Podcast

6 Ways to Make a Big Impact with a Small Team

Megan Baeza and Maribea Merritt share how their two-person career services team serves UTPB’s more than 5,000 students.

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Megan Baeza and Maribea Merritt, the two-person career services team at the University of Texas Permian Basin, are responsible for serving more than 5,000 students. So they’ve learned a thing or two about how to make a big impact with a small team.

In this episode, Megan, the Director of Internships and Employer Relations, and Maribea, the Director of Career Education, share six specific strategies they use to make the most of their limited staff and resources, including:

  1. Teamwork: Sharing tasks, communicating, dividing and conquering, jumping in to help with duties outside of their job description, and more.
  2. Tools and technology: Making career resources available 24/7 via tools like uConnect, offering online appointment scheduling, using tools like Mentimeter in classroom presentations, etc.
  3. Consistent student outreach: Sharing jobs via Handshake, sending automated newsletters to students (curated with content personalized to their interests and identities), and more. 
  4. Community partnerships: Partnering with student clubs, employers, alumni, and faculty; starting a Career Champion program; and more. 
  5. Time management: Being purposeful about blocking calendars and saving time for paperwork, event/presentation prep, travel, and collaborating with each other and partners. 
  6. Classroom presentations: Finding larger audiences to make a big impact (like UTPB’s freshmen seminar class), creating interactive presentations, and more. 

Resources from the episode:

Transcript

Meredith Metsker:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Career Everywhere podcast. I’m your host Meredith Metsker, and today I am joined by Megan Baeza and Maribea Merritt, both from the University of Texas Permian Basin. Megan is the director of internships and employer relations, and Maribea is the director of career education. Thank you both for being here.

Megan Baeza:

And thanks for having us.

Maribea Merritt:

We’re excited to visit with you today, Meredith.

Meredith Metsker:

Well, likewise. I’m really excited to have you both on the show today, especially because we’re going to talk about a topic that I think a lot of career services teams can relate to, and that’s how to make a big impact with a small team. Now, I know this is something you’re both very familiar with since it’s basically your daily reality. And for context for the audience, Megan and Maribea make up the entire career center staff at UTPB and the two of them are responsible for serving over 5,000 students, so they know firsthand exactly how to make a big impact with a small team, and they’ve come up with some really cool strategies that we’ll dig into here in a minute. But before I get into the more specific questions, I want to kick us off with a question I ask all of our guests, and that’s what does Career Everywhere mean to you? And Megan, why don’t we go ahead and start with you?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, sure. When I think of Career Everywhere, I think of support, that our students know that they have a team of people behind them, whether that’s academic advisors or faculty, coaches. They know that they’re not alone on this career journey and that we are all here to support their success.

Maribea Merritt:

And for me, Career Everywhere for me is that aspect of always learning, that no matter the direction your career takes you, there’s always more to learn. And so for the students that we work with, we’re hoping to help them in understanding that there’s more for preparing for a career than just learning the academic piece, that there’s all those career readiness skills that they need to learn and be able to put into work for them as they go out and become the employer.

Meredith Metsker:

Love that. Great answers. Next, I want to set the stage a little bit for our audience so they have some context about you and where your office sits. So can you two give me a quick overview of your roles, the types of students you serve, and where the career center sits in the overall university structure?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, sure. So we are a centralized office and my role of course is director of internships and employer relations.

Maribea Merritt:

And through that central office, I work specifically with education. So we are under the division of student affairs, because I know that career services offices sit in various locations on campus. We are a Hispanic serving institution and also have about 42% of our population that are first-generation students. And then we still function and had been for some number of years those non-traditional students. We’ve got five colleges, 16 sport teams, and 45 other student organizations on campus.

Meredith Metsker:

Wow. Okay. So quite a few students and a lot of diversity there. So now I want to dig into how you two go about making such a big impact in reaching all of those students with your small team. So as we talked about, you have thousands of students to support with the two of you. So I imagine you’ve come up with some tips and tricks over the years. So can you just walk me through your processes and your strategies?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, sure. I think the first one is teamwork. We’ve become quite the dynamic duo. And while we have different focuses in our roles, I mean, our goal is to support students. So if an employer calls and Maribea answers, she’s going to tell this employer how they can connect with us on Handshake and recruit at UTPB. If we have two presentations, I might go to a classroom and present on resumes. So kind of that first come, first serve, we own whatever walks in the door. And then on strategic and big idea plans, we divide and conquer. So everything is really just how we can work together as a team.

