You Hate Your Job. Now What?

I’m a big fan of James Franco. I may have named my first car Franco in his honor. As a fan, I’m not saying I support or agree with all of his work, but I find him intriguing. I especially like his performance in Spider-Man 3 as Harry Osborne, but that’s a story for another day.

James FrancoI’m also a big fan of people having jobs that bring them joy, but I realize that often we’re in jobs where we’re not satisfied. What do we do when this happens?

A few weeks ago, I was reading an article about when Franco worked in McDonald’s as he was beginning his career as an actor. In his op-ed Washington Post article, he states, “All I know is that when I needed McDonald’s, McDonald’s was there for me. When no one else was.” In the article, Franco talks about how working at McDonald’s in Los Angeles was a decent job for him as he was starting his career as an actor. Franco also talks about how he used different accents with customers, from Southern to Irish to Brooklynese. The accents were quite convincing, and helped him practice acting as he was trying to launch his career.

I’m not saying I recommend talking in fake accents to people or dropping out of college, as Franco dropped out of UCLA to pursue his career in acting. (He did later return to UCLA and graduated.) And there is valid criticism about Franco’s McDonald’s experience, which I’ll discuss. However, there are certain things Franco did during his time at McDonald’s which could be helpful for any student or recent graduate working a job that is not ideal for them.

  1. Developing strengths. We often talk with students about identifying their strengths and learning how to put them to use. Franco knew he had a knack for acting, and so he worked on developing how to speak with different accents during his time at McDonald’s. He identified a strength – acting – and worked to improve it, all in the context of McDonald’s. Even when working jobs we don’t like, we may be able to harness our strengths by thinking outside the box.
  2. Valuing current work. Often, it’s easy not to appreciate the work in which we’re currently employed, especially if we see a job only as a stepping stone. Of course, the job may be a stepping stone, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the work as unimportant. Jobs like the ones Franco had at McDonald’s are so important. They help people develop time-management skills, communication skills, and problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, we often dismiss some jobs as being more important than others, when all jobs usually have a purpose. Perhaps write a list of what you do value at your current workplace, and see how you can live out those values.
  3. Using free time well. Even as Franco was working at McDonald’s, he tried to use his free time to look for acting gigs, and he talks about how he was able to get a gig. Not everyone has the privilege of having much free time outside of work, but when you do come across it, use it well. Try to network with people in careers you are interested in pursuing and look for hiring opportunities.

Whether you like McDonald’s or not, reflect on Franco’s experience, and critically analyze it as well. Times have changed since Franco worked for McDonald’s in 1996, including that the cost of college has risen. Tsedeye Gebreselassie from the National Employment Law Project stated in an article in CNN Money, “It’s a real privilege to do what [James Franco] did, just work a few months and leave when he wanted to.” Many people who work at McDonald’s are in much different situations than Franco, discussed in another op-ed by Lydia DePillis speaking to how McDonald’s workers should be paid better.

I’m not saying all of us will reach the same stardom as James Franco. However, we can try to find joy and satisfaction in our jobs by seeing the value in what we do and using our strengths during the course of the work day. Find the parts of the job you do like, and learn how you can do more of those things. Analyze what Franco did, and see what could apply to your current situation.

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Fall-ing Into Your Transferable Skills

Happy-Fall-Yall

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

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

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

Holistic Understanding

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

Using Empathy

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

Establishing Rapport

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

Listening

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GoTwinter isHereBy: Rachael Rysz, Career Advising Fellow

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

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

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

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

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

Do: Form Strong Alliances

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

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

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

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.

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

RachaelRyszheadshot1

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

home-stretch

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

        Vicky.png

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.