Challenging Appointments: Ideas for Supporting Students

Leonora Hall, Elon Career Advising Fellow


Career advising appointments can be fairly predictable.  They often start with building rapport, inquiring about the student’s goals, sharing relevant information/ resources and discussing the next steps for the student.  However, challenging and supporting students is not always easy.  Recently, I advised a student who wanted me to answer questions that I could not answer because he needed to make the decisions on his own.  Our conversation seemed to go in circles because the student pressed for answers and repeated the same questions.  Furthermore, he wanted me to edit his resume for him.  The student had very little involvement for an upperclassman and voiced his concern about his limited experiences.  He said he felt overwhelmed balancing classes and involvement.

After collaborating with another professional, I received the following ideas to help guide the next appointment to be more productive:

  1. Find out more about the student’s goals (does he want to work for a big or small company?).
  2. Determine what skills the student already has with the activity below. Hopefully, this will build the student’s confidence by helping him recognize skills he does have and help him feel more at ease.
  3. Discuss how the student can develop skills he does not have yet.

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I was prepared and looking forward to meeting with the student a second time.  Unfortunately, the student missed his follow up appointments.  My new plan is to follow up by email and check in with the student.  Furthermore, I considered that the student might be in Perry’s early stage of development which would explain him wanting someone else to give him the answers.  I cannot do the work for him but I can try to help him take the next steps by reaching out.

How would you handle this appointment?  I would love to hear your ideas because I am sure there are many effective approaches.

Where are they now? Ashley Pinney | 2011-2012


By: Ross Wade, Director of Career Development

This academic year we’ll be checking in with some of our past Career Advising Fellows (CAFs) to find out where they are now, how they are doing, and any advice they have for current and prospective CAFs. Check out our brief Q&A with Ashley below.

What are you doing now? Where?

I am still working at Elon! I work as the Associate Director of Corporate and Employer Relations for the School of Communications. I have been in this role since September of 2014. I am the first person to hold this position and I really enjoy it. I am responsible for increasing employer engagement on campus. This involves bringing employers to campus both physically and virtually to recruit Elon talent and network with students. Elon is a very special place and I work with great colleagues and students. I feel very fortunate to be here.

What led you to your current position? Discuss your career path post the SPDC Career Advising Fellowship.

I have had the good fortune of working in a few different capacities at Elon. After my initial year as a Fellow I served as a Senior Fellow and helped the second round of Fellows transition to their new roles at Elon. Next I served as the Internship Coordinator and Student Life Coordinator for the Elon in Los Angeles program. Elon has a great Study USA program and I spent two semesters in Los Angeles assisting the program director. When the program ended I returned to the east coast to be the Associate Director of Corporate and Employer Relations. This role was brand new in 2014 and I thought it would be a great complement to my prior work advising students. I get the opportunity to travel quite a bit in this role which I really enjoy. The employers in the communications realm are really interesting and dynamic and I really enjoy getting to know recruiters and their hiring needs.

How did your time as a Career Advising Fellow impact your professional life?

Being a Fellow made me realize how much a career in career services really matters and how you have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life. Helping a student with their resume and cover letter for a job they are excited about and then hearing that she/he got the job really makes your day. The fellowship also taught me just how important quality, focused listening is. You aren’t able to work with a student unless you really listen to their needs/goals/concerns, etc. This has influenced me professionally but also personally when conversing with family and friends.

What is one thing you know now, you wish you had known during your time as a Career Advising Fellow?

I wish I had known how good I really had it with a meal plan; cooking is laborious😀 Jokes aside I wish I paid more attention to what the Corporate and Employer Relations team did. I didn’t give them enough attention when I was on the advising side and I bet I could have gained a lot of industry knowledge that I could have shared with students. I wish I had given more thought to how these two branches work together and how they both benefit each other.

What emoticon would you use to summarize your time with the SPDC as a fellow?


I really enjoy working in higher education and in this intellectual climate. I like that our students are so focused and have big dreams! I like that my team and I are trying to help them achieve those dreams.

A Project in Progress


Written By: Katie Greene (Career Advising Fellow)

My fellowship experience is wonderfully holistic, for which I am grateful. I am encouraged to learn about many aspects of career services, while also being encouraged to focus intently on an area of particular interest for my own professional development and the continued growth of the SPDC.  My area of interest surrounds researching, advancing and implementing career development opportunities for underrepresented student populations. For the sake of my research, I am focusing on students who are engaged with the Center for Race, Equity, Diversity Education (CREDE), the Gender and LGBTQIA Center and Disability Services.

