Career Counselor by Day

The past weeks have been lacking in the writing inspiration department. I have a list of topic ideas I could have worked from, but I just wasn’t feeling that spark to write. Leave it to Katy Widrick’s Healthy Living in a Hectic World blog to save the day. The other day she had a post chronicling her day and I thought, I could do that. I love my day job of being a career counselor and I have no intention of leaving it anytime soon. I thought doing a “day in the life” type post could be helpful for other student affairs individuals to see what career services is like, and also to lift the veil of mystery for those people who don’t work at a university. I sent out a tweet during the day yesterday asking if people had questions they would like to see addressed. I was excited that I actually received a few responses. So, I’ll be making sure to answer those questions throughout the post. If you have other questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!

Day of chronicling = Thursday, February 16th, 2012

5:30am: I woke 30 minutes before my alarm went off. I didn’t sleep well and I blame the Culver’s dinner I had the night before. I’ve been eating healthier lately and I think my body was just sending me a message to just not even get the greasy food. Anyway, I laid in bed reading blogs on my phone until my alarm actually went off.

6-6:20am: Shower

6:20-7:10am: Eat breakfast (cereal & orange juice) and read more blog posts. My blog reader is out of control at the moment. I used the extra time during my morning routine to get some reading done. I have over 40 blogs in my blog reader and I don’t read every one everyday…and the build up happens.

7:10-7:35am: Finish getting ready by doing my hair and putting my face on. I also use this time to make my morning cappuccino (to be enjoyed at the office) and to put together my lunch.

Stuff to take into work

7:35-7:50am: Scrape off the car & drive to campus. There was hardly any traffic! I only have about a 5 minute drive to campus, but with 2 left turns, I can end up waiting a ridiculous amount time. I currently have a mix cd from about a year ago in my cd player and I had Adele’s Rolling in the Deep blaring. How better to start a morning than to think I could ever match Adele in singing ability? Here are my favorite parts of the morning commute into campus, 1) coming over this one certain hill and having an amazing view of Lake Superior, and 2) watching the American flag in front of our administration building being raised by students from our Air Force ROTC program. On this particular morning, I was probably about 5-10 minutes early for the flag raising.

Proof that we actually got a little bit of snow

Early morning sun

7:50-8am: Get settled in my office and rev up the computer. My normal work hours are 8am – 4:30pm. I always try to come in a little early so that I can have a semi-decent parking spot.

8-8:40am: Drink my cappuccino that I brought from home. I bring in my own so that I don’t have to shell out $4 on a coffee on campus. I’m working on a hazelnut flavor. It’s no peppermint mocha, but it’ll do for the time being. I also use this time to rev up email and Twitter (my own and our office account). I also take a little time to check in with a few of my regular blogs that post every morning.

My office

One of my favorite features in my office

8:20am: Pandora is on for the day. I’m loving my new Keri Noble station. I saw her in concert here in Duluth last weekend. Amazing! Think Adele meets Sarah McLachlan.

8:40am – 8:55am: Walk over to our administration building to fill my water bottle (it’s a new fountain that counts the number of plastic bottles being saved; side note #2 – our buildings are all connected thanks to being in Northern Minnesota and on top of a huge hill next to a Great Lake) and also take time to check in with people in the office who’ve come in since I did.

8:55-10am: Tackle my inbox, work on a Prezi presentation for a workshop I’m giving next week on job search strategies, consult with another counselor that I am co-presenting with later in the day for an interviewing workshop.

10-10:30am: First student appointment (I very rarely have an appointment before 10am). The student wanted to talk job search strategies since they recently graduated. After each appointment, I quick jot notes on our check-in sheets so that I have something of substance to enter into our online note system at a later date.

10:30-11am: Catch up on email and Twitter. I noticed there’s an interesting conversation about the impact of gaming, gender, and campus involvement/engagement happening between student affairs people on my personal account. A skill set that really helped me in securing my current position is social media. A key part of my of my role is to monitor our Twitter account (@umdcareers) and to help coordinate all of our social media efforts that also include Facebook and LinkedIn. I also am tackling how we can use Pinterest for our office. I know, I brought the addiction to work. 😉 It’s also the time to sneak in my morning snack.