Maribea Merritt:

So like Megan said, this semester, for example, we had 25 classroom presentations, which really was an increase for us. 14 of those were in freshman seminar classes, so we were able to get in front of everybody that was new to our school. So that was exciting for us.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s awesome. And that’s a lot of classroom presentations, especially for two people.

Maribea Merritt:

Yes.

Megan Baeza:

And I think part of that is that one of the other strategies is that we want to stay top of mind. And so, I know our social media, we have a campaign and we really want to put ourselves out there in front of students just because I think that they all need us at different points. And so we just want them to know when they need us, where we are and what services we offer.

Maribea Merritt:

And another one of our big touchpoints is being able to work with our on-campus groups, one of them being where we are sitting today is in the Blackstone Launchpad. And they worked with us to host a LinkedIn presentation this past semester, and we’ve got another one planned for this semester where we set up where the students could come in and take professional photos. And then Megan and I, while students were gathering and waiting for their photo turn, then we reviewed, looked at their LinkedIn profiles. What did they have set up? How could we tweak it and make it better? Or if they hadn’t even started the process, then we talked about first steps and what do you need to do to have a good professional profile?

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. So sounds like you’re doing quite a few things there and I could see how teamwork would definitely be a major benefit with such a small team. So I’m curious, what are some of the other strategies you’re using?

Megan Baeza:

So one of the big strategies is we utilize technology. We made the switch to uConnect, and I’ve said this before that it is the best decision we’ve ever made. If we look at our data with our user and page views, our engagement has tripled online. And all the students come in and they’re like, oh, I love your new website. I think they’re finding things that are useful. I feel like with uConnect, one of the benefits is that we’re able to put content maybe by groups. So if you go on there and explore, you can explore by career topic. You can also explore by academic college. And then just this fall, we’re so excited that we have our new community groups. So any student that visits the site, I mean, they can go to content and say, this was for me, and then find exactly what they’re looking for. And so that’s huge for us.

We also with uConnect like the customized scrolling banners, so that way, our priorities, things that we’re really trying to get in front of students, employers, or the community, I mean, it’s right there right in front of your face. You don’t have to go search for it. And the fact when they click on that banner it redirects them to that resource or the RSVP link, so I think that’s helped our engagement with students. And then being able to schedule a blog post so that we’re always looking like the site is current and fresh. That’s important to us that it’s not stagnant and stale.

And then I think with Handshake, we’re also a Handshake school and we utilize Handshake. I love to auto-approve jobs with employers that we trust to make our jobs easier. And now that Handshake integrates with uConnect, I mean, students can go on and see job and internship opportunities right there on our site. They don’t have to dig and sign in. But we do use the single sign-on so that it’s a seamless transition for our students with our programs. I think that’s important too. We don’t want to make it hard for them to have to access some of these resources. But technology’s really helped us.

Maribea Merritt:

Well, and I would say that another piece of that with the integration on Handshake is we’re pushing them to start using more of the resources. Look at the events that are offered, look at all the ways you can connect with recruitment, university recruiters. And the other piece that we use that kind of keeps our lives, I mean, I say the first thing I come in the morning is I put up my calendar. So the Microsoft 365 Teams, we use the chat feature, we use the bookings link.

Bookings is a lifesaver. We come, I’d say, every morning and go, okay, who are we seeing today? Because we allow them to see our calendar, book with us at any time and just making ourselves available. We have to be there intentional to turn around and make sure we book our time. So we book, if we need to discuss preparing for a podcast or preparing for budget or if we need to do time to prepare for a presentation. So we have just become more, I would say, proficient in scheduling and booking our own time so that we have that prep moment for the students, then they can go see any available time and be able to connect with us.

Meredith Metsker:

Wow, that’s awesome. So they can basically find anything they need on your website, and if they need more information, they can just schedule right there.