Ross Wade, who is the Director of the SPDC as well as my supervisor, has agreed that we should focus this research within the framework of the following general question: What is the comfort level of diverse students at Elon with regard to utilizing our SPDC services and discussing any issues or concerns with career advisors pertaining to their career development or internships? As this fellowship is only a 10-month program, my hope is to conduct research to inform the creation of an anonymous survey to be distributed to students, and then create an outline of objectives that can hopefully be implemented during the next academic year.

I have been encouraged to use this blog as a space in which to share the process of delving into this project. As a starting point, I have begun this journey by reaching out to the directors of the various centers and offices that might potentially be a part of distributing the planned survey. I will be meeting with each person to discuss the ways in which this research might benefit students, and to brainstorm potential questions to be utilized on the survey.

Additionally, I am reaching out to various colleges and universities that currently offer successful programming for underrepresented students, in order to learn from those experienced with offering targeted programming in order to consider the ways in which these services might best be created and implemented for Elon students, in accordance with the University’s strategic plan.

I am pleased to be conducting a site visit at Davidson College on Nov. 4th, when they host the Emerging Professionals Group Summit (EPG Summit). This will be a wonderful opportunity for me to engage with students and staff, learning more about what students in attendance are looking to again from the experience, and what the staff and visiting professionals are able to contribute to increase initiatives for minority students, which is the focus of this summit.

I hope you will continue to follow my progress as I begin to conduct this research. I look forward to sharing what I learn from my attendance at EPG. Please stay tuned!


Gateway to the American Dream

Written by: Katie Greene

I am a firm supporter of the mission of community colleges. Having received my Associate’s Degree from a community college in MA, I had the great fortune of engaging with students from all walks of life who were choosing to work toward their educational goals. It is my sincere belief that in a time in which the “American Dream” is becoming harder to experience for those living in this country, the community college system, with its open door policy and in allowing people to re-invent themselves academically and professionally, is the gateway to any last glimmer of such a “dream.”

Today, I spent the afternoon at a local community college in order to assist with mock interviews as part of the college’s Prep Day. Below, I’ve described my experience working with three very different students, which I hope will illuminate the ways in which their experience at the community college is serving as a catalyst to their “American Dream.” I’ve used pseudonyms to ensure anonymity.


My first student, Johnathan, looks to be a “tough dude” with a large neck tattoo as well as others on both arms. However, his glowing eyes and bright smile, in which one of his front teeth is missing, immediately direct my focus to his energy and enthusiasm. When asked about his career goals, Johnathan is quick to state this his dream is  to become a senator of NC, and that he plans to continue in schooling from having received his GED through to someday receiving his Master’s Degree in order to be able to work effectively in politics. Johnathan became most animated when discussing his contribution as the former president of the male leadership and support organization on campus. He discussed having been recognized with an award for the community service he provided in gathering food from local area markets and food banks in the city, to bring to the food pantry on campus.

Johnathan expressed great pride in his desire to encourage other men on campus, mentioning that a student who was having difficulty getting to campus was overwhelmed and requested that Johnathan pray with him. However, in recounting this story, Johnathan was quick to add that although he believes in prayer, he doesn’t believe that it fixes everything. So, he walked over to the police station to help this student purchase a bus pass so he could more easily get to campus. At this point, I replied: “Perhaps what you’re trying to convey is that you believe that we’re all vessels in doing the work toward social change.” Johnathan smiled and nodded, taking his pen to write down the words: “social change.”

At the end of the meeting, I took a moment to laugh with Johnathan, stating that he surely has a future in politics, as he was able to avoid answering my questions by offering stories akin to Aesop’s Fables. After we had a good laugh, I suggested the S.T.A.R method for him to practice, namely: Situation, Task, Action, Result, and in providing a few examples based on his responses, he seemed to appreciate the efficient and succinct nature of this tool. I also suggested that he focus on his passion for leadership in addressing his strengths, as it was clear that this was a genuine area of interest to him, and so this focus should assist him in moving away from philosophical stories and more effectively engage with contextualizing his actual experiences and skills.


Laura arrived for her appointment and introduced herself in a very quiet voice, which continued throughout the remainder of the mock interview. Contrary to Johnathan, Laura’s answers were very concise and her answers well-suited for an interview. However, her answers were actually too brief, only indicating a skill or a task, without contextualizing with specific examples. Additionally, it was only after I told her the question-answer portion of the mock interview was complete and that she had done a good job, that her whole body relaxed and I saw her smile for the first time.

