances are the course will change anyway, but there is a reason you are where you are and you will get where you’re going.

Check out this fantastic TED talk to learn how you can become a Life Entrepreneur!

Fellows Update: What happened to the Fellows 1.0?

By Marianne Brigola, Assistant Director of Career Services for the School of Communications, Career Fellow 2011-2012

Here are Elon, we are in the midst of Planning Week. Students arrive move in on Friday and the Fall 2013 semester officially starts next Tuesday.  Soon, our new Career Fellows, Rayna Anderson + Danielle Garrison will be updating this blog weekly. Before they start though, some of you might be wondering where the previous fellows have gone on to work. As you can see in previous entries, Katie Smith has started at Duke University, down the road in Durham, NC, as an Assistant Director of Career Services for STEM students. Mikkie Hornstein returned to Vanderbilt University as a Study Abroad Advisor in the Global Education Office. But what about Ashley Pinney and myself?

This past year, Ashley served as a Senior Career Fellow, working with Student Professional Development Center and Katie and Mikki to continue providing career development outreach programs and further developing the Career Fellows program.  After another summer as Internship Coordinator for Elon in NY and bridges in NY, Ashley recently started her new role as Senior Program Manager for at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. She is working with the MBA program there, and her position includes travel to Fuqua’s international locations, including China, South Africa, Russia, the Middle East and the UK.

After completing the Fellows Program, I accepted a position as a Career Counselor for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. I had the opportunity to experience working at a large, public institution (with an office in the football stadium!) and learned a great deal from my colleagues. As much as I enjoyed my time at U.Va., when I learned that the Student Professional Development Center at Elon had an opening for a career counselor for the School of Communications, I knew I couldn’t turn down the chance to return to such a great university and a great team! Just this past July, I returned to Elon as the Assistant Director of Career Services for the School of Communications, a role previously held by the fantastic genius behind the Fellows program, Ross Wade.

My new office in McEwen, home to the School of Communications from Under the Oaks

My new office in McEwen, home to the School of Communications from Under the Oaks

So, here we are–at the start of another school year, the 125th birthday of Elon University. Two years ago, I came to this campus as a Fellow, not quite sure what I was getting myself into, but confident that I would learn and develop as a professional. So, welcome to our new Fellows, Rayna + Danielle–I am so excited for the two of you and I can’t wait to see what impact you will have on the students of Elon and the Fellows program. Long live Elon!

Resumes and Cover Letters

Created by: Katie Smith, 2012-2013 Career Advising Fellow

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I’ve found myself talking about resumes and cover letters a lot lately. I presented on the topic last weekend for the 160-member sorority chapter of Phi Mu, on Monday for the Math and Statistics Transitions Strategies course that I am currently co-teaching with faculty member Lisa Rosenberg, and yesterday for the Leadership Transitions Strategies course taught by Steve Mencarini and Janis Baughman. Many students are working on these documents as they apply for on-campus opportunities such as the coveted University Guide position in the Admissions Office and in preparation for the upcoming spring break. Further, Mikki and I are currently in the midst of reviewing the resumes and cover letters of Career Fellow candidates for the 2013-2014 academic year, and lastly, the two of us continue to polish our own documents as we prepare for our next steps.

Although a well-written resume and cover letter are crucial to a job search, many students do not learn how to create these documents prior to their interaction with career services at the college level. In reflection of the conversations that I have most frequently on these topics, I wanted to share some general resume tips for students:

  • Be sure to not only list your experiences, but also to provide details (typically in the form of bullet points) describing what you did at the job/internship/leadership role, your accomplishments, and the skills that you gained.
  • When recounting experiences on your resume, be specific. Compare “assisted with fundraising” to “assisted with the creation and execution of a campus-wide philanthropy event, raising over $2,000.” The second phrase is more specific, and much stronger.
  • Resume formatting should be consistent and clean.
  •  Sections should be arranged to highlight your most relevant experiences at the top of your resume.
  • Undergraduate resumes should be kept to one page.