Maribea Merritt:

Correct.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s incredible. I can see how that would be a massive help when there’s two people serving 5,000 students. Okay. So I’m curious, Megan, you kind of touched on it a little bit, but what has some of the feedback been for your web presence on the uConnect platform from students, employers, any of those other stakeholders?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah. So I will say, I love the analytics that uConnect provides because when we go online, I mean, honestly, the most page that has been visited has been our employer’s page. I mean, the Permian Basin, they’re looking for talent. And so I’m glad that they’re looking right here at UT Permian Basin. And so you can see that the employers navigate, we have our events up there, our spring fair, and they’re wanting to engage with our students. So that’s been nice. And then, on our students side, I mean, they just come in and they compliment how engaging it is, how easy it was to find this or that. So I don’t know. I feel like we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the students.

Maribea Merritt:

And I think that’s the biggest thing. We ourselves had such limitations with our website previously that it was hard to really just connect. It was just hard to connect. We had students come in just this week that have said, your website has made all the difference, just being able to find things, just the ease of use. And I would say even for ourselves, it’s the ease of use of being able to get that student that comes in, let me show you what you need to bookmark and keep on the top of your list so that you can find all these services.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. And I imagine it’s helpful for the students too that they can access those resources anytime, everywhere, like Career Everywhere. Right? Students don’t always have questions in nine to five business hours. Sometimes it’s at midnight or 2:00 AM.

Maribea Merritt:

Right.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. And Megan, as you were talking about the analytics side, I imagine it’s nice for the two of you to be most efficient with your time in terms of creating content or curating content to know where people are looking and what types of content they prefer.

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when we go on there and say, okay, students have clicked on this internship and this internship, that must be of interest. Can we find more things like that? Or to know that they are most engaged with us Tuesdays at two. Maybe we should put up a new banner about our next event around that time. So making the most of that data, it’s been really helpful for us.

Maribea Merritt:

Yeah, which article they found most useful. Because you’ll find most used and most of the time it’s preparing for an interview. But then, it’s also just that reminder to us to turn around and make sure we’re keeping up-to-date information on there.

Meredith Metsker:

Right. Yeah, for sure. You mentioned earlier that the block scheduling feature was something that you like to use. In terms of those blocks, is that something that you both are writing or do you have student workers who help write those, or how are you getting that content?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, so I think in a variety of ways. I think sometimes we find nuggets on LinkedIn or from colleagues and so we’re going to repost those. We’ve written several blogs ourselves on tips and tricks and best practices for students. But another thing, we work with our marketing team. And so they have done such a fantastic job of celebrating success stories for our students. And so, reposting those and showing how that person found the internship or what they did in their internship and did that lead to a job, or how did that help them explore the job market? Those are great things to share. And our students have really navigated towards those student success stories here just at UTPD.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. And to clarify, is that the central marketing team there at the university?

Maribea Merritt:

Yes.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay.

Maribea Merritt:

Everything is central.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, love that. You mentioned also that you’re doing something with communities. Can you tell me a little bit more about that and how you’re leveraging technology to create those and curate content within those?

Maribea Merritt:

Well, we did recently. We have a diversity center here that pushes out to groups that don’t fall into your, they’re international students. I can’t think of all the list of them right now, but how many do we have? Five, six? What we’ve been able to do is go on and add those communities. So I will say, this week I’ve had several international students come in. And we put the person on campus, we are highlighting them as well as our information, but highlighting the person that they would directly report to. So veterans have a coordinator and international students have a coordinator. So who is their best contact here on campus? And then making sure that we go in and we have specific programs or articles that would help them for their journey that are more useful that maybe the mainstream student might not find as useful. So we’re trying to make sure that it’s very specific to those groups.

Megan Baeza:

I do think that’s a good point, because I love that. For every community group, we have multiple advisors. And so with the advisors, yes, they may have a dedicated role to that group here on campus, but some of our advisors just say, yes, I identify as this group. I could be a mentor or someone that they could ask questions to. So we don’t have to have them go all over campus and seek, who can help me in this area? We have already found partners that say, yes, students come to me if you have questions. Here’s how I identify and here’s maybe how I can help you.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. And I imagine it’s like we were talking earlier where those students in those communities have access to those resources all the time. And virtually, not necessarily in person, depending on their lives, their schedules and everything like that.

