Plans, Pathways, & Progress

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The past three months (Wait, did I really just say three? Are we living in the ‘upside-down’?) have begun to shape the course of the 2017-2018 academic year here at Elon. I’ve identified areas in career services that I want to focus on, and with the assistance of my supervisor, Ross, have been able to see some of those plans come to fruition, which is an amazing feeling!

When we first arrived at Elon, Rachel and I crafted professional development plans, which essentially outlined all of the areas of career services we wanted to learn and grow in. To highlight some programs and areas of interest that Rachel and I have developed, both individually as well as collectively, I thought it would be great to list them to capitalize on our progress.

Give Thanks Program: I was first given the idea for a “Give Thanks” card program when I spoke with Amy Willard from Wake Forest University, who talked about the success of the program and how encouraging students to write a thank-you card emphasize their professional development and focuses on networking and following up with an employer, mentor, faculty member, or personal contact. Students are encouraged to stop by the Moseley Center Mailroom on November 15th from 10am-3pm. There, they can pick up a thank-you card, designed by current iMedia student, Nick Cook, ’18, and with special calligraphy assistance from our own Amber Moser! #Collaboration (You can see more of Amber’s work  on her Instagram, here, and Nick’s portfolio can be accessed here)

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College Fellows’ Career Trek: Next, my interest in becoming more of an expert of knowledge in Elon’s College of Arts & Sciences has led me to partner with both Aisha Mitchell, Assistant Director of Corporate & Employer Relations for the College of Arts & Sciences, as well Sara Cone, Assistant Director of Career Services for the College of Arts & Sciences, to curate a “Career Trek”, in which we anticipate taking a 12-15 College Fellows to various employers who are doing great work in a variety of industries, to hone in on skills that Arts & Sciences majors already possess and emphasize that they do, in fact, get jobs! The date is set for January 24th and I will be marketing the event soon.

Additionally, I have appreciated and enjoyed the narrative of empathy and curiosity that the SPDC is taking towards partnering with Elon’s Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education, and am also enjoying being a part of a productive brainstorming cohort with Rachel and others, both in our staff, from the CREDE, and from the LGBTQIA center.

SAMP CaREerLay: Finally, I am in process of developing a structured program to help prepare students for life after Elon, featuring budgeting sessions, meal prep and cooking, and essentially Adulting 101. Towards the end of spring semester, it’s my hope that students will sign up to participate in a career-themed ‘relay’ race, to compete against their peers at the Station at Mill Point in testing their knowledge as a race against the clock.

In terms of some fantastic programming that Rachel Brown has curated, she’s written about her upcoming events below:

Library Drop-In Hours: First and third Wednesday of every month, 3pm-5pm, back of the first floor of library in the Information Commons. Stop by to get your resume or cover letter reviewed, your LinkedIn updated, or your internship and job search skills refined! The next date will be November 15th!

Working Women Workshop: Tuesday, February 6th, 6:00pm-7:30pm. Isabella Cannon Room in the Center for the Arts. Different panelists will speak to their experiences in the workplace. After the large group panel, panelists will lead small groups focused on different topics that often affect women such as the wage gap, leadership, and mentorship.

SAMP Initiatives: Drop-in hours are held at the Station from 4pm-6pm on Mondays. However, starting next semester, we will have a special event every few Mondays where we have a focused discussion about a city where students may want to move after graduation. We will bring in alumni who live in those cities to give students tips and tricks and discuss how to network in the new cities to prepare for when #WereNotInBTownAnymore

She is right, Elon grads will not be in B-town anymore. Here’s to rolling with our innovative ideas to help support Elon students even further!

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Conference Confidence

By Rachel Brown, Career Advising Fellow

Elon University hosted the North Carolina Career Development Association Annual Conference on October 13th, bringing together career professionals from across the state to network and hear from leaders in the field of career development. Throughout the day, attendees could choose different presentations to attend, including a presentation by Elon SPDC’s own Danielle Golinski connecting Gestalt techniques to online interviewing. Coffee was served at the beginning of the day and lunch in the middle, two critical factors. And though the coffee and lunch were nice, but I had more takeaways besides what I took away in my stomach.

