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

Listening-blog post

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!

 

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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.

tswift2

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.

source

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.

Fake Break

By Kristen Aquilino, International Career Fellow

Elon students have been enjoying a quick reprieve between having finished their Winter Term this past Tuesday and prior to beginning the Spring Semester tomorrow. During “Fake Break” some students choose to head home, others are using that time to relax around campus (especially those whose travel was challenged by the weather up north), and we’ve even received word of students who are using this time to … drum roll please… apply to jobs! We’re always happy to get that report 🙂

Not only is Elon’s Fake Break a good time for students to get some rest and prepare for the next semester, but it is also a great opportunity for faculty and staff to do some of those things we’ve been meaning to accomplish, like clean our desks, finalize syllabi and even attend some trainings and professional development meetings that we would not have time for during the semester. So, amidst the organizing, planning and preparation for the coming semester, Amber, Danielle and I also took part in some awesome learning opportunities.

AllyTraining

This past Tuesday, the SPDC team participated in an Ally Training. Matthew Antonio Bosch, the Director of Elon’s Gender and LGBTQIA Center, led the training and educated us about the latest identity terminology and LGBTQIA history, and guided us in discussion about real-life scenarios.  It was an important, interactive and informative training. You can follow the Gender and LGBTQIA Center on Facebook and Twitter to learn more!

WWWLuncheonFollowing up to Tuesday, the three fellows and our colleague Aisha Mitchell drove to the Alamance County Women’s Resource Center where we attended a Working Women’s Wednesday luncheon. Guest speaker, Alexandra Zagbayou, shared about her role as High School Program Director of Student U in Durham. Through sharing her story and describing her work, Alexandra challenged everyone in the room to think critically about our society and what we are doing to build stronger individuals and communities through education.  You can follow Student U on Facebook and Twitter to learn more!

Today is the last day of Fake Break and classes begin tomorrow.  Have a great start to the spring semester and we’ll check in soon!

First Things First

By Danielle Golinski, Career Advising Fellow

This past week has consisted of a lot of firsts (and last firsts – if that even makes sense!):

  • My first independent conversation with a parent.
  • My first conversation with an alum.
  • My first conversation with a campus staff member about their next step in their career journey.
  • My last class of my first Winter Term where I co-taught a Transition Strategies “Life After Elon” class with my co-fellow Amber.
  • And, I finished my first time being a part of a book club and committing myself to 3 weeks of conversation and reflection on the book 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup. (All I can say about this book is, wow!)

What have all of these experiences shown me? That I can actually do a lot, and that my time as a Fellow continues to develop as my dabbling continues to grow, and as long as people continue to look for support and guidance with their futures, my name always has the potential of being passed around. Fortunately, it is a very good reason for my name (smiles!) which is increasing my network as well (cue, more smiles).thumbsup

It is very exciting! And do you know what else I have discovered? I have enjoyed every single aspect of these diverse conversations (all of them just happening to fit within a weeks’ time). It is these experiences that I have listed above and many others (can refer to Amber’s post below) that continues to provide me with firsthand experience in career services every single day. It also reminds me that a lot of people have the same concerns: that they want to be successful in their future (or for their child to have a successful future). A common thread I recognized between all three of these individuals (and the students in my Transition Strategies class) is that of motivation. If an individual is willing to self-motivate regarding their future, other beneficial things will come down the pipeline as well: Preparation, time-management, focus, and determination. This is an effective formula. If a person is willing to make a change regarding their future, they must first find motivation (most likely from within). It starts to “stir the pot”, gets “the juices flowing”. The end result? Results! The worst case scenario? At least a step in a direction (even if it is not in the right direction).

I also look forward to my weekend commitments as I will be experiencing my first men’s basketball game of my time while here at Elon and my first theater production for this year from Elon’s talented group of theater majors. I continue to dive headfirst into both my professional and personal experiences while at Elon. North Carolina continues to amaze me, and as my fellowship ends in May, I am making sure that every moment counts, whether it is going to be my first or my last moment.

Tis the Season for New Year’s Resolutions

By: Amber McCraw, Career Advising Fellow

Welcome to 2015 – what an exciting time it is!  Tis the season for setting goals, reflecting on the past year, and making fresh starts.  Obviously, you can do these things at any point during the year, but the start of a new year is a natural time to for this process to occur.  So, let’s talk about New Year’s Resolutions.

This past year was the first year that I was actually successful in sticking to my New Year’s Resolution.  I am 24 years old, so why was this the first time in 24 years that I was able to keep my resolution?  I set a goal that was simple, but necessary: Have a more positive outlook on life.

