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

Helping People with Intellectual Disabilities find Jobs

Leonora Hall                                                                                                                                           Elon University Career Advising Fellow                                                                                           April 6, 2017

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As a former teacher of adults with intellectual disabilities and as a current career advisor, I have come up with some thoughts and advice about helping people with intellectual disabilities find meaningful work. With colleges and universities offering programs for people with intellectual disabilities, helping the graduates find work is an essential next step.  Above is a picture of my sister who attends a program called Scholars with Diverse Abilities at Appalachian State University  (https://sdap.appstate.edu/).  She graduates in May and is starting to think about what is next.  It is important for people like my sister to have fulfilling work where they can contribute and are valued.  The following are considerations to make when helping a person with a disability find work:

  1. What does the person with an intellectual disability (job seeker) enjoy doing and how could they contribute?

Start with the basics, does the individual enjoy working with people or things? What do they like to do? What strengths and weaknesses does the individual have?

  1. Preparing Job Search Materials (job application, resume, cover letter)

It is important to help job seekers with their job application materials but also embrace their individual level of work.  Their resume should reflect their abilities.

  1. Safety is priority

People with intellectual disabilities are vulnerable and it is crucial that they are in a safe and supportive work environment.  Career advisors could share established and recommended organizations and encourage the students and their parents or guardians to do informational interviews with potential employers.  Informational interviews are an opportunity to find out information about an organization and the work culture.  I mentioned parents and guardians accompanying the job seeker with an intellectual disability because it is important for them to have an advocate and someone who can get a sense of the organization’s environment, at least for the initial visit.  The following resource provides questions to ask employers http://askjan.org/media/intcog.html.

  1. Networking

Ask the job seeker if you can let others know that they are looking for a job and encourage them to do the same.  Do not ask for jobs for the job seeker but, instead, ask about opportunities.

  1. Necessary Accommodations

What accommodations will the job seeker need to be successful?  For instance, if an individual cannot tell time with an analog clock, they could use a digital watch to keep track of time.  Perhaps the individual could be paired with a mentor who looks out for them.  The link listed above also gives appropriate accommodations that someone with an intellectual disability might need at work.

  1. Self – Advocacy

Job seekers with intellectual disabilities need to know they can speak up and say, “I don’t understand” or “I need help.”

While paid work for people with intellectual disabilities is preferable, it is hard to find.  Volunteering is another meaningful option for people with disabilities so they can still give back and engage in work.  I believe that employers who hire people with intellectual disabilities will benefit from fostering a diverse and inclusive team while people with disabilities will benefit by developing their skill set and having a job they enjoy.

 

Career+Identity

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L-R:Malcom, Jamie, me, Alex, Robert (Shereen had already left when the photo was taken)

Written By: Katie Greene, Career Advising Fellow

The Career+Identity event was a great success! Thank you to the amazing storytellers who brought a sense of candor and authenticity that was truly refreshing and meaningful for the audience. The creation and implementation of the first ever Career+Identity event here at Elon University was certainly a labor of love. I learned a great deal about connecting with students, staff and faculty who engage with a variety of identity spaces on campus, as well as the critical nature of marketing the event to the individual schools and majors. I was deeply humbled and grateful to have witnessed the enthusiasm around this event, and to have received support and encouragement for effective marketing. The success of the event was truly a team effort.

My hope is that my colleagues in the SPDC will be able to continue with this type of programming, so that more students can experience the power of authentic storytelling, through which they can recognize their asset capital and gain the tools necessary for their professional development. I believe that for future marketing success, collaborating with particular faculty who will commit in advance to requiring their students to attend as part of their course curriculum, would be beneficial. This strategy is not simply to increase numbers (as we had a successful number of approx. 60 people), but more importantly, to ensure that a diverse group of students attend with regard to their majors, and to foster an opportunity for classroom conversation regarding the content of the event with their peers and professors. I am hopeful that this programming will continue growing in a variety of ways, not just in its size, but with regard to its overall impact on students, faculty and staff.

In addition to the event itself, I also distributed a survey for attendees to complete. The questions focused on aspects of students’ identities and how these identities affect their comfort level in utilizing the SPDC and speaking with career advisors that might identify differently. Additionally, the survey focused on the extent to which students perceive aspects of their identity (such as  race, religion, sexual orientation or gender) as affecting their career and professional development decision-making. The data will benefit the SPDC in considering ways in which to continue effectively reaching students, addressing their individual needs and preferences, and providing successful programing.

Bravo, everyone!