First, I took away knowledge. I wrote notes on all the presentations I attended, which included three presentations of my choosing plus the two keynote speaker presentations. I learned new information about developments in the field and how to best work with students.

Second, connections. I was able to speak with some of the presenters, and many of them gave us their emails. I was also able to talk with other attendees, many of whom had different backgrounds than I and worked in various schools across the state. I know I can find these individuals on LinkedIn or on their schools’ websites if I want to stay connected.

Gaining knowledge and building my network led to the third and most important takeaway, a confidence boost. Sheryl Sandberg talks about the importance of confidence in the workplace in her book, Lean In for Graduates, which I’ve started reading because it applies well to the population with whom I work here at Elon. Some of her tips are applicable to attending professional conferences. A professional conference is a good place to start to lean into your power because you’re surrounded by individuals who want to see the field advance, which means they want to see you advance because you’re in their field. They are also the people who are most knowledgeable about their field and thus are the people who are able to answer tough questions you may have.

Image result for what would you do if you weren't afraidSandberg asks readers, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Perhaps that thing for you is attending a conference or perhaps it’s something else, but either way, the question is relevant.

My fellowship provides ample opportunities for me to attend professional development events, such as the NCCDA. My supervisor recommends a couple conferences to us, but he also encourages us to explore conferences that align with our interests and skills, which is encouraging and empowering. All of these conferences are chances for attendees and presenters alike to increase their competence in their career fields. I’m grateful I was able to grow my knowledge, my network, and my confidence through this conference, and I highly suggest attending conferences in your field of work.

Fall-ing Into Your Transferable Skills

Happy-Fall-Yall

Autumn signifies a time of change. Sometimes that can be scary and it may look differently depending on whether you’re a first-year student merely starting to adjust to your Elon life, or suffering from senioritis and ready to embark on your professional journey.

Personally, not only am I starting to enjoy sweater weather and all of the fun fall activities, but I am also experiencing a change in work environment and transferring some of my skills from my background in Mental Health Counseling. Though my career change has not been extremely different, there have been some notable changes in which I have adapted to a different way of doing things, for example, in terms of note-keeping, or having more flexibility with scheduling.

In my time working with students one-on-one and through classes/presentations, I have found that many counseling skills are useful, if not necessary, in my career shift. For both students and working professionals alike, I think the below skills may be useful in translating into your own career change or emergence into your given field.

Holistic Understanding

In graduate school, one of the aspects of counseling that I really appreciated was taking a holistic approach. It’s easy to stereotype or make judgements about students based on a resume review where the student needed a lot of hand-holding, etc., but it’s not fair to both the student and yourself if you only consider the “Elon student” side of the person. Sometimes I find myself asking students questions about why they are interested in a certain internship or where they want to live after graduation, because it gives me a broader sense of who they are outside of their role of being student. I think applying this knowledge to my work as a Career Advising Fellow has been helpful in ‘getting the bigger picture’ as well as learning not to jump to conclusions. Having a holistic perspective challenges you to go beyond what you know, whether that’s deciding which majors lead to the career path you want to choose, or simply knowing the full scope of a job you’re about to take.

Using Empathy

Empathy is key in building relationships, and particularly when considering it as an applicable skill for the workplace, no matter where you are professionally. To be empathic requires one to have respect for another’s perspective and understand where they are coming from; empathy is extremely beneficial, regardless of where you are in your career journey. (More on empathy as one of the best transferrable skills here). In an effort for the SPDC to engage in a more meaningful way with organizations on campus, we’ve begun using a Design Thinking approach. Design Thinking is essentially a solution-focused mindset to solving problems. Take a problem, for example, creating more inclusive workplaces. We must empathize and understand the needs of the individuals and students we are serving before jumping to a solution, much like we should be doing in our own career paths.

Establishing Rapport

I was nervous initially about the transition from working as a mental health professional to a career advisor, specifically because of the short amount of time (30 minutes can fly by!) when working with students. Sometimes, I end up scheduling a second appointment with them, and other times, that may be my only interaction, so it’s imperative to create a safe space to welcome friendly conversation as well.

Listening

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You may have heard of the above quote, and I personally find it’s applicable in ANY stage of your life. Sometimes (and I’m guilty of this, too) we feel anxiety just to say something, rather than to hear what someone is actually trying to convey. Taking a step back, and fully understanding another’s perspective is very important, especially in Career Advising.

