By Elizabeth Exline
When Natalie Fewell decided to go back to school to pursue her bachelor’s degree in 2018, she did so with a clear objective: career enhancement. “I [felt that] if I didn’t go back to school for my bachelor’s, the good jobs wouldn’t pop up,” she says.
Fewell had already earned her associate degree in 2015, and she had plenty of professional experience working in both medical records and assisted-living facilities. But she wanted to move into administrative work, and she saw the Bachelor of Science in Health Administration as the path to get there.
Fewell successfully completed her degree in November 2020, but by the beginning of 2021, it occurred to her that maybe the degree wasn’t enough. Maybe, she thought, she needed to learn how to leverage both her skills and her education to get the job she wanted.
“I thought to myself, ‘Look at yourself. Yes, you got your bachelor’s degree, but where’s the good job?’” she says.
And that’s where Career Services at University of Phoenix (UOPX) entered the picture. Fewell connected with Carla Hunter, a 21-year veteran career advisor who says the reason she’s good at what she does is her commitment to client success.
“What makes me effective is not that I have the highest credentials, but primarily it’s because I care,” Hunter explains.
So how does caring translate into a partnership that empowers the client in his or her job search? Read on to learn more about what career advisors do and why every student needs one.
Simply put, a career advisor is a person who helps clients “make the best decisions for [their] career[s] and ensure [their] success,” explains Handshake.com, a career networking service designed for college students and graduates just starting their careers.
For Hunter, achieving that objective requires exploring three key factors for every client:
1. Experience: Where have you worked, what have you studied during your education and which skills do you have? Answers to these questions help outline a plan forward.
2. Goals and interests: Where do you want to be? What do you enjoy? This part is important, Hunter notes, “because there are a lot of people out there right now who are very proficient in their skills, but they’re miserable.”
3. Values: What drives you? What work environment will enable you to thrive?
The other part of the job, Hunter notes, is tailoring this discussion to each person. For example, a client might be interested in teaching but think it’s a poor career choice because they’ve heard it leads to burnout.
“A lot of people listen to what other people say about careers and assume that what they say must be true for them,” Hunter explains, “and it’s not.”
In Fewell’s case, she knew where she wanted to go and had the education, but she needed help getting her resumé and cover letter in order and making a plan. She also needed a certain level of moral support.
Fewell is the type of person who overcomes natural shyness with attention to detail, who is ambitious but prefers quiet tenacity over bold, brash actions. This type of personality often finds the self-promotion part of looking for a job about as much fun as getting a root canal.
“My clients tend to be extremely hard on themselves,” Hunter observes. “They tend to be their own very harsh inner critic.” So, Hunter focuses on calling out the negative self-talk that can derail a job search. And she works to affirm the valuable skills and qualities each client has to offer. This, she says, is almost as important as getting the resumé right.
An advisor can help you engage in career exploration, figure out the right career path for you and guide you toward developing the collateral resources you need for a successful job search.
An advisor cannot get you a great job. That’s the student's or client’s responsibility.
“The number-one misconception is that [clients] think we are resumé writers who write the resumé for them without their participation,” Hunter says.
While it can be tempting to wish for that magic-wand approach to finding a job, it’s like paying someone to write your college papers for you in school. You may get a good grade on the assignment, but you’re poorer in experience and skills because of it.
Hunter says: “Once we partner together, clients learn how to do it on their own in the future. … They become the experts of their own careers.”
Career advisors confer this knowledge in a number of ways, including:
While career advisors won’t write your resumé for you, they will help you spruce it up. They routinely teach clients how to pepper a resumé with the right keywords so that it makes it through applicant tracking systems, which are software applications that sift through resumés and applications on behalf of employers.
“Applicant tracking systems are not human beings, so what unfortunately ends up happening is that software weeds out a ton of tremendous talent,” Hunter explains.
The other half of a winning resumé? The cover letter. Despite the best efforts of our hashtag-driven culture, cover letters do still matter — and career advisors can show clients how to write the kind of letter that gets noticed.
