Career Success Isn’t Always A Straight Path

I remember someone once told me, “If you don’t know what you want to do, just do what you’re good at…”

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When you’re a confused and impulsive 19-year-old with a year of community college under your belt and no declared major, that sounds like decent (enough) career advice. “Okay,” I thought. “Well, I’ve always gotten good grades in English, so I will be a Journalist! Okay, great! That didn’t take a lot of thought. Glad that’s settled.”

Fast forward 3 years later…. It’s 5 a.m. and I’m sitting in a chair behind a microphone in a radio station as a morning show co-host. Great right? I mean, not many people get to do that. My face was even plastered on the side of the city bus! I got a lot of free food from the local pizza shop as long as I spoke highly of them on the air. There were a lot of perks. Yet somehow, I felt myself growing aloof, and then resentful. I did my best to ignore those feelings.

I lasted 18 months and then I broke down. I felt like something was wrong with me. How could I be so bored with this? I had what other people considered to be a unique career, so how could I be unhappy? I felt guilty that I had made an irrational and impulsive decision because I didn’t want to take the time or face the anxiety associated with making career choices. One day I walked into my boss’s office and collapsed into tears.

Of course, because that boss is a caring mother and a compassionate person in general, she was understanding and genuinely empathetic of my situation. I will never forget how kind she was to me the day I left to begin the process I should’ve begun 3 years prior.

I was unemployed for the next year, and I won’t pretend that it wasn’t difficult. I sucked it up and worked some odd jobs while I saw a career counselor at a local agency. The whole process wasn’t as bad as I thought. It turns out, learning about yourself is kind of fun. I came to learn that my personality is extremely social, creative, and humanistic. I enjoy personal interaction and helping others.

The most ironic part of my career development is that I had such a positive experience with career counseling that I ended up pursuing a Master’s degree in School Counseling. There was a graduate assistantship opportunity to work as a career counselor in SRU’s Office of Career Education and Development, and I am pretty certain I was offered this position because I had a good understanding of the career development process, as I had just gone through all the steps and experienced the associated emotions in my own life. Working as a career counselor was truly rewarding, and for the first time in my entire life, I realized that you really can enjoy being at work.

I graduated with an M.Ed. in School Counseling in 2012 with a 4.0 GPA. I’m not trying to brag. I got all A’s because I found something I was passionate about, and I barely had to try for those grades (okay that’s a slight exaggeration), but it did come naturally because I loved what I was learning.

I am currently working as the Program Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County. I work with volunteers and families every day, and I get that social interaction that I enjoy. I have the satisfaction of helping others, and while I am not working as a school counselor, I am getting highly relevant experience and expanding my skill set into non-profit work, as well as case management that will most certainly benefit me if and when I do work in a school setting. I am happy in my current role. While I may have taken the long way, I feel that my mistakes really helped me to grow, but it certainly could’ve been avoided had I just done my exploration earlier.

I guess, what I am saying here is: do not try to take short cuts with your career. I can tell you from experience, it rarely just falls into your lap. Take the time to figure out who you are and what you care about and figure out how you can work that into a career. You’ll be working for a decent chunk of your life, and 40 hours a week is a long time to be miserable if you are in the wrong field. Take advantage of the SRU Office of Career Education and Development. I’m telling you, it doesn’t hurt. It’s actually enjoyable. Most of all, it’s extremely helpful and can save you a lot of grief. Tell them I sent you!

Taylor Gall, M.Ed

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Career Office stays afloat amid Severe Water Damage

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa – The Office of Career Education and Development experienced a catastrophic water intrusion the evening of Saturday the 26th and into the early morning hours of the following day. The leak, which began when a water supply line burst on the second floor of Bailey Library, likely continued for several hours during the overnight period. Bailey Library was closed to student traffic all day Sunday and until noon on Monday because all water supplies to the building had to be turned off and drained until the burst pipe could be repaired or at least isolated.