Transitions

Leonora Hall, Career Advising Fellow

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I remember the transition from college to a career a few years ago and have empathy for students feeling nervous about the transition.  I recall feeling the pressure and stress of looking for my first professional position.  In higher education, I believe we can support students when they are feeling overwhelmed by the job search by doing the following:

  1. Preparing Students:

At Elon University, career advisors give presentations to all first-year students to introduce them to the Student Professional Development Center and share what resources we offer.  Additionally, we have events such as the Job and Internship Expo and employers visit campus regularly so students can find out about opportunities and network.  When students come in for appointments, I remind them that our office is here to help them along the way in their career exploration and development journey.  Whether students want to take an assessment, have their resume reviewed or do a mock interview, our office can help.  The better-prepared students are for the job search, the easier it will be for them.

  1. Building Students’ Confidence:

Sometimes students’ confidence is challenged through a job search.  I remember one student who was job searching and getting numerous interviews but no job offers.  This particular student was also dealing with the loss of a loved one so he was not his usual self.  As a result, the lack of job offers was even more discouraging.  I believe this student needed to be reassured of his skills and reminded that every interview is a success.  Having an interview means that you are a top candidate but there may have been an internal applicant or someone who was a slightly better fit.

  1. Helping Students Consider their Options:

Though a career advisor cannot tell a student to take one job over another, we can ask intentional questions to help students consider their values and what they want to empower them to make their own decision.  When a student is trying to decide between two positions, we can ask about the pros and cons so they can reflect on their options.  One of my professors gave me advice that I found comforting when I was involved in the job search.  He said that when choosing a position, there is no right or wrong path.  There are just different paths.

When students are well prepared for the job search, confident about their skills and have reflected on their options, they are closer to finding meaningful work.  One of the best parts of advising students is finding out that the student you advised got the position they were hoping for.

Tweaking Something Until It Works

Leonora Hall, Elon Career Advising Fellow

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In the Student Professional Development Center, there are constant changes so we can better meet students’ needs.  We are also persistent in adapting what we do in order to make improvements.  This includes reflecting on and discussing what could and should be tweaked.

Events are constantly tweaked each year based on what went well and what did not.  For instance, we tweaked how we gathered survey information at the Job and Internship Exposition because we wanted more clear and detailed responses from students.  As a result, a co-worker and I orally asked students survey questions as they were leaving the event.  This allowed us to ask follow-up questions, get clarification and ask for additional detail.  Although we collected less surveys, we received more quality and informative feedback.

During graduate school, I worked in an office where I planned service events for students to participate in.  It is probably not a surprise that fifteen students might sign up for events and three might actually attend. One of my mentors at Elon University helped me make a change to events to avoid low attendance.  My colleague suggested I partner with a student club or organization for events to ensure attendance.  I really wish I had thought of this in graduate school because this change makes a huge difference.

Additionally, our office has tweaked career advising for students. We offer evening advising to students at a student apartment club house.  One obvious benefit is convenience for students to get advising where they live.  Additionally, if students are intimidated to visit the Student Professional Development Center, this is a great way to casually meet them where they are comfortable.

Continuously tweaking what we do allows us to grow ourselves as an office and reach more students.  As a result, we can get more students involved with our office and resources.

Rule # 10

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Written By: Katie Greene

Happy New Year! The fellowship has officially entered its sixth month, which is living proof that “time flies when you’re having fun!”

I definitely feel that I have grown professionally over these past several months, and have gained invaluable exposure to a variety of career advising opportunities which have strengthened my skill set and expertise. Moving into the New Year and the second half of this fellowship, I am seeking to utilize this increased exposure and expertise to directly contribute to the goals of the SPDC through projects I’ve mentioned in the past, and I hope to outline new projects in the future.

Even though I am engaged with various projects that are meaningful to me, I am also mindful of the ways in which ‘letting go’ is crucial. I am referring to the ‘letting go’ that I have found beneficial when involving myself with projects about which I care deeply. As Gibbs would say on one of my favorite television series, NCIS: “Rule Number 10: Never get personally involved on a case.” Well, clearly Gibbs has never worked in higher education, because there’s no way in which not to get personally involved when supporting and encouraging students. However, the general meaning of his rule still applies.

My perspective is that we can diligently create events and work to implement policies and procedures that support positive growth and change, but ultimately, if we do not make room to ‘let go’ of the process with regard to our own eager, sometimes stifling expectations, we only serve to limit our own professional growth and the authentic and collaborative manifestation of the goals we seek.

This winter and spring, I look forward to remaining committed to various projects, while also making a concerted effort to ‘let go’ of my personal vision for these projects in order to intentionally seek a shared vision from which its most effective impact will occur, and continue beyond the time frame of my own fellowship experience.

In what ways do you try and follow Gibbs’ Rule # 10?