At the beginning of 2014, I was starting my last semester of graduate school at the University of Georgia in College Student Affairs Administration.  I knew it was going to be a busy semester and first half of the year between studying for and taking the comprehensive exam, working 20+ hours per week in my assistantship with University Housing, finishing up my academic work, job searching, and spending as much time as possible with my friends before we all went our separate ways.

So, was it easy to maintain a positive outlook at all times?  Absolutely not – let’s be honest. I certainly encountered challenges along the way.  How did I do it?

If you ask most people how they are doing, they will likely respond with “fine,” “good,” or “well.”  I chose to respond with “Delightful!” It sets a positive tone and I believe that positivity and happiness are contagious.  To further spread the positivity, I made it a point to write notes of encouragement to my friends and the students I worked with randomly throughout the year. After a particularly challenging part of the year, I followed a trend on Instagram (#100happydays) and posted a photo a day for 100 days about something that made me happy each day. It was encouraging to notice the small things in life that brought a smile to my face.  Lastly, I am of the opinion that everything happens for a reason and I tried to reframe any challenges and obstacles that I encountered to find the silver lining.

As a result, people that I’ve met since the start of 2014 have commented on how much they appreciate my positivity, positivity is now one of my top 5 Strengths according to StrengthsFinder, friends seek encouragement from me, and personally, I have learned to complain less, which has made a huge difference.

Resolutions can be personal or professional.  For 2015, one of my resolutions falls on the professional side.  I absolutely love this fellowship, but come May, it will be ending.  I resolve to find another position that is both fulfilling and fun.  In addition, I resolve to be patient in this search as it may take a while to find the right fit.

What are your professional resolutions?  Maybe you want to take more vacation time, find another position that more closely aligns with your values, spend more time with your colleagues, make more professional connections, engage with social media more often, or start a new project at work.  Whatever it is, resolve to do it and stick with it!  It may be challenging or it may scare you a little, but that’s the beauty of it.  You’ll be so proud of yourself when 2016 rolls around.

Happy New Year!  Make 2015 both meaningful and memorable!

Perks of a Partnership

By: Amber McCraw, Career Advising Fellow

As someone who enjoys working with other people, one of the things that I have most enjoyed about the fellowship thus far is that it is a joint effort between Danielle, Kristen, and I. It was one of the characteristics that initially drew me to this position. Why, you may ask?

In a society that values individual contributions, achievements, and accomplishments, I think we sometimes forget about the value of teamwork and partnerships. Below are some of the perks that I’ve experienced:

  • Diversity of strengths and experiences: Each of us has our own unique experiences and strengths. When we are working, we’ve learned that three heads (and sets of hands) are better than one. There are 3 of us to split up the work, 3 of us to brainstorm ideas, and 3 of us to bring those ideas to fruition. The diversity in our experiences, ideas, and strengths allow us to have a larger impact on the students around us.
  • Source of affirmation, accountability, and advice: My teammates have been a constant source of affirmation, accountability, and advice. After a long week of work when I’ve felt exhausted, my teammates have reminded me of why I love my work and the impact it has on others.  Similarly, they are around to bounce ideas off of and to offer advice when I am facing a challenge in my work. Lastly, we hold each other accountable. By this, I mean that we remind each other of deadlines and assignments, but more so, we remind each other to make time for ourselves and to take a break when it’s needed for work/life balance.
  • Opportunities for education: Danielle, Kristen and I came to this position with different backgrounds: Danielle in Counseling, Kristen in International Work, and myself in Student Affairs.  As a result, we process information through different lenses, have varied interests, and can teach each other along the way. Similarly, we are each focused on different topics, projects, and student populations on campus. In this respect, we can reach out to each other with questions concerning those areas and I have the opportunity to constantly educate myself because of the people around me.
  • Friends to share the journey with! Danielle and Kristen have become two people that I am thrilled to call genuine friends in a professional setting, but also in a personal and social setting. The three of us were new to the Elon area and new to the field of Career Services at the beginning of this fellowship. Together, we are exploring the Elon/Burlington area where we reside, making friends across campus, navigating the nuances of a completely new experience, and creating memories along the way!

I see and understand the value in partnering with others in the work environment as it has been a tremendous benefit throughout this fellowship. Find ways to partner with others in your work – you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

 

Danielle, Kristen, and I promoting the Student Professional Development Center at the Fall Organization Fair.

Danielle, Kristen, and I promoting the Student Professional Development Center at the Fall Organization Fair.