The damage was confined to the middle, south end of the library building, but on the main floor the water was so widespread that it encompassed nearly the entire Office of Career Education and Development. According to office director, John Rindy, of the nine personal work areas in the career office, five were badly damaged, two were moderately damaged and two encountered light damage. The office’s intern workstation and social media student worker stations were also affected as were all common areas, and files. At least two of the office’s computers in the student computer lab were destroyed along with several other personal workstations computers and desk phones.

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The career office cancelled all student and alumni appointments for Monday the 28th and Tuesday the 29th of April, but the career staff will see appointments beginning on Wednesday, April 30. According to Rindy, students should check in with the office’s secretary in the Job Location Development office which is located just outside the main career office door; a separate office area that did not sustain any damage. Once checked in, students with appointments will be shown to one of various areas in Bailey Library where career counselors will be located temporarily. “It is not the ideal situation but our friends in the Library and across campus have been so accommodating and compassionate in helping us serve our learners again, rather quickly,” said Rindy. The staff hopes to return to their office area sometime during the week of May 5th, once all building materials have been dried, and sanitized.

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Recruiters are coming for SRU Summer Job & Internship Fair

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – John Rindy, director of Slippery Rock University’s Career Education and Development Office, is telling students to polish their interview skills and head to the on-campus 2014 Summer Job and Internship Fair because “the recruiters are coming.”  The 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m., Feb. 20, event will be in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.

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“We have more than 70 companies, everyone from safety management to health services administration will have recruiters at the fair,” he said.

“The career fair is open to all majors. Students should arrive prepared to ask questions of employers, but they should also bring along enough resumes to leave with the employers that interest them,” he said.

The dress code is business casual. Those wearing athletic wear, shorts, T-shirts or any ripped clothes will be turned away, Rindy said. “Employers want to meet students who take the job fair seriously. They spend a lot of personal time and money to attend our fairs – they want to meet people who are prepared.”

“This particular job fair attracts companies offering summer jobs, internships and full time jobs, and so the attending organizations range from summer camps and YMCAs looking for counselors, to large national firms like PNC Bank, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Prudential and Georgia Pacific,” he said.

Rindy said attendees should:

  • Approach the job fair to make connections for jobs, not expecting to walk out with a job
  • Research the companies beforehand – never ask, “So, what does your company do?”
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Never walk around with your friends – for maximum effectiveness work independently
  • Try not to wait in long lines for preferred companies
  • Make a list of your top firms and the questions you will ask each potential employer
  • Never show up with your resume on regular white paper; only resume paper will do
  • Walk around the fair once to get a feel before you visit a specific employer
  • Ask a member of the career team for help before your first visit
  • Always register for the fair. Employers like students who are prepared and have printed name badges. It says to the employer, “I thought about and prepared for the job fair.”

Students can register at www.sru.edu/careerconnection on the events tab. A list of recruiters attending the fair is available at: www.sru.edu/career.

For more information call 724.738.2028.

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SRU Women’s Basketball Team Says “Etiquette is a Slam Dunk”

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The SRU Women’s Basketball Team poses with their coaches during a formal etiquette dinner presented by the SRU Career Team.

Slippery Rock, PA – The Slippery Rock University women’s basketball team spent part of their inter-term season learning about career development.  For the second year in a row, Coach Tanya Longa worked in conjunction with the SRU Career Education and Development team to bring a career message to her players.

This year, first year players received an introduction to career development, learning the things that they need to be thinking about accomplishing, outside the classroom, to assure a great start to their careers.  Another session brought the entire team together for a presentation on networking, LinkedIn and the importance of building a network of professionals with hiring influence.  The winter career development series culminated with an etiquette dinner.

During the etiquette dinner, presented by John Rindy and Riley Rocci from the SRU Office of Career Education and Development, the players learned about the history of various etiquette practices, the role of the host during a formal business or social meal, as well as how to navigate the table setting, use utensils, the order of the meal, examples of poor etiquette and how to handle unusual circumstances while at dinner.

The Career Education and Development team frequently works with various teams, organizations and majors to present learning sessions that are customized with a particular message.

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The Career Path of a Rock Master’s Degree Graduate

By Laura Hilliker, MA, ‘13

A Rock Solid grad helps others to achieve their college dreams.