Do you have any suggestions for other transferable skills that are useful for students and professionals alike? Please leave a comment below, and truly: Happy Fall, Y’all!

 

Building Your Brand: Are You “Ready For It?”

By Rachel Brown, Career Advising Fellow

Building a personal brand sounds intimidating. Aren’t brands something that only big companies do? When we hear names like Adidas or Kate Spade, for example, we may already know what they’re about through commercials, websites, advertisements, and stores.

Thankfully, branding can be easier than we might at first assume. And with some effort, we can also change our brand if we don’t like it or if we feel we have evolved since we started branding. To look at an example of branding and re-branding, we need look no further than Taylor Swift.

Swift began her music career as a country music star with an audience of primarily teenage girls. Through her concerts and her lyrics, she developed an image as an innocent, fun, awe-filled young woman. However, if we fast forward to 2017, the image that comes to mind when we think of Swift is no longer a young woman with her mouth agape in wonder, staring at all the fans at her concert with a glittery acoustic guitar around her neck. Now, Swift has distanced herself so much from that image that she pokes fun at it. She’s become instead a fierce, bold, independent woman who wants her reputation to go down in flames.

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Some of the first posts on Swift’s revamped Instagram feed.

Whether you like the new Taylor or not, it’s clear that the “old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.” Through deleting old Instagram posts and changing her music, Swift has transformed what we think of her. And whether we like the branding or not, we can learn from it so we can build our own personal brand to promote to our connections, colleagues, and employers.

How do we build a brand? First, we need to know ourselves. We need to understand our values, our strengths, and our skills so we know what we want to promote. If you’re an Elon student and you want to gain some of that self-awareness, then you can do some MyPlan assessments, which can help you reflect on your personality, values, and specialties you bring to the table. Also, we need to know what sets us apart from others. Find something that makes you stand out from others in your field but still makes you a qualified candidate. Perhaps most importantly, according to Herbert Sim on Forbes.com, we need to know our purpose – what’s the why behind this personal brand we’re creating?

Second, we need to know our audience. Since I’m working at Elon, I want to make sure my brand aligns with Elon’s brand, specifically with the mission of the Student Professional Development Center. And because my job is in higher education, I stay up-to-date on information related to higher education.  

Third, let’s tell the story (or as Herbert Sim likes to call it – network!). Once we know ourselves and know our audience, then we can begin to brand to tell others who we are. We can let our brands be known through social media, such as LinkedIn or Instagram, networking events, or simply through our interactions with colleagues and friends. And again, if we’ve started a brand for ourselves that we don’t like, we can take the old, “shake it off,” and start anew, just like Swift.

A Game of Authenticity: The Do’s and Don’ts of Networking

GoTwinter isHereBy: Rachael Rysz, Career Advising Fellow

Welcome back to the 2017-2018 academic year here at Elon!

As I have begun my journey in the Student Professional Development Center, I’ve processed invaluable information for both students and faculty/staff alike. While the word ‘networking’ itself may denote some negative connotations (i.e., the dreaded awkwardness when meeting new people in a professional context), I thought it would be advantageous to relay information in regards to staying true to yourself while also going through the process of self-marketing through networking.

To define networking at its core, it is knowing yourself and knowing your audience and building connections through commonalities. Networking is more than just trying to add LinkedIn connections until your eyes are sore; it’s an opportunity to learn from others, share your skills, and enjoy getting to know someone.

As I’m striving to foster more meaningful connections in my own network here at Elon, I have become hyper-aware of noticing connections surrounding me, particularly in the stories that I’m consuming. In particular, I, like many, am still processing the season 7 finale of the hit HBO show, A Game of Thrones. Spoiler alert: How was it possible for so many of the main characters to be in the same place at the same time and live to tell the tale? I’m still demystified. Regardless, I think this season conveyed many messages, but I couldn’t help but see the connection in forming networks from a career advising perspective.

