Friday, December 10, 2021

Exploring Possibilities: Career Stories from Influencers in the Career Education Space


Exploring the Possibilities:

Career Path Stories from Influencers in the Career Education Space

As many know, this past November was Canada Career Month; a month in which a multitude of initiatives were undergone to aid students in their pursuit of a career path with the theme ‘It’s Possible’! As Canada Career Month concludes, it is my hope to share with you the career paths and journeys of three influential members within the Co-Op, Career and Experiential Space: Sandy Howe, Katrina Volpini and Kara Renaud.
To gain a perspective of how these three successful individuals went about pursuing the role they are currently within and the advice they would give to students today, read their entries below!

Sandy Howe

Associate Director, 

Experiential Education

1. Briefly describe your career and the typical roles and tasks involved.
“My career is as an educator! With the title of Associate Director, Experiential Education, I see my role as educating faculty, community, and students on how we can work together to build hands-on experiences into academic courses for students. I do this through a highly relational practice with an amazing team, colleagues in every little pocket of campus, and in a way that finds innovative ways to bring great ideas to life.”
2. When did you know this was the career for you?
“To be honest, I had no idea this was the career for me, and still am not sure what my “career” is – it’s OK not to know!  I enjoy educating on a variety of topics from teaching and learning, mental health, reflective practice and more, but if I had to try and pigeonhole myself into a career, it would probably be “university support staff”. I have been very privileged to simply follow opportunities that make me happy to put my feet on the floor each day.”
3. What steps did you take or undergo when selecting the career path, you wanted to pursue? Were there any challenges along the way?
“When I was doing my undergrad (Honours BSc. Biology (Zoology) – yes, you can take any degree wherever you like if you understand your transferable skills!), I was a Residence Advisor/Don. I knew if I could do that full time when I was done being a student, I’d be thrilled, and that’s exactly what I did!  I started my career at the University of Windsor as a Residence Manager, and used that as the vehicle to do all the things I really loved which included getting students involved with community volunteering, travelling internationally with students, leading developmental opportunities and supporting students through educational programming. I also had a chance to supervise a large, diverse team, which was really what I loved most! I’ve followed this path to Brock in the Department of Residence, on to Student Life & Community Experience, next as the Service-Learning Coordinator that allowed me to support academic courses and co-curriculars, and now this! There have certainly been challenges along the way including law students practicing their craft on policies and procedures I was to uphold, full nights without sleep doing crisis response in residence, learning how to balance work that kept piling on with needing to leave work and recharge, and just generally from taking the time to learn something from my many mistakes!”
4. What advice would you give to students trying to select a professional field now?
“I would encourage any student to take some time to reflect. Truly think about what you value and love to do, how you want to leave your mark on our world or on a particular field, and what types of tasks allow you to get lost in them because of the joy they bring you. You might not find these things explicitly in a job title, but have an idea of the types of jobs, organizations, or people that you might connect with that will lead you to your path…and then follow those leads! Reach out, make connections, let someone know you’d like to learn more about their job or field, and put the effort into finding your way.  Always remember: things that you love and hate are both valuable; they help you to narrow the path.”

Katrina Volpini

Med Plus Consultant

1. Briefly describe your career and the typical roles and tasks involved. 
“As the Med Plus Consultant at Brock, I have the privilege of working with students to help them achieve their career goals. Med Plus is a co-curricular program for students interested in pursuing careers in health care. My role is to develop the program curriculum in a way that exposes students to a variety of health care careers, allows them the opportunity to network with professionals all while building the necessary skills in order to be successful in this industry. I also support our students through individual advising to build a path towards their future goals. I enjoy helping them prepare their applications, prepare for interviews and watching them grow over the 4 years they are in the program. One of the best parts of my job is the amazing team within CCEE that I get the pleasure of working with every day. The full-time and student staff all are willing to work together to support the students at Brock.”
2. When did you know this was the career for you?  
“Shortly after I graduated University, I held a leadership role where I oversaw the hiring and recruiting of a large amount of summer camp staff. I loved it! I loved meeting applicants, talking about their skills and finding the best fit for our team. I also loved planning and developing the professional training to provide them with the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in their new role. That’s when I realized I wanted to explore this passion further and started a career in Employment Counselling and Job Developing which led me to this role at Brock. From the minute I met with our Med Plus students, I knew I found what I was looking for. Working with University students is amazing because of their drive and motivation. They also keep me on my toes!” 
3. What steps did you take or undergo when selecting the career path, you wanted to pursue? Were there any challenges along the way?
“After I discovered I wanted a future in Career Counselling & Education, I decided to complete a certificate in Advanced Career Counselling to further develop my skills and learn new strategies. I also wanted to ensure that I was able to support my clients/students that I was working with. So I took training in Mental Health First Aid, educated myself to learn about local resources to assist with various barriers to employment and continuously worked on my communication and facilitation skills. There is always something new to learn which is why I love the department I work in. When I entered University, I thought I wanted to be a Translator. I loved learning languages (still do!). However, in my 1st year, I quickly realized that although I enjoyed learning different ways to communicate, it wasn’t my passion. This was a challenge for me because it was the first time in my life that my path wasn’t going to be what I thought it was. I decided to trust my instincts and change path to a broader study in Sociology where I could spend time exploring my interests. I learned more about myself through navigating that challenging time and I’m grateful I had that chance.”
4. What advice would you give to students trying to select a professional field now?
“Explore your passions! Talk to people in the field, learn skills and competencies that are transferable to various professions. Be ok with the unknown too – your path may not be linear. Sometimes taking the path less travelled will present opportunities you didn’t even know existed!”

Kara Renaud

Supervisor, Career Education

1. Briefly describe your career and the typical roles and tasks involved.  
“As Supervisor, Career Education with Co-op, Career & Experiential Education, I wear many hats.  I over oversee CareerZone drop-in services and staffing, coordination and delivery of workshops and events, and 1:1 for career consultations with students. Over the years I have had the privilege of collaborating with amazing people across Brock and in the community to carry out a variety of career initiatives.  I have also been fortunate to mentor, coach and support students in their career journeys and be an advocate for students and staff as they navigate the world work and grow personally and professionally”.  
2. When did you know this was the career for you?  
“After graduating University, I took a job in a call centre.  In less than a year I found myself laid off. I started to access employment resources in my community and fell in love with the role of the employment advisor.  I had an interest in teaching and counselling and I felt this role encompassed both of those areas.  The idea of helping people investigate possible career pathways was something I felt drawn to, and I have never looked back.”
3. What steps did you take or undergo when selecting the career path, you wanted to pursue? Were there any challenges along the way?
“Seeking out employment advice and asking for help was pivotal for me early in my life.  Taking the time to understand what I’m passionate about, researching occupations and conducting informational interviews were three action steps that helped me with my career decision making. The world is changing so quickly that it requires career professionals to continuously innovate.  We are always asking ourselves how we can be better, how are services can improve, etc.  This can be challenging sometimes when it’s hard to predict what the world of work will look like next year, never mind five years from now.  Now more than ever, we need to be flexible, optimistic, and intentional about what we do and how to best support our students.” 
4. What advice would you give to students trying to select a professional field now?  
“Determining where you fit into the world of work can be a difficult process. Take the time you need to understand your interests and strengths, talk to people doing work that interests you, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.   It takes time to make informed career decisions.  Anything is possible when you invest the time in yourself.”
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Written by Jordan Sheridan, Career Assistant 
Edited by Kara Renaud, Supervisor of Career Education, CCEE Department