A Rock Solid grad now helps others to achieve their dreams of a college education and a great career.

In May 2013, I graduated with my Master of Arts in Community Counseling from Slippery Rock University. During my time at Slippery Rock, I worked as a Graduate Assistant (GA) Career Counselor in the Office of Career Education and Development. I remain in the career counseling field today and keep in touch with the staff members in the office, including Mr. John Snyder, Associate Director of Career Education and Development, who invited me to write about my new job at Kent State University, since it is a unique position.

First, I want to share some of my background that will be helpful in understanding my career path thus far. My Bachelor of Science in Psychology is from Clarion University. During my first semester as a graduate student, I met with John Snyder, for a resume review. During one of our meetings, John told me that the office was seeking a Graduate Assistant Career Counselor for the spring semester. Although I wanted to apply, I lacked confidence in my knowledge and abilities. I wondered how I could possibly be useful to students when I felt lost myself concerning my career path. I decided not to apply, and throughout the entire spring semester, I regretted this decision.

Towards the end of the spring semester, another GA position opened up in the office for the next year. I promised myself that I was going to apply this time and take the risk of not getting the position. I applied, interviewed, and was hired a few weeks later. Working as a GA for one year opened my eyes to the field of higher education and career counseling, thus altering my career path. It was through that experience that I uncovered my passion for working with the college student population, specifically in a career counseling capacity. I took a risk and it paid off!

At the time, students in the community counseling program could choose one of three concentrations: youth counseling, additions counseling, and adult counseling. (Now, gerontology and college counseling are offered as well.) With the help of my professors and faculty advisor, I chose the adult concentration but took my elective courses in the student affairs program, a program designed for individuals pursuing careers in university settings, such as academic advising or residential services. In addition, I completed an internship at Carnegie Mellon’s Career and Professional Development Center as a Career Counseling Intern.  As an intern, I met with students in the Humanities College assisting them with resume writing, cover letter writing, interview preparation, job searching techniques, and career exploration, all of which were tasks I also performed as a GA at Slippery Rock. In addition, I helped plan career-related programs and gave presentations on topics such as professional networking. I made sure I took advantage of every opportunity available to me, such as presenting at a national conference and organizing employer-related events. This initiative allowed me to gain experiences I would otherwise not have had if I did not constantly ask my supervisor, “What else can I do?”

I will not delve into the details of my job search, however, I will share that being open-minded regarding location and the type of positions helped me tremendously. At first, I was seeking only career counseling positions in higher education and was focusing on positions primarily in western PA. Eventually, I started searching outside of PA and for other positions in higher education, including academic advising. I came across my current position at Kent State University while searching online. At a first glance, I was not captured by the position. Academic advising was not exactly what I wanted to do as my first job. However, as I skimmed the job description, I felt as though the position was created for me. The Department of Psychology at Kent State was seeking an Academic Advisor and Internship Coordinator. Therefore, a background in psychology and career counseling was required. If I did not open my job search, this position would not have been on my radar. Fortunately, I applied, was hired, and started in July 2013. This brings me to the description of my current position and what makes it unique.

Laura Hilliker, '13, Counseling and Development alumnus works with an undergraduate student in her advisory role at Kent State University.

Laura Hilliker, ’13, Counseling and Development alumnus works with an undergraduate student in her advisory role at Kent State University.

Typically, academic advisors are hired by academic advising centers and career counselors are hired by career centers. However, a new trend has emerged in higher education to hire departmental advisors, hybrid positions combining academic advising and career counseling. As an Academic Advisor and Internship Coordinator for the Department of Psychology, my role is to meet the academic needs of the 950 psychology undergraduate students and provide career guidance as they travel through their academic experience.

I meet with students daily and discuss the following types of concerns:  major and minor requirements, graduation requirements, career goals, career options, graduate school programs, research and internship opportunities, and on-campus involvement. In addition, I plan events and programs for psychology students that are relevant to their career development, such as presentations on resume writing and graduate school options in psychology. Also, in order to increase volunteer and internship opportunities for students, I network with local employers in the region and collaborate with staff members at different offices on campus, such as the Academic Advising Center and the Career Center.