That said, I’ve gathered some tips on networking inspired by the characters of ‘A Game of Thrones’:

Do: Form Strong Alliances

Although both Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister formed an unlikely alliance (her father A.K.A. The Mad King, was killed by Tyrion’s brother, not to mention their houses hate each other) it has turned out to be a fruitful connection thus far. Daenerys, or Dany for short, has proven her strength as a leader through various obstacles she’s had to endure as well as winning over various groups of people through her honesty. Tyrion, also an underdog of the show, uses his wit and life experience to make more rational decisions and balance Dany’s spontaneity.

In the real world, being intentional about making connections with individuals goes a long way. Your network should be a two-way street where you can learn from one another and understand how your strengths could align with certain employers. Understanding an employer’s values and strengths can better allow you to make decisions about who to connect with.

Don’t: Burn Bridges
Cersei Lannister, currently the Queen of the Iron Throne, is noteworthy for quite literally killing anyone who crosses her, and sets a bad example for how to handle situations that may not be ideal.

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Always be mindful of your professional presence, especially on social media and LinkedIn. You don’t want someone to get a bad impression of you and possibly diminish your network. Worse even, you never want to renege on a job or internship offer, even if a more exciting offer or connection awaits. You never know who’s connected to who!

Do: Stay True To Yourself
As we noted in those early moments in this past season when Daenerys welcomed Jon Snow to Dragonstone, they both stayed true to themselves, even though it seemed like they were talking in circles; it was evident that no one was leaving until someone got what they wanted.

Honesty is a crucial component to any relationship, but particularly when networking. It’s always important to be honest about your skills and abilities to potential employer connections. Be authentic when marketing yourself and let your personality shine!

Don’t: Think Only Of Yourself.
While many (all) of the characters on Game of Thrones can be selfish and seem to want to stake their claim to the Iron Throne, they fall shortsighted when judging another’s capabilities and decisions.

A network is a web of connections of people that you can learn from, but they can also learn from you. Don’t be afraid to use your network in various capacities, for example if you’re planning a move to a new city, or switching majors and don’t have the first clue if it’s the right fit. Talk with your connections, both in-person and through your online presence, and you may be surprised to see that others have gone through similar situations.

Do: Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Can I just say that it was super awkward to see all the rival characters (Cersei, Jon, Dany, and Tyrion) meet each other for the first time?

Networking may be awkward or intimidating, but it’s also an opportunity to broaden your horizons. We have a tendency to rely on known networks, whether it be education, age, race, ethnicity, or status. You also run the risk of limiting yourself in this way if you don’t form diverse connections outside your known network. You only know what you know, but never what you don’t know or try.

A Game of Networking may be in your future soon, after all. Remember to keep an open mind and your best professional foot forward!

…And don’t get in the way of the Night King.

Meet the 2017-2018 Career Advising Fellows

We’re so excited to introduce the 2017-2018 Career Advising Fellows: Rachel Brown & Rachael Rysz. We thought we’d make it tricky for the SPDC staff, and hire two people with the same name (although spelled differently). And, if you address them collectively by their last names, it sounds like your saying “brown rice.” So, there’s sure to be a few moments of humorous confusion within the SPDC in the coming months!

On a serious note, both Rachel Brown and Rachael Rysz bring unique talents and perspectives that will enrich the SPDC and Elon University as a whole. We are thrilled to welcome them to the SPDC team, and we’re grateful for their eagerness to learn, grow and contribute through this fellowship experience. Welcome to Elon, ladies!

Rachel Brown

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Rachel Brown is looking forward to joining the Phoenix Family for the 2017-2018 school year! Rachel grew up in Southern Virginia until moving to Williamsburg, Virginia, to study at the College of William & Mary, where she majored in psychology and English. Rachel decided to continue her education at William & Mary and received her master’s degree in counseling. During her time in graduate school, she was able to work as a graduate assistant at the Dean of Students Office. In this position, she discovered her interest in higher education, specifically in student development. Her classes and assistantship helped her realize that she wanted to combine her interests in higher education and counseling, and thus a position in career counseling became the perfect fit.

In her spare time, Rachel enjoys writing because she loves telling stories, but more importantly, she loves listening to the stories of others. She also enjoys traveling and being in nature, as depicted in this picture of her at a geyser in Iceland. When she’s not working, you’ll likely find her outside with a cup of coffee in one hand and a good book (probably by J.D. Salinger) in the other hand. Rachel is excited to listen to the stories of Elon students who come to the SPDC to help them develop their career goals.

