Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

Leonora Hall, Elon Career Advising Fellow

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Sometimes I am surprised by the maturity of a first year student or the lack of motivation of a junior.  After reflecting on a couple appointments, I am reminded of the differences among students. Each students is unique and we can best help and support them by meeting them without judgment.

I met with a student who had 28 appointments with the Student Professional Development Center.  This particular student, who was obviously proactive, wanted to consider graduate school options.  I made the usual suggestions and quickly realized, he had already done everything I recommended.  For instance, he asked me to help him find a contact he could reach out to at another university and when I found one, he said that he had already talked to this person several times.  When the student left, I felt that I had not really helped him beyond listening.  How do we advise students like this one? Perhaps they just need someone to be a sounding board and say it’s okay to not know what’s next.  The important part is continuing to explore options.  Despite my initial reaction that this student was visiting the Student Professional Development Center too much, I realized this student is simply taking advantage of our resources which is exactly what we encourage students to do.

In contrast, I had a senior come in for her first career advising appointment and she brought one of her parents.  With a background in student development theory, this situation is not ideal. Prior to meeting with the student and her Dad, I made an assumption that the Dad was overly involved.  My goal is to empower students to make their own decisions without the influence of parental pressures, regardless of how good the intentions of the parent are.  Luckily, the parent of the senior let me have a conversation with his daughter and simply listened.  The parent was there to be supportive and help his daughter feel comfortable.  It is easy to make assumptions when parents come into appointments with their son or daughter in college.  However, after the appointment, I realized that I appreciated that this Dad encouraged his daughter to visit our office.  Furthermore, I wonder if she would have come in for an appointment without her Dad’s influence.  As a result, I am reframing how I think about parents coming in with college students for appointments.  If the preceding scenario is a way for us to get more students in our office, I think it is important to consider the benefits of a parent helping their son or daughter take a first step to career development, coming into our office.

Though in the same academic year, the two preceding students were clearly in different developmental places in considering options for after graduation. The preceding scenarios remind me of the importance of meeting students where they are and avoiding assumptions.  By meeting students where they are, career advisors can encourage and empower students to take important next steps, make their own decisions and consider their different options.  Whether students visit often or with their parents, there is value in them having career advising.

 

 

Giving Voice to Lived Experiences

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Written By: Career Advising Fellow, Katie Greene

Recently, I visited a local college to attend a professional development summit for minority students, particularly those who identify as African American or Latino/a. Originally, I thought the goal of my visit was to simply observe the event and consider ways in which aspects of its implementation could be facilitated at Elon University. Although the event was superbly organized and wonderfully informative for students, I quickly realized that the career development content of the event was not necessarily the main selling point. Rather, it was the sense of representation and belonging that added unique character to this event, which became evident during the formal dinner event that took place on the first evening of the summit.

During dinner, Mr. Clint Smith presented works from his recent published book of poetry, entitled: Counting Descent. Additionally, Mr. Smith shared anecdotes from his life and made time for a question and answer period after reciting his poetry.I was privileged to be sitting at a table with seven dedicated summit participants, all of whom were African American female students. During one of Clint Smith’s moving and pertinently challenging poems, I found myself observing the intensity with which these women were listening and hearing Mr. Smith’s message. The women sat in intense stillness, many of whom had even paused their movement of raising their fork from their plate in order to be fully present and receive the wisdom being shared. I suppose this was my Oprah Winfrey “Aha!” moment. In other words, I received the inspiration I had been waiting for with regard to a clear direction and purpose for my desired event at Elon focused on identity and work.

Upon returning from the summit, I met with my supervisor to discuss implementation of our “identity and work” event. I explained that, in my opinion, the event should focus around story-telling. Namely, professionals giving voice to students’ lived experiences. In working to address the professional development needs of under-represented students, we need to create opportunities for these same students to be represented. This event is one way to meet this need.

Additionally, I believe the shared stories should emphasize ‘asset capital,’ which is a term I recently became aware of while attending the NCCDA (North Carolina Career Development Association) conference. This term refers to the particular strengths that underrepresented, marginalized or minority students bring to the workplace. These students and recent graduates may not enter the workforce with the same amount of cultural or social capital, but often times they bring more ‘asset capital’ than other new employees. These assets are demonstrated in a variety of ways, such as being bi-lingual, having more cultural “fluency” with regard to  fluidly being able to ‘cross’ from one cultural  context to another, and understanding true persistence and the power of aspirations, often times instilled in them from family members who have sacrificed for them to reach their dreams and better their future.