Maribea Merritt:

I would say even with the bookings link, we’ll go back because we use it every single day. Students are like, well, when do I have to let you know if I’m going to come in or if I’m going to meet you virtually? I said, “You don’t have to let us know.” When they book an appointment, we’re looking for them to walk through the door. If they don’t walk through the door, we’ve got our computer up and we’re waiting for them online. So really, we’re not asking anything of them other than just book the appointment. We’ll be present.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, I love that. Those students are very lucky to have you two. All right. So I think we’ve kind of covered the technology part of your strategy unless there’s something else you would like to add? Cool. Well, should we move on to the next one?

Megan Baeza:

Sure.

Maribea Merritt:

Sure.

Megan Baeza:

I mean, as far as other strategies, and I think we touched on this a little bit, and just to expand is just our community partnerships. Really trying to partner with clubs on campus and our employers. So we have employers come and help us with mock interviews or the Society of Petroleum Engineers professional organization came and they met with our SPE student club group. And so just kind of building that connection. But we’ve had a lot of partners come alongside of us and help us with resume reviews and mock interviews, information sessions so that students can explore different industry and know what to expect in the job market.

Maribea Merritt:

And it also kind of takes care of that aspect of if they’re really nervous, I’m like, this is not the real thing. This is real adults that are employers, but all they want to do is help you. So I think we’ve done a great job of bringing in the community and we have great community support and willingness to come in and be part of that. That includes, of course, within our community, our alumni. So the alumni are part of that backbone of those that are coming in and helping provide. They can say, I was you and I understand what you’re going through and yes, you’re nervous, but I want to help you prepare.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. There’s very few things I love more than speaking to classes at my alma mater, because I was a journalism graduate, so I go and I talk to journalism classes quite a bit. And it’s like you were saying, it’s so much fun to be able to be a mentor in that regard and just try and help the next generation. Yeah, we were all there once too. So you mentioned in our prep call a few weeks ago that consistent student outreach is kind of another big strategy you do, whether that’s via email, sharing jobs, in person things. Can you tell me a little bit more about that strategy?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, so I think beyond our social media, we do leverage Handshake and uConnect that put out at least monthly email blasts of specific content for the student. So they are getting multiple things from us with jobs, internship opportunities, career advice. We also partner with Student Life, and so they sent out a weekly newsletter for students. And so we want to make sure that all students on campus know what we have going on in career services.

Maribea Merritt:

And we still do pretty much old school and we print the posters and put them on the walls, put them on the bulletin boards. Because it’s challenging when you go in and every semester literally it’s different. And you ask the students when you’re doing presentations, especially if it wasn’t a scheduled in-classroom professor scheduled presentation, how did you learn about this? How many of them are actually looking at email? Or maybe they just follow us on Instagram. How many of them are reading that newsletter? I mean, I still find that everyone obviously is different, and so, even though it may just be a handful that’s looking at the poster on the wall, we don’t want to lose that handful. So old school, virtual, whichever way we can get them, we’re going to try.

Megan Baeza:

All the ways.

Meredith Metsker:

I am definitely seeing that theme throughout our conversation, whether it’s waiting for a student to come in in person or seeing if they’re going to join virtually, making sure you have all these options. That’s incredible, and I imagine that takes a lot of thought and purposeful planning for both of you.

Maribea Merritt:

Very much. It takes a lot of paying attention to your calendar, I would say mostly.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I can imagine. Kind of on that note, Maribea, you were mentioning earlier the importance of managing time, especially when you have a lot to do. So can you just talk to me a little bit about what’s included in that strategy and how you both manage your time so you can serve so many students?

Maribea Merritt:

Well, I don’t know that, I think it’s just being purposeful and staying focused and honestly down to earth. Most of the time, there are plenty of times that we are preparing the presentation the two hours before we walk in the door, but we block that time to prepare that presentation. Because when you allow and open up your calendar for the students to put their place, take your time, which I think is important. I mean, all in all, the whole reason we’re here, the whole reason of our job, is for the students. So I feel like that’s always first. And I will say, even when I’ve been, how do you manage time? I think it’s always keeping a priority list. What’s got to happen today and what can be pushed to later? And then making sure we just block those little pieces of time. We do have access to each other’s calendars, so we’re always looking to see if we need both of us in on the conversation, that it’s scheduled. So making all of that open and available for both of us? It’s just a necessity.