 

Rachael Rysz

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Rachael Rysz hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she attended Duquesne University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Rachael then continued on her career path at Chatham University, where she obtained a Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology. During her time at Chatham, Rachael had ample opportunities for her own career exploration and a fulfilling experience working as an Intake Specialist for a large mental health private practice for the past four years. Her last internship working with adolescents and young adults unveiled a genuine passion for career services and helping others achieve their career goals. This experience led her to branch out to the field of Higher Education and act as an Educational Support Liaison for students enrolled in Career & Vocational Psychology courses at Chatham University. Rachael is motivated to help students find their passion through empowering them and encouraging experiential learning. In her spare time, Rachael loves volunteering, and particularly feels a connection working with individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. She enjoys musical theatre, hiking, exploring new coffee shops, traveling, and reading a good mystery novel. Rachael is ecstatic to join Elon’s SPDC team by acting as one of the Career Fellows for the 2017-2018 year and is immensely grateful to have this opportunity!

 

Reflection & Gratitude

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Written by: Career Advising Fellow, Katie Greene

I can hardly believe the fellowship will be ending in five short weeks. It feels like just yesterday I was being offered the fellowship and planning my move to NC. Now, I’m happy to share that we’ve hired two new fellows for the 2017-2018 academic year, who we’ll be introducing on this blog in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please allow me to reminisce a bit about this fellowship journey, which has been an incredible experience for me both personally and professionally.

This fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to embrace a professional role within higher education, which has served as a necessary bridge between my desire to contribute to higher education to advancing my career. During this fellowship I have been able to clarify the vision of my professional trajectory, through embracing some experiential learning (which is big here at Elon) with John Krumboltz’s Happenstance Theory. This theory emphasizes the importance of engaging the unknown or the non-linear journey toward clarifying our career path. Those who embrace this theory are encouraged to try new things and say “yes” to new opportunities for growth. This allows us to capitalize on our experiences as a way to continually clarify our career interests and values, while gaining increased skills along the way.

As I enter the ‘home stretch’ of this fellowship, I am compelled to ask myself if I’ve run this race well. In reflecting on this past academic year, do I notice areas in which I said “yes” to new professional experiences both within the SPDC and connected to other spaces on campus? At the end of this race, can I point to the markers that define my growth and resilience, through which I’m better prepared for my next professional endeavors? I am pleased to state that I believe I can respond positively to each of these questions in which I can point to my professional growth.

It is imperative to mention that my supervisor, Mr. Ross Wade, is an integral factor in supporting the experiential nature of this fellowship. His leadership is focused on cultivating the fellows’ strengths and encouraging fellows to engage their skills in unique and creative ways, understanding that career advising and professional development can occur in a myriad of ways and in a variety of venues. I can state without hesitation that this fellowship has been a truly rewarding and beneficial experience for me professionally, for which I will always be grateful. Thank you, Ross. And, thank you to the entire SPDC staff. The cohesive nature of this office, and the genuine care and concern for our individual and collective goals is quite remarkable. It has been a privilege working with you throughout this fellowship, and I am grateful to have five more weeks with y’all. : )

Indeed, great personal growth has occurred for me. This, in large part, is due to my amazing friendship with my co-fellow, Leo Hall. Though not a requirement, it nevertheless seems to be the case that with each new fellowship year, the two career advising fellows get along extremely well. In fact, one former fellow will be a bridesmaid in her co-fellow’s wedding this July! I, of course, had hoped my co-fellow, Leo, and I would get along, but I did not expect the true sisterhood bond that we have forged. We’ve been blessed with a friendship that is akin to sisterhood. The silly inside jokes, the late night laughter, empathic listening, and the rare disagreements that lead to apologies and forgiveness, have all helped me become a better person and a better friend.

Being a fellow has been like riding in the front cart of a roller coaster, eagerly anticipating each portion of the journey. Yet being co-fellows with you, Leo, has been like choosing to dare the ride in the back cart with our arms boldly in the air, where the journey is always exhilarating! Thank you, dear friend. Here’s to ‘Kleo!’

We look forward to introducing the new fellows in May, and providing our parting thoughts to the incoming fellows at that time.

Thank you.

Katie