My job search was challenging, as it is for most people. I had to make difficult personal decisions while at the same time try to make the best professional decisions. I plunged out of my comfort zone by moving away from my family and friends, and starting a unique position that was new for the department. I am still adjusting to these newly charted waters, but I could not be happier with my decision. Two things I would like to recommend as parting thoughts:

1.)     Cultivate professional relationships. Whether it is a professor, internship supervisor, or someone you met at a conference, keep in touch with individuals that influence you in a positive way. The professional relationships I made along the way helped me through the several decisions I had to make as a graduate student and the challenging months of job searching. I still keep in touch with professors at Slippery Rock, as well as staff members I worked with as a GA at The Rock and as an intern at Carnegie Mellon.

2.)     Lean on your support system at The Rock.  As an undergraduate student, you have access to staff members at the career center, academic advising center, residence halls, and elsewhere willing to guide you with your career and academic decisions. I wish I would have taken advantage of these resources as an undergraduate student instead of trying to figure things out alone. I can confidently state that the staff members at the Office of Career Education and Development are helpful and approachable. Make an appointment if you have some questions about your major or job search—you never know where it will take you. I know I didn’t.

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It’s Fair Time and it is Still Freezing Outside.

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The Summer Job and Internship Fair will attract more than 70 companies seeking to hire interns, summer help and full time employees, on February 20, 2014.

Slippery Rock, PA – The Office of Career Education and Development has been preparing for their annual Summer Job and Internship Fair.  This year’s event will be held on February 20th in the ballroom and theater, on the third floor of the Robert M. Smith Student Center, and will attract over 70 companies, organizations, and camps.  In recent years, the fair has been welcoming greater numbers of employers offering a broader array of opportunities.  “The history of this fair has been focused upon summer jobs and internships and it continues to be just that.  But in recent years, we have seen companies taking advantage of the event to offer full time permanent work to students who plan to graduate at the end of the spring semester,” noted John Rindy, director for the career education office.

As in 2012, the fair will be split into two separate events including the main fair, to be held in the ballroom area and the Exercise and Rehabilitative Sciences Summer Job and Internship Fair which will be held in the theater.  Job location development assistant Cathy Fuhs noted about the two fairs, “Even though the employers and students register for these fairs through different links, they are still permitted to attend either part of the fair with their badges.  The reason we split the fair last year is in response to rehabilitative science employers who had been asking for a more intimate, one-on-one encounter opportunity with our students in those areas – and we certainty have a good number of students in those majors.  Having the theater and the ballroom on the same floor allows us to accomplish this.”

The fairs will attract over 70 employers and close to 400 student job and internship seekers – students from other area colleges are also invited to attend the event.  The fairs run from 11:45 AM until 2:00 PM.  Employers and students can pre-register for the event through the SRU Career Connection System at http://www.sru.edu/careerconnection.  Student registration will be activated in mid-January for SRU students.  Students from other schools are welcome as walk-ins and should bring their current college ID.

The event cannot accommodate employer walk-ins, but will accommodate student walk-ins, though pre-registration is encouraged for SRU students so that each student has a printed name badge for the fairs.

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SRU Career Team Wishes the Best of the Holidays

career teamThe team from the Office of Career Education and Development wishes a strong finish to the semester and a safe and joy-filled holiday season to our students and to the staff and faculty of Slippery Rock University.  To our employer partners, our deepest gratitude for supporting the career pathways of our students.

The SRU Career Team includes: (bottom center) Ingrid Beute, GA Career Counselor; (from left, seated) John Snyder, Associate Director; Jessica Schwabenbauer and Julie Novotny, GA Career Counselors; Cathy Fuhs, Job Location Development Secretary; Renee Coyne, Assistant Director; Mikayla Cowan, Emily Sivak and Cheyanne Crevar; Student Assistants; Aubrey Rader, GA Career Counselor; Lisa Theodorson, Office Manager; (standing, rear left) John Rindy, Office Director.

Thank you for allowing us to serve you! All the best for a great 2014!

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