For cover letters:

  • Try to address the letter to a specific person. If you cannot find a person’s name, addressing the letter to the company or department you are applying to is typically better than “To Whom it May Concern.”
  • Your cover letter should focus on how you will benefit the position and the company instead of how the position will benefit you.
  • Each cover letter should be different and catered to the company, the position, and the job description.
  • A cover letter is not a duplication of a resume. Instead, it should highlight a few of your most relevant experiences, providing additional detail and drawing direct parallels between past experiences and the opportunity to which you are applying.

There are, of course, probably one hundred more tips that I could list above for each, which is why it’s a good idea for students to visit the Student Professional Development Center early and often. It is our hope that first year students will use our services, establishing a strong foundation for continuing to build experience and articulate skills in a professional manner. Additionally, students who use our services early in their academic careers still have time to consider how they want to shape their time at Elon. What do underclass students want their resumes and cover letters to look like once they are seniors? How can they get there? We’re happy to work with students to answer any of these questions.

While reviewing resumes and cover letters is a crucial part of our job, a great deal goes into preparing students for opportunities related to their professional interests. Establishing an excellent resume and cover letter is just the start.

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Boss’s Blog

Created by: Ashley Pinney, (former) 2011-2012 Career Advising Fellow

I was really flattered to read what the Executive Director of Career Services, Tom Vecchione, said in his blog about the Career Fellows position.

Check out Tom’s blog post here.

Tom has a new blog!

Discover N.C.

Created by: Ashley Pinney 2011-2012 Career Advising Fellow

Two weeks ago I accompanied 20 students and Henry Walling on a Discover N.C trip (a program put on by the Office of Student Activities). We went to see the Carolina Hurricans play the Philadelphia Flyers in Raleigh. What a game! Everyone had a really great time and I was able to meet a lot of first-year students I would have never met if I hadn’t gone on the trip.

As I am charged with reaching out to students and informing them of the services my office provides, trips like these are great ways to do just that. A few first-year students asked for my business card and I look forward to assisting them this semester!

Educated and Jobless

By Marianne Brigola, Career Fellow 2011-2012

Things have been really crazy over here for Ashley and I. We’re both getting more one-on-one appointments with students, continuing to co-facilitate Transition Strategies classes, continuing with Student Life programming and Elon 101 presentations, as well as helping out over in the Love School of Business. Things have been exciting but quite hectic. We’re going to be helping out with some great events over the next few weeks so keep an eye out for some new blog entries about them!

Until then, here’s another news article to tide you over. This from NPR, entitled “Educated and Jobless: What’s Next for Millennials” was very interesting! It’s talks about how the challenges college graduates are facing as they leave school and attempt to start their careers. Too often, many college students are graduating with record-breaking amounts of student loan debt and yet struggling to find jobs in this tough economy.

I thought the article was interesting because it highlight’s one student’s experience, in which she researched potential careers’ job outlook, stress levels and potential earnings to determine her major. As a result, she is now working as an actuarial analyst, although she initially considered majoring in music. The article states, “…very few students choose a career…with cold, calculated cost benefits analysis.”

It got me thinking… as a career development counselor, I want to encourage my students to pursue their passions–what are they excited about, what matters to them, what values are important for them. And yet when we consider the economy, the job market–are we really doing them justice by focusing on that rather than the reality of life after college–what it’ll be like to find a job, earn enough to support yourself, pay off your student loans etc. How can we help students find the balance between pursuing their passions and dreams and recognizing the importance of their work-related values, helping them to develop more realistic expectations about potential careers after college?

Although I loved my experience in undergraduate and I truly appreciate the education I received as an English major, I can’t count how many times over the past 6 years I’ve thought to myself, “I should have gone into nursing.”  I can’t say that if I could go back I would choose another major–I’m passionate about my work as a career counselor and I love my job–but sometimes I do find myself thinking how things would be different if I had chosen to go into something I wasn’t necessarily passionate about but knew would be a good fit in terms of employment opportunities and job outlook. Something like nursing or engineering.

Anyways, just some thoughts. Be sure to check out the article. It’s nice because you can choose to read it or listen to the audio of it!