Megan Baeza:

And with the bookings link, there was some preset things. So I mean, I think that we have given ourselves at least 30 minutes for a little lunch break. And our appointments, I don’t know if they start maybe at eight or 8:30. So that gives us time to come in, get settled in, check email, get some things pushed out before we maybe have that even first appointment of the day. So we’re not even having to think, these are already preset little blocks for us built-in.

Maribea Merritt:

And I will say, yesterday’s a perfect example. I had a desperate student come in. “They want to interview me for an internship.” And I was like, “That’s great.” So his emergency, “There’s no time left on my calendar.” So I said, “Okay, I have extra time blocked,” and I know I do for lunch and meetings, and so I said, “I can take you right here. I’ll send you the invite,” because he can’t, we’ll say, get to that time. But we do do that. Because once again, it’s all about them. We’re here to help them make a more professional appearance and help them learn. So, however we need to schedule that, I think we work really hard to make it happen.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. Yeah, it’s a great example because stuff happens. Emergencies happen.

Maribea Merritt:

Well, or time management on the student part isn’t happening.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s true. That’s true.

Maribea Merritt:

So it could be that, but it’s okay.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I thought of another follow-up question on the technology side of things that I should have asked you earlier. So you mentioned that you partner with marketing to create some of that content. Do you have to work with your IT team very much to keep that web presence maintained? Or how does that work when it’s just the two of you?

Megan Baeza:

I mean, with uConnect, they were instrumental on helping us get it all set up from the beginning, but now that it’s there, I mean, pretty much we can make the edits-

Maribea Merritt:

It’s internal. Yeah, we make all the changes that go on there. Once again, I will say, noting, it’s kind of like you were on the site all the time and realizing, oh, we need some new content, we need a new banner. Especially coming back after the first of the year, things that we had up, maybe it was I had a banner up for graduation survey and needed to. Yes, we need to continue contacting those people, but we can switch out that banner now. So I mean, it’s just, now we’re constantly going on the site and looking at what do we need to do? So I would say IT really has not been involved again, so much on the specific website. We’re doing all the content adding and taking away.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay, cool. Thank you for that. I think it’s an important context, especially when you have a small team. How much autonomy do you have to update your own website, add your own content, and that kind of thing? So that’s great to hear. So earlier you both mentioned in classroom presentations. Now, that’s kind of a big part of your strategy for making a big impact. Can you tell me a little bit more about the types of classes you’re presenting in, what those presentations look like, and then how you’re partnering with faculty to make all of that happen?

Maribea Merritt:

Sure. I’m going to say first, I think I’m going to start with the impact part, because sometimes we kind of grimace when it comes time to write those reports. And our supervisor has us write a midyear report. And as you can imagine, when it hits in December, there’s lots of things we’re trying to finish up, do. I’m not going to say we’re not terribly excited about doing it, but once we came to putting all the information together, the results were amazing. So we came to the conclusion when we looked at the whole of everything we had done for the semester, now, this is our individual appointments and our classroom presentations, and then the few events that we had. We had touched 24% of our student population. So for us, that was just a big, big win. Yeah, we were terribly excited about that piece of information because it’s like, okay, now where can we go from here because this was amazing.

So I would say we have some wonderful campus partners that do not hesitate to let me come into their classrooms. A lot of times, it is that piece within the major that is the professional preparation class. So the engineering class has this, the business class has this, and they will let me come in and do a presentation on resume or interview, preparing for a mock interview and how to practice and get that piece ready. The other piece, like I said, freshman seminar classes, those are set. I have done presentations in them. I would say longevity helps. I’m very excited. They came to me the other day and said I was one of the favorite presenters. They wanted me to present some of the techniques that I use to other presenters. So I’m excited about getting to do that. So, I mean, I think it’s that coming in with fresh content all the time, making it a little bit different.

And the different for me is I’m not just up there spilling information. I really engage them in the class. So letting them have a piece where they can’t just sit. I’m going to say most of them would not sit and listen to me. So, former background was teacher, and so I kind of get frustrated when they’re doing other things and not paying attention. So I kind of put it where they have to do something in the class rather than easily be distracted by their phone. But we do have numerous faculty that will allow us to come in, have a class period, and just share, either briefly all of our services, or go in depth and share how to put that resume together.

Megan Baeza:

And I think with the classroom presentation, so something new that we’ve been using, is it Mentimeter?

Maribea Merritt:

Yes.

Megan Baeza:

Okay, okay, so we’ve been using that platform to create the interactive presentations. And so I think that that’s been fun, just because it is engaging. And then the other thing is, I don’t think either of us leave any meeting presentation without pulling up that website and saying that if you want more information on anything, all of these resources are at your fingertips. It’s just a click of a button away.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. Yeah, I imagine that would be a really great first touch point for those students who maybe they don’t know that the career center exists. And now they do and now they know there’s a ton of resources for them. And Maribea, that’s really cool about you having that teacher background. Imagine that comes very much in handy.

Maribea Merritt:

It does. It’s helpful. I think it’s helpful too because I was always in, when I was doing it daily, creating the content, being comfortable with getting up and Mentimeter, like she said. I guess I’m going to say I forget about that, but Mentimeter allows them to be on their phone legally in the class. So that piece is really good.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I’m curious. So how do they interact from their phone with that platform? Mentimeter? Is that what it’s called?

Maribea Merritt:

They log in with a code. If you haven’t seen it, you need to go play with it. They can log in with a code and then that code allows them, like you can throw up a question, you can throw up a survey, you can do word clouds. And so depending on what we have selected for our presentation, then they can turn around and they can see, like if it’s a survey, they’ll actually see in real-time as each student is answering the survey, the bar graph changes in front of them. As they do the word cloud, like in any word cloud, the word that is used most frequently is most prominent on the word cloud. So it’s pretty cool.

Meredith Metsker:

Cool.

Maribea Merritt:

Let them be part and they can see what’s happening as their friend next to them is adding something or making something change.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I imagine it’s always fun to see your answer show up on the screen or at least know that you’re part of the conversation.

Maribea Merritt:

Well, and they still don’t know who put what up there. There’s that anonymous feature on there, so it’s not pinpointing any particular person out, which also allows them to participate and not hesitate for that shy person that doesn’t want to answer the question out loud. They can still be part of this.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. Are there any other strategies that the two of you are using to make that big impact with your small team? And are there any other strategies you’re looking to add in the future?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, so a new program that we’re excited about is we have started a career champions program. And this is for about five categories of partners that we’re looking for, including staff and faculty here on campus, and then community employers and alumni outside. And so while we said we have these great partnerships, we just really wanted to formalize it and honor them for all that they are doing to help us scale our two-person office. So we have launched our career champions program and now it’s on uConnect on the website for our employers and our community to go sign up and say, hey, yes, I want to partner. I’m committed to student’s career success. And here’s some activities or ways that I can engage with you to help you with that. And so, maybe that’s donating to our new career closet, a suit, or maybe it’s coming in and doing a presentation for their company or what they’re hiring for or helping us with a mock interview. But just that next step to formalize our partnership.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, that’s so exciting. Was that launched this spring or last fall? When was that launched?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, just this January.

Meredith Metsker:

So brand new.

Maribea Merritt:

Brand new.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, that’s exciting. Well, congrats to you too. That’s awesome.

Megan Baeza:

Thank you.

Maribea Merritt:

We have lots more that we want to do. It’s that budget feature, but we’re going to put it out there and hope to continue to grow our services and make more availability, whether it’s for our center or for the programs that we’re able to offer students just so that they can be more prepared to go out and be the professional that I think that our community or corporations are looking for.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, for sure. So you mentioned earlier a little bit about these reports that you make to just measure your success. And can you just tell me a little bit more about how the two of you measure your success in terms of your impact?

Maribea Merritt:

Oh.

Meredith Metsker:

I know. It’s a big question.

Maribea Merritt:

I’m going to say one was what we had said was that learning from that report that we had, I’m going to say we didn’t have any idea that it was at 24%. I mean, that was just shocking to both. Exciting, shocking all at the same time. And I think the other one, and we’ve kind of mentioned it a little bit, is, for me, it’s when that student comes in, and I’ve had this happen this week, and they’ve got, whether it’s an entrance to a grad program or they got the job, they got the internship, so it’s that student. We did have a student come in this week and tell us she was competing against really our large institutions to get a research position at another UT school where she would get her doctoral program paid for. I mean, that’s like big wow.

You get a stipend, a doctoral program paid for. And she came in to thank both of us this week to tell us she was one of the two people chosen. I know. Really. It’s so exciting. So that’s our success, those little pieces that the students that come in and say, thank you, this is what happened for me. Thank you. I got into pharmacy school, I got into PA school, because we helped with just that cover letter, that resume, those small little pieces that seem like small little pieces, but they are allowing our students to get that next big step in their career journey.

Megan Baeza:

And I think focusing beyond student engagement, I mean, I don’t know how we’re doing a good job if we’re not engaging with students. So student engagement being number one. And I think we also look at the student outcomes. I mean, with the first destination survey. And we have a fabulous tool from UT system called Seek UT, and specifically, you can dive into UT Permian Basin. You can pull up your major and say, at first year, what are graduates making salary wise and what about five and 10? And especially while students are working beyond the Permian Basin, it’s nice to see that students from here, I mean, at five years are making over a $100,000. And that’s really great to say that this education and being here at UTPB paid off.

So that’s amazing. And I think for me personally, Maribea talked about those success stories are super special. But I’ll say I always feel it’s so rewarding when I’m like, so, I ask every student, how’d you hear about us? And when they are referred by someone, either maybe here on campus or a friend, I think that’s important. Because knowing that whatever student or person had interaction with us, it was a positive experience, and so positive that they felt like I need to go tell someone else.

Maribea Merritt:

Yeah, that’s exciting.

Meredith Metsker:

Wow. Yeah, that student-to-student referral, that’s huge. Okay. I love that. And I love that mix of both the data-driven evidence, but also the anecdotal. Because I think those anecdotal stories, when the students come to thank you or at least share with you what they went on to do, I imagine that’s very motivating.

Maribea Merritt:

Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. So I’m curious, with such a small team, with the two of you and so many students to serve, I imagine it must be challenging sometimes to just keep your head above water. So how do you stay fresh and avoid burnout?

Maribea Merritt:

Oh, I like this question. Well, I think this is kind of an odd way to answer it, but I get bored with things being the same all the time. And so, I figure other people do also. So for me, it’s always keeping things fresh and new and making the changes in the presentations, trying to find a new way. And I know that sounds crazy because it’s like, that’s more work. It’s more work to do it that way, but I feel like if I am not enjoying what I’m doing anymore, then maybe my listener is maybe not. Even though I know my listeners are always new, I think, for me, I have to make the material new so I feel like it’s fresh for them. So even just adding the Mentimeter, because that was a new tool for us that added into the presentation that I hadn’t been doing before.

The other thing that is really, really vital in our area is our leadership. Our supervisor is amazing. I say when anybody asks me how do I like where I work, it’s like, I love where I work, I love what I do. And a lot of that has to do with our leadership. Prior to Megan coming, I was in career services two years by myself. So it was two years with those 5,000 students or about. And I was left with an outline from the previous director that retired, and his outline for the year was an event every week. So career services put on an event every week which was usually bringing someone in, doing it yourself. There was lunch catered, finding employers to come in, you name it. But there was an event every week. And so the pieces that are involved there, of course, content, catering, and finding a place on campus to be located every week.

So it’s just a lot of prep time. And when our new supervisor came in, she said, “Is this working?” And I said, “No, not really.” She said, “Well then, you need to stop.” So it was like she gave the permission that was, you don’t have to continue doing weekly events to do weekly events because that’s the way it’s always been, but gave us that permission to stop, reevaluate and what will work. So us coming, and it’s still been tweaking and changing, as Megan and I have come together, of moving from weekly events to being more purposeful in our event preparation with our campus partners, with our student orgs. That has given more purpose to our office. And a better focus is just feeling like that our administrator permission was given and it allowed a lot of anxiety and heavy load that you just felt like you were carrying daily to think that, because I wasn’t only doing that one week presentation.

It was still doing campus going into classrooms. It was still trying to see students. So it was just a lot of things to balance. So I would say keeping my head above water became us being able to back off, reevaluate our programming, and say, what will the students come to? How can we engage more students? Because the weekly programming wasn’t necessarily engaging more students. It was just a weekly event on the calendar. So the purpose of it really wasn’t accomplishing what we wanted. So I’m going to say leadership has allowed us to make adjustments to scheduling, and I think it’s opened us up center-wise to serving more students in the long run.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I love that. I love things like those weekly events where they look good on paper, but they may not necessarily work out well in reality. It’s huge to be able to just kind of reevaluate, drop some of those things-

Maribea Merritt:

Back it off.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah.