Laura would like to be a health/wellness coach, completing her Associate’s Degree and either getting specific certification for this career, or attending a local 4-year institution to  receive her Bachelor’s Degree in physical education. When I asked her in what ways this community college was a good fit for her, she explained that she recently had a baby and so this school was the most appropriate option for her. I encouraged Laura to consider what classes have informed her interest in wellness coaching, and to be ready to address those connections in an interview. I also encouraged her to rely on her life experience to foster situational examples to share in an interview. For example, by the time I asked her how she deals with pressure, she had already mentioned the fact that she’s a mom and she enjoys meditating. So, in addressing the question about pressure, I suggested she look to the challenges of being a new mom and her coping mechanism of meditation to lead her in a direction to answer the question. At the end of the session Laura looked like a whole new person, relieved and confident.


Matthew provided me with a great opportunity to learn. He is originally from the Congo and is cognizant of his effort to improve his communication skills. He had been offered a financial and athletic scholarship to a private college, but unfortunately, the scholarship did not cover enough of the cost, and so his father suggested he attend this community college and try transferring to a 4-year institution after completing his Associate’s Degree.

In addition to the language barrier, it was clear that Matthew did not understand the process of how to answer questions in an interview. Due to his visa status, Matthew is unable to work at this time, and therefore, his work experience is minimal to none. However, Matthew was encouraged to learn that career development is about building skills which are not solely based on a job title, and therefore, he should consider ways to engage on campus or in extracurricular activities to increase his skill-set to reference in future interviews. We then repeated the mock interview questions, allowing him to practice responding based on his own skills and referencing his life experiences. We also discussed how he can address his communication challenges, by focusing on how this challenge has informed his dedication and perseverance to reach his goals, which he is well on his way to doing. Matthew hopes to become a manager of a large company like Walmart of Food Lion.

Indeed, these students are in the process of working toward their definition of the “American Dream.” I wish them all the very best, and thank them for reminding me of why I work in higher education and believe in the journey toward self-actualization.





I’m still enjoying all the publicity gymnastics has received during the weeks surrounding the Olympics. So, please humor me as I reference gymnastics one more time on this blog.

U.S. Olympic gymnast, Laurie Hernandez, won the silver medal on the balance beam in Rio a few weeks ago. You might wonder how she can tumble and spin on a beam that is a mere four inches wide and four feet off the ground. It’s interesting to note that in order to remain balanced when completing spins or landing flips, gymnasts are trained to keep their eyes on the end of the beam, so as to maintain their alignment.


A similar metaphor can be expressed about learning to drive. Perhaps, like me, you had your driving instructor remind you to look a few car lengths ahead rather than directly at the yellow line, so as not to swerve? Yikes!


These examples about looking straight ahead while still being aware of things in your peripheral vision, are apropos when considering work-life balance. In dealing with the demands of the college semester, it can be easy to lose one’s balance on a singular focus, i.e., an intense course, the big athletic game, your leadership duties, etc. However, it’s important to remember that being dedicated is different than being unbalanced in your work ethic.

The following are five suggestions, from WebMD, to consider when working towards work-life balance.

Build downtime into your schedule.

  1. When you plan your week, make sure to schedule time with family and friends and/or activities that help you re-charge.

Finding ways to rejuvenate is essential to maintaining well-being.

  1. Drop activities that sap your time or energy.

Spending too much time on activities or people that add no value and sap you of energy is unproductive and unhealthy.

  1. Re-think your errands.

Consider ways to combine errands to save time and energy.

  1. Get moving.

Exercise can help you concentrate better and remain alert throughout the day.

  1. Remember that a little relaxation goes a long way.

Whether it’s a favorite TV program, taking a walk, or listening to music, whatever you find relaxing, try and make time for it each week.

To read more, please go to:



3 Ways to Support International Students:

By Leonora Hall, Career Advising Fellow

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International students are embarking on an educational journey when they study abroad.  Their transition to a new institution and country is impacted by professionals at the university they are attending.  How can student affairs professionals better support international students while they study abroad?