Morning snack

11am-12:05pm: Appointment #2 for the day. This one is trying to figure out shifting of the major and minor after realizing the career they’ve been working for, isn’t something they actually want to do. To be honest, while we got some great work done in this session, it was draining for me. I really do like this types of appointments because I feel that they tend to make the most difference for the students involved. Deciding what to major in and what to do with that major are heavy, daunting, and sometimes scary questions to answer. It’s the meat of what I do on a daily basis, and I love it! It just takes a lot of effort.

12:05pm: Realized I totally forgot to email the knitting group that the space was reserved for the lunch hour. The one time I’m in charge of that task and I partially drop the ball. I say partially because I did reserve the space. 🙂

12:05-1pm: Lunchtime! Thursdays are knitting group day. We had kind of a small group because some people were out of town for the day. I joined the knitting group because, 1) I knit and 2) my assistant director is a part of the group and she invited me to come when I first started working on campus last summer. It’s a nice way to get out of the office and to meet up with people from across campus that I normally would never see.

Current knitting project - an awesomely pink scarf

1-2pm: Appointment #3 – a UMD alum who is looking at a career shift and wanting to know more about basic computer and other skills employers are looking for.

2-2:20pm: Touch base once again with the other counselor I’m presenting with later in the day. I also chatted with one of our student employees and stretched my legs a bit.

2:20-3pm: Email and Twitter catchup. I worked more on my Prezi presentation for next week.

My daily view, currently boasting a beautiful picture of New Zealand by Devon from

3-3:40pm: I tuned in for HigherEdLive, a webcast that happens as a form of online professional development. The topic is Twitter in Education. While I listened, I worked on putting together information on career development theory for a presentation I’m doing for our student employees next week.

My Target dog displayed prominently on my desk

3:50-5:40pm: Interviewing workshop. We had a small group attend and it was highly interactive and they had great questions. Completely quality over quantity.

5:40-6:30pm: Light grocery shopping and drive home. My favorite part of driving home in the dark – seeing College of St. Scholastica (the Catholic college right by UMD) all lit up. It’s beautiful.

6:30-7pm: Check the mail, put groceries away, put on my pajamas, and make dinner.

7-7:30pm: Big Bang Theory time! I also ate dinner, which was a yummy pizza I picked up while grocery shopping.

7:30-8pm: Read blog posts

8-8:30pm: Tried to watch something on Netflix, but my internet was moving super slow.

8:30-9: Edit pictures taken throughout the day to be used in this blog post.

9-10:20pm: Call my sister and we have a wonderful chat to catch up on our week. Our calls always seem to be long like this. I blame my mom and aunt for setting the precedent of always having long phone calls. 😉

10:20-10:50pm: Get ready for bed and read in a book.

10:50pm: Lights out and I’m ready to do it all again the next day.

Questions people asked:

Biggest challenges associated with the position: fitting everything into the day. On this particular day I only had 3 appointments and I generally have 5 a day on most days. I cherish the 2 hours in the morning and every spare minute I can grab throughout the day to work on various tasks and projects.

Direction I see the field heading: embedding technology and different media in everything we do. Our office is heading this way already, which is awesome. We are utilizing various methods of social media and also seeing how we incorporate items, like iPads, into our daily routine.

Using social media: we use it and I love it! We are able to have students utilize reliable resources at any time of the day. Plus, getting to connect with students 1:1 even when they aren’t in our office, is great.

How do I encourage students: I try to help the students find the good in every situation, even if they are devastated at realizing they don’t want to do whatever career they’ve been planning for, for however long they’ve been planning it. Two of my strengths (according to StrengthsQuest) are positivity and developer. Both of them work extremely well for encouraging students to explore their options.

My favorite part: when a student realizes that everything is going to be okay and when they transition from confusion and not knowing, to making a decision (it’s a beautiful realization to watch as it unfolds). I haven’t been in my position long enough to work with students at multiple points in their time at UMD (such as freshman year and almost graduating) and I am very much looking forward to seeing those changes in students too.

Okay, so this post ended up being incredibly long. Sorry about that, but I finally had something to say! Hope you enjoyed this snapshot of a day of being a career counselor. I enjoyed chronicling the day. It brought back some memories of my internship last year where I had to account for every minute of my day. Let me know if you have more questions.


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