The teachable moment: Confessions of a retiring career counselor

Its spring break at UCSB and the living is easy. Our schedules are light so there is time to languish with a particularly bright but clueless student on Drop Ins. The building had been closed this morning so I have been mostly in my office going through files as I prepare for my June retirement.

She comes into the career resource room, with resume and cover letter in hand, sits down pulls out a pen and a pad of paper and asks me to take a look at what she has written and offer suggestions. What she presents is not bad, her writing is crisp and to the point. She presents herself in value adding ways that don’t sound made up or disingenuous but born out of hard work and experience. She uses her cover letter space wisely, only alluding to the resume by highlighting two projects she completed in college. She makes nice use of bullets to make her cover letter appear briefer than it really is and her resume has similar appeal going into greater detail about her skills, work experience and leadership experiences. All in all she was a pretty busy girl and would be great in most any situation where she could organize, manage people and budgets, meet deadlines, prepare documentation. She sounded like a natural for project management or events planning.

I was going to ask her but then I guessed that she was looking for a job as an administrative assistant. She was pleased that I had pin pointed her career ambitions so accurately. We started going through my recommendations which were rather benign given what I am used to seeing from a first time resume writer. She needed to tone down the chirpy-ness. The first paragraph in her cover letter had three sentences and she used excited and enthusiastic before the last period. I said it made her sound too young, almost like a cheerleader, to which she grinned and once again was awed by my insight.

We walked over to the computers and I pulled up the job description for Project Manager and went through the job responsibilities with her one and one and asked her if she had experience doing that and she nodded yes quite a few times. Then I pulled up actual job vacancies for project manager on and she soon realized that a project manager gets paid a heck of a lot more than an administrative assistance hoping to get noticed and moved up the ranks by a boss who couldn’t be bothered.

…folks, we were off to the races…

Her eyes were wide and her smile was lighting up the room. She was on to something or she at least she was really glad she had found me on a lazy spring break afternoon with time to kill. Meanwhile our Career Resource Manager and fellow Career Counselor Maya Salmon walked into the room. I asked her to pull up on another computer the Certificate program in Project Management offered at UCSB Extension Program. Suffice to say that by the end of our time together she realized how much she was under valuing her experience and that with a little more grooming she would prepare herself for jobs that had more challenge and financial potential than the one she had actually settled on. We pulled up assistant project manager jobs on several internet sites, with her experience it was a more reasonable job title and she was pleased to see the variety of industries and organizations that call for project managers. She also knows that if she remains interested in this as a long term profession she can pursue certification at her Alma Mater.

She left the career resource room 45 minutes later with 4 assignments:
1. Go home and go online to find out all about project management, what it is, who does it, what are the job prospects for the future, starting salaries, etc.
2. Go to the UCSB Career Manual and look at the two pages of Skills Sets (pp. 35 & 53) and begin to connect those words with the words used to describe what project managers do in the online research and job vacancies she has looked at.
3. Take our two standard career assessments, the MBTI and the Strong Interest Inventory online and return in a week for an interpretation of the results.
4. Redo her resume and cover letter just enough to tailor it more closely to what would attract interviews for assistant project manager positions.

When she walked out she said her heart was beating fast because she had a much better idea of how to proceed with her job search and she knew by coming back she would only learn more. She had learned enough for one day

What happened during that time was a career counselor’s dream, to be able to, with just a few suggestions, give someone an idea as to how they should proceed with their job search. To see the look in their eyes that demonstrates they get it! Well that’s what they call…the teachable moment…or Confessions of a retiring Career Counselor.

LilyMaestas20Blog Written by Lily Maestas, Career Counselor. Lily will be retiring in June after over 30 years of service to UCSB!