Therefore, with the enthusiasm of my supervisor, I am continuing the implementation of a spring semester event, entitled: Work & Identity: Giving Voice to Diverse Lived Experiences. This event will be similar in nature to NPR’s, The Moth, in which invited guests (representing various diverse groups and professions) will share a 5-minute story of their professional development journey from the perspective of asset capital. The purpose of these stories is to increase and solidify underrepresented students’ self-efficacy as it relates to their professional development. After the stories are shared, there will be a panel discussion followed by the opportunity to mingle and network.

This event is scheduled for the end of February. I look forward to piloting this idea and then considering its effectiveness, or lack thereof. Here’s hoping for the former!

 

Options Inform Creativity

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Recently, I had an extremely helpful and insightful conversation with the assistant director of a career center at a university in Kentucky. In conducting research of career centers I believed had ample experience with targeted programs for diverse student populations, I decided to reach out to this particular career center to request an opportunity to further discuss this research topic. Sarah (pseudonym) was wonderfully informative, and I would like to thank her, again, for both her time and substantive conversation.

Our discussion unintentionally, but beneficially, focused on the following general questions: What is not enough versus what is too much regarding the implementation of targeted programming? How much does creating trust with student groups affect the success of marketing and programming? What types of programs have been most successful?

Not Enough vs. Too Much:

Sarah has worked, and contributed to, a variety of offices within higher education. Most specifically, she brings a good amount of experience working with the LGBT center on her campus, as both a current professional and previous student. Her previous relationship with this center was beneficial in beginning to create and market professional development programs for underrepresented students. She, too, created relationships with a variety of offices and coordinated events with various organizations, which ultimately led to the career center offering monthly intentional programs and workshops for the LGBT Center, the Women’s Center, Disability Resources, among others.

Sarah’s goals, and her implementation of these goals, was starting to sound familiar as it mimicked my own intentions thus far. However, her next statement gave me cause for pause, and has led me to view my goals and ideas through a more critical lens. Namely, Sarah stated that not long after initiating monthly intentional workshops, students began to inform her that they didn’t want to attend a program specifically addressed to their particular identity, but rather, they wanted to have their concerns more holistically addressed in the general programming.

My initial response was to feel discouraged by this result. However, Sarah mentioned that it wasn’t the actual intentional programming that was the issue, but rather, the frequency of such programming. In other words, finding ways to emphasize diverse issues within the general outreach of the career center is the foundation for inclusive success. Then, offering occasional intentional programming is a way to reinforce this awareness of diversity and the support of inclusivity. In brief, balance is essential.

Trust:

Sarah mentioned that her involvement in having worked at the LGBT Center as a student and professional, allowed her the advantage of having a relationship with the students, which is a critical component to effective marketing of intentional programming. Of course, it is important not to ‘tokenize’ faculty or staff in order to address various identity groups. However, there is also truth to the fact that people appreciate the support of those that ‘look or identify’ similarly to them. Again, I am reminded of the importance of balance.

Successful Programs

I was pleased to hear that she has experienced great success with inviting guest speakers, and offering panel discussions pertaining to identity. However, Sarah elaborated by stating that it was not simply enough to conduct a panel discussion, but she needed to emphasize marketing outreach by major. Many business companies have employee support programs regarding diversity. However, many underrepresented student groups are looking to work in the areas of social work, activism and education, to name a few. Therefore, knowing what majors would be more apt to attend the panels, and reaching out to each department to effectively market the event was most beneficial to its success.

Similarly, panel discussions proved useful for students who engage with Disability Services. More specifically, a program focused on alumni success stories was well received by students. This allows for alums to attend the event, representing a variety of disabilities, whether or not they require accommodations at work. Issues such as when to come out with a disability on a resume or in an interview (especially if one does not need to request any particular accommodation) can be discussed, among other topics.

Indeed, I am reminded that options so often inform creativity, as there are a myriad of ways in which the results of this research could affect positive change, and the ideas for programs could be implemented.

Here’s to the creative process!

Challenging Appointments: Ideas for Supporting Students

Leonora Hall, Elon Career Advising Fellow

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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.

http://ii.library.jhu.edu/2013/12/13/perrys-scheme-understanding-the-intellectual-development-of-college-age-students/

Where are they now? Ashley Pinney | 2011-2012

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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?

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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

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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.

Johnathan:

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:

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:

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.