Fewell can attest to the efficacy of this assistance. “The one day I sent off my resumé to the company where I am now, I got a call back within 24 hours,” she says. This is not a guarantee, of course, but it does point to the power of good advising.
Interviewing is, without a doubt, one of the most anxiety-provoking parts of a job search. So, often, career advisors find themselves advising clients on how to do it well and authentically.
“[Carla Hunter] has taught me to be myself and be calm whenever I’m interviewing,” Fewell explains. That has been one of the biggest rewards of the overall experience, she says.
Advisors can approach interview anxiety in a number of ways, including:
1. Reframing the situation: Most people consider an interview performance time — they have to convince a potential employer they are the right candidate for a job, which understandably leads to nervousness. But Hunter points out that there is anxiety on the part of the prospective employer too. “What I try to do is empower the student or alum or client by [showing] that there is anxiety on the other side of the table,” Hunter says. “The employer [is wondering], ‘Is this the right person? Will this person be a fit? Will I be able to see the retention of this person, because training is expensive, and I don’t want to go through all of this only to see them leave.’” The key, Hunter adds, is recognizing the anxiety so you can minimize it and achieve clarity around what each person wants and whether the other person at that interview can provide it.
2. Emphasizing preparation: There’s no substitute for being prepared. In addition to having your resumé and portfolio ready, job seekers need to have all their ducks in a row for every interview. For virtual interviews, that means getting comfortable with the technology; having a quiet, distraction-free space to take the call; and spending time getting the angles and lighting right on your camera. For in-person interviews, that means having a professional outfit at the ready and knowing where to go and how much time you’ll need to get there.
3. Conducting mock interviews: The other part of preparation involves having a few standard interview answers down pat. And the key to achieving that, Hunter says, is practicing. The goal is to have a direct and succinct answer to such questions as, “Tell me about yourself,” and, “Why would you be a good fit for this role?” Answering clearly and quickly — without going off on tangents — helps set you up for a successful meeting.
Sometimes, college students select a major because they know how they can parley it into the career they want. Other times, they plan their education based on aptitude or interest — and assume a career will follow.
Either way, Fewell says, career guidance can help “connect the dots between a degree and a job.”
Career advisors maintain industry knowledge about job growth in various fields. More importantly, though, they can advise clients how to find that information themselves. This idea of empowering a client to sit in the driver’s seat of their career and professional development is central to a productive relationship between the career advisor and the student or alum.
Remember the part about hashtags? Well, they actually matter too.
“I think what’s beginning to explode with the younger generation is how we can use Instagram to our advantage,” Hunter says.
Using hashtags is one way to both look for jobs and position yourself for employment, she explains. On LinkedIn®, job seekers can search for roles using hashtags like #nowhiring, #hiring and even #remotework.
It’s important to periodically look for jobs (even if you’re not actively searching) because career exploration helps you stay abreast of market trends.
Beyond that, LinkedIn is a great place to network and even become a passive job seeker. That means, when you build out your profile with the right information and keywords, recruiters can find and approach you with career options.
UOPX’s team of highly credentialed career advisors helps hundreds of students and alumni each month, complementing the school's academic advisors in a critical way.
Through the school's student portal, MyPhoenix, students and alumni can click on “Career Resources” to review available advisors and then request a 30-minute appointment with the advisor of their choice.
The availability of Career Services for Life® is something Hunter points to as unique among schools. New and current students not only have access to career advisors, but they also can leverage that service after they graduate and for as long as they need it.
For Fewell, the career guidance she received at UOPX has made a world of difference. She recently accepted a position with a major insurance company and continues to work with Hunter to strategize her career development.
“For any student out there who’s nervous about making an appointment and getting in with a career advisor, please don’t be,” Fewell says. “You’ll find that it is a good experience, [and you’ll benefit from] the experience [advisors] have. Students really should use this service.”
Wondering how a UOPX career advisor can help you? Watch our YouTube video for 5 steps to preparing for a successful interview from advisor Jason Robert.
Wondering what your next career move should be? Take our quiz!
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