After talking to an experienced professional who works with international students, I recognize the importance of actively listening to students, especially those who are studying abroad.  When immersing themselves into a new culture, students must learn to navigate cultural differences. For instance, in Congo, age is a sign of wisdom and a source of pride.  On the contrary, it is common knowledge to most Americans to avoid asking a woman her age.  Additionally, my friend from China pointed out differences in dating between China and the states. In China, when a man is dating a woman and walks her to her door, it indicates the relationship is moving to the next level.  Though it is exciting for students to be immersed into a new culture, the cultural differences can be overwhelming, confusing and challenging.  However, student affairs professionals can support students by listening to their experiences so they can help students with their experiences abroad.

As a career advisor, I have considered how I can better accommodate international students in one-on-one appointments.  After talking to professionals , I recognize the importance of meeting students where they are.  For example, advisors can ask students intentional questions like, “what do you want to gain from today’s appointment?”.  A student may have an appointment to prepare for an interview.  Instead of jumping into common interview questions, the advisor should ask where the student wants to start.  The student may have questions about how to do their makeup and what kind of eye contact is considered “normal” in the states.  Let the students guide the appointment and meet them where they begin.

Students studying for a semester abroad are not abroad from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.  They are abroad all twenty four hours of each and every day.  One student affairs professional shared an experience about an international student being hit by a car while studying abroad in the states.  The professional immediately arrived at the hospital and was there for the student constantly, within and outside of normal work hours.  While the student was recovering, a faculty member welcomed the student into her home because the student needed certain physical accommodations after the accident.  Furthermore, the student had to attend court with the driver who hit him so the student affairs professional attended these court dates too.  Obviously, the student needed support outside typical business hours. Especially with family living half way around the world.  The professionals provided that support by being available, flexible and prioritizing the student.

Student affairs professionals who take the time to listen, understand and are available to international students are invaluable.  Whether a student is learning what behaviors might be offensive in a new country or dealing with a crisis, professionals are supports that greatly impact an international students’ experiences.  As advisors and educators, we want international students’ experiences to be meaningful, educational and positive which we can achieve by offering support.


A Positive Attitude Perfect 10.0

By Katie Greene, Career Advising Fellow

The Olympics recently came to a close, which (if you’re anything like me) probably means you will now be able to get your full eight hours or more of sleep each night! I found myself staying up much later than usual to watch my favorite sporting events, especially gymnastics! Clearly, Simone Biles was quite successful at these 2016 Olympics, and if the perfect 10.0 scoring system still existed within elite gymnastics, I’m sure she would have received many 10’s while competing in Rio. Watching Simone Biles compete her skills with such ease and perfection is always impressive. However, it’s important to remember that in addition to her natural talent and excellent work ethic, a foundational element to Simone’s success is her ability to maintain a positive attitude.

This reality led me to consider the ways in which exhibiting a positive attitude at work (whether regarding schoolwork, an internship or job), not only increases our overall enjoyment of our work, but also leads us to increased success in reaching our professional goals.

Udemy blogger, Allison Boyer, provides the following 10 tips for success when working to improve or maintain your positive attitude at work. I’ve summarized and condensed her suggestions below. I invite you to consider these tips and see if you can score a perfect 10.0 on your positive attitude at work!

Tip #1: Report problems quickly and professionally.

If you speak to your boss about a complaint, try to also propose a solution.

Tip #2: Treat your coworkers with respect.

You don’t need to like everyone you work with, but being respectful to all those around you helps create and support a positive work environment.

Tip #3: Get enough sleep.

Don’t rely on “catching up” on the weekends. Go to bed earlier.

Tip #4: Identify negative thoughts.

Be mindful of any negative thoughts, and consider if you can approach an issue from a more positive perspective.

Tip #5: Work on your overall stress level.

Try and take a holistic approach to understanding your stress levels. Stress at home or in a relationship affects stress levels at work and vice versa.

Tip #6: Work toward a new job (don’t remain stagnant in a truly miserable job).

If you truly hate your job, prepare your resume and start looking for a new position.

Tip #7: Set goals.

If you’re feeling stagnant in your job, it might be helpful to sit down with your manager to create some realistic, yet challenging goals, both short and long-term.

Tip #8: Alter your responsibilities.

If you have the option to take on new tasks, this is one way to mitigate the monotony of more mundane tasks.

Tip #9: Smile!

Without being disingenuous, a simple smile can subconsciously affect your overall mood, as well as, affect the positive interaction between co-workers.

Tip #10: Remember that a job is just a job.

Your job does not define you. If you don’t like your job, be grateful for the paycheck while you continue looking for a new position, and try and focus on enjoying the more positive aspects of your life.

To read the full content surrounding these 10 tips, check out Allison Boyer’s blog here: