If you are interested in a career as a Career Consultant with a collegiate career services office, you may think you know it all, especially if you’ve worked closely with a career services professional. Michelle Foulke, Career Consultant for College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, College of Environment + Design, Odum School of Ecology and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia, shares her insights from working in career services for the past three years.
What made you want to pursue working in ag career services?
Throughout my time in undergraduate and graduate school, I completed internships in housing, career services and judicial services. What I found unique about career services was that you can see the progress a student makes through an appointment, while that was not always the case in my other roles. There is something to be said about a student seeking out your advice instead of being required to meet with you, student appointments are usually the highlight of my entire day.
What is a day in the life like for you?
Honestly, my day-to-day schedule at work varies quite a bit, which is what I prefer. I spend a lot of time meeting with students either at satellite hours in their college or in one-on-one appointments. The rest of my time is divided between meetings, employer recruitment efforts, planning events like a career fair or just working on creating handouts. No two days look alike.
What skills do you think that someone should possess to work in ag career services?
Empathy is a big one. I think the ability to relate to a student and help normalize their anxiety around the future is extremely important. Strong communication skills are equally important. You are constantly emailing students, employers, faculty and staff members. I must be able to feel comfortable with public speaking and presenting in front of large crowds in a 180-student classroom. Creativity and the ability to think on quickly are skills that I always needed in my role. I am always having to switch gears and break larger projects up to complete them.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
The best part of my job is when I see a student who was initially lost or confused find the clarity they need after an appointment. I want them to leave with the confidence that they need to conquer the task ahead of them. When I have students coming up to me at an event and thanking me for all their help, or when I receive an email that one of my students successfully got into medical school that makes my day.
What are the challenges of your job and the not-so-fun parts that people wouldn’t expect?
I oversee four different colleges and schools, which makes it hard to be able to equally serve each of them. Due to the fact that I am one person serving multiple colleges, I often feel as though some of the students in smaller programs do not receive the same attention as those in much larger programs. In addition, my job is not a traditional 9-5 type position. I am sometimes required to stay late for presentations and department events.
What would surprise someone to know about your job?
I was surprised by the level of importance and amount of time spent networking and collaborating with different contacts across campus. I meet and work with academic advisers, faculty/staff members, alumni coordinators, and employer recruitment representatives. One of my career fairs and the employer-shadowing week is coordinated in conjunction with a student organization on campus. Being able to build a strong foundation and establish relationships with these individuals is pivotal to the success of engaging students within specific colleges.
What advice do you have for aspiring career services professionals?
Career services is a very small industry and networking is crucial to getting your foot through in door. I found out about my current position at a conference, and was able to go out to dinner with my current co-workers prior to applying to the position. In addition, I highly recommend following news associations directly related to your students’ interest areas. I read Brownfield Ag News and IFT News to help me keep up with company mergers and discover talking points about the industry to discuss with my students. The more you know about the specific industry your students are going into, the better your examples in presentations and advice in appointments will become.