Current Job Title:
Director of Career Services
Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)
Describe your current job:
As a Director of Career Services, I manage a small office that has a Career Specialist and an Administrative Assistant. CCAC has four campuses and four centers and serves more than 45,000 students a year (credit and noncredit). I primarily work at our North Campus and also manage Career Services at our West Hills Center, the only Center that produces graduates. I supervise and provide yearly evaluations to staff and work on a yearly budget. I order and purchase supplies, attend many meetings, collaborate with all offices on-campus to provide a wholesome experience for students, alumni and community members, as well as provide work study requests, approvals, and evaluations. I work closely with faculty and if there’s a Co-Op that a student wants to do for credit, I also work with those requests by finding opportunities for the student to work, manage the paperwork and working with the deans for approvals.
I also work with a platform called College Central (www.collegecentral.com/ccac), a job and internship portal for students, alumni and community members, where employers can post positions. We manage our job fairs through College Central; I approve employers for the fairs, share job postings with faculty and students, and promote marketing provided by College Central to encourage everyone to join it for free to engage on our site. As a Director, I work with Career Link to review and submit High Priority Occupations (HPOs) in our region, annually.
I created and manage our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media pages through HootSuite. I also take care of all marketing materials needed, college-wide, as well as create a newsletter for distribution each month, also college-wide. Additionally, I serve on Academic Discipline Advisory Boards, facilitate classroom presentations on our services; plan, organize and provide bi-annual, multi-day job fairs, work closely with employers and community partners, as well as collaborate in-house with our college partners as well as outside of CCAC for the department and/or as a college representative. I am also the Co-Advisor for the World Cultures Club and also for Women on a Mission.
Since I started in July 2019, I have developed many new programs and initiatives for the college like a Men’s Career Closet while partnering with Dress for Success for our Job Fairs and referrals throughout the year. Career Fair prep events like ResuMANIA, which is an all-day resume review day with snacks provided to help get people ready with their resumes for the fair. I took what was a one day job fair and turned it into a multi-day job fair that was more strategic by industry and providing more access to employers from a wider range of organizations and companies. For International Education Week, I planned a Global Org Tour where companies with an international presence came to the college and we made paper passports that we stamped with fun/global stamps and made international themed baskets for the prizes. Many other ideas are coming down the pike from possible sponsorship opportunities, a stress-free career zone idea, employers in residence program, workshop ideas tailored to diverse groups, and developing a possible club in collaboration with our Young Professionals group in the area for active networking opportunities, panels and speakers engagements.
Along with my Career Specialist, we both help students, alumni and people in the community craft resumes, cover letters, conduct mock interviews, internships and job search assistance, building LinkedIn profiles, developing elevator pitches and networking while also maintaining scheduled appointments, drop-in appointments, and even virtual appointments and office hours via ZOOM. We also produce weekly reports and make sure we input appointments in CRM Advise as well and manage our appointments in a platform called Appointment Central.
This role is definitely one that is wearing many hats and I’m learning so much. We are currently restructuring Career Services college-wide, so it’ll be interesting to see what we come up with as we move forward with all the changes as we move toward a one-college model.
What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is who I get to work with every day and also working with all the students, alumni and community members. What’s unique about working at a community college is that we work with everyone, regardless if they are taking a class at CCAC or not. We work with people who walk in and need our help. When I interviewed for this position, I was told I could build it up from scratch, which I did, and it was well received from everywhere. I got a lot of positive feedback and they like the new, fresh ideas. Being the creative type that I am, program planning and innovation and making something that I can say I created is very exciting!
The most challenging would be the current restructuring of the office. It takes a lot of time, attention to detail, and thoughtful processing to help create something new and innovative while working with limited resources. We have limited staffing, and it’s also challenging to build a one-college model when there are four campuses and four centers to think about. I have three other directors that I’m working on this with, and it’s been an all-encompassing project but with better days ahead, it’ll be interesting to see what the changes will show. Going virtual was not a challenge (for me) but for some it was; the social distancing is challenging because we’re social as humans, but these new virtual options have expanded Career Services to provide accessibility in ways that haven’t been tapped as much before, so that’s exciting all while dealing with the quirks that come with it.
What experiences impacted the choice of your career path?
Having a graduate assistantship with Career and Student Employment Services at Western Michigan University (WMU) helped me to definitely prepare for my career! I also knew I wanted to work in higher education from the time I first interned at my undergraduate alma mater, Robert Morris University's study abroad office. I think something that I sincerely appreciate is seeing how 'career' can be integrated in every piece of a student's development at an institution. The global initiatives excite me greatly, but seeing how they are appreciated, and needed, in career are really incredible. I'm so glad I had my graduate assistantship at WMU, it really created a foundation for me and I'm so grateful to have had that opportunity.
What advice would you offer students to help them decide on a career path?
Deciding on a career path can be challenging, especially if you have a variety of interests. I advise students to take advantage of job shadowing and informational interviewing to learn more about company cultures and how people got the jobs that they did. Attend any networking event that involves not only employers, but also alumni, because they have a higher level of commitment of giving back to students at their alma maters. Employers who come for information sessions can be great resources too, and students should take advantage of those opportunities to have employers who come to campus to talk with them about internships and jobs at those companies. Internships can also be a great way for students to decide on a career path. It's never too early or too late to have one either and the more you have, the better prepared you'll be for working in a company or organization. You'll soon see that picking a major is not nearly as important as choosing a career. There are a variety of people who work at the same company or organization that have similar jobs, but started in very different majors so I wouldn't get hung-up too much on what you major in (unless you’re in a discipline like Engineering where you need that curriculum to thrive). Get as much experience first through taking on leadership positions on-campus, studying/interning abroad if you can, taking on several internships, doing research, and networking through professional development opportunities from job shadows to conferences. Ask questions! It's important to always ask questions about the person, from what education did they receive, to what professional organizations they are a part of, to learning about a company's culture and what they like or dislike about working there. Students can get worried about networking, but it's really just having conversations with people. Think of it as 'information gathering.' And even more so, remember that every successful person started just where you are right now and built their way up, so don't be too intimidated. Most employers and alumni are very eager to help you to succeed and would be more than willing to answer your questions.