Maribea Merritt:

Yep.

Meredith Metsker:

Let’s see. Megan, do you have anything to add for that one?

Megan Baeza:

No, not so much. I feel like, well, I’ve only been in career services for two years, so I still feel pretty new and everything is just a learning experience to me still at this point. So I think that’s fun and exciting. And overall, I mean, we were talking about this yesterday, is that, with career services, I mean, not that we don’t have our challenges. I promise you, us two know that we do. But at the same token, so much of our interaction and so much of what we get to do is positive. I mean, making those connections between employers and students or helping that student feel confident leaving our office with their resume or LinkedIn. So I feel like that’s helpful too. I just feel like we’re really lucky for what we get to do every day.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. It’s really cool to see how passionate the both of you are about helping students.

Maribea Merritt:

Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

So what advice would you two give to other small career services teams who are looking to make a big impact like you are?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah. I think this is a perfect segue, because while we say there are challenges, I think that the biggest change for us is that we do not focus on what we don’t have or what we can’t do. Yes, we have limited time, limited staff. We don’t have a big budget to work with. So there’s all these things against us, but I think when we go and look at what we can do, that’s where we spend our time and focus. And when at the end of that semester, and we’re like 25% and four career fairs, and I forgot the number for presentations. I’m like, there’s a lot.

Maribea Merritt:

25 presentations.

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, there’s a lot that we can do.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, that’s an incredible recap too of everything you’ve done. She said, what, 25 in-classroom presentations, 24% of students that you’ve reached?

Maribea Merritt:

Engaged.

Meredith Metsker:

Wow.

Maribea Merritt:

I don’t have the number of individual appointments. That was what bumped it up there besides the classroom presentations. But then the four career fairs too. Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Wow, that is a lot. Is there anything else either of you would like to add about our topic of making a big impact with a small team?

Megan Baeza:

I’ll say utilize your resources. When I first got to UTPB, I didn’t come from Career Services, I came from Human Resources. And so, there’s a lot of overlap, but there was still a lot to learn. And so by reaching out to colleagues was wonderful to say, hey, what are they doing that works? What are some best practices? What have you seen that didn’t work? And trying to gleam from everyone and say, okay, how can we make this fit us here at UTPB? That was really helpful. So if you are not reaching out to your contacts, you need to do so.

Maribea Merritt:

And I would say we are fortunate in that our system has, I guess, monthly meetings. There again, when it pops up on the calendar, I show up. So they have monthly meetings where they allow us to get with other coaches on campus, other directors on campus, and we always have the opportunity to share if we have a question or needing help in a particular area. So our system keeps us engaged with the others that are doing the same thing in the same roles across our state. So that is a great benefit to us.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. Love that. Some great advice. If people would like to learn more from either of you or connect with you, where’s a good place for them to do that?

Maribea Merritt:

So LinkedIn, we’re both on LinkedIn. I’ll say Megan’s always more active than I am, but we both have a presence there. We try to stay active and up to date on LinkedIn and pushing out, sharing content for, I would say, our colleagues and ourselves as much as for the students that we serve. And if you’re desperate, that bookings link on our website on uConnect, you can always go book a time to just talk to us.

Megan Baeza:

I know. Yeah. We would be remiss if we didn’t say careers.utpb.edu. Find us there.

Meredith Metsker:

There you go. Try out that technology for yourself.

Maribea Merritt:

Right.

Meredith Metsker:

All right, perfect. So to kind of close this out here, I want to end with our kind of answer a question, leave a question segment. So I’ll ask the two of you a question that our last guest left for you, and then you’ll leave a question for the next guest. So our last guest was Toni Rhorer at UC San Diego, and she left this question for you. If you had a magic wand and you could affect all of career services across the board, what is one thing that you would change?

Megan Baeza:

This is easy.

Maribea Merritt:

I know. Yeah, we really did. We were like, okay, we can answer this one. We feel like we are the best kept secret on campus, and we would love if students were required to come see us. So if we could wave a magic wand, we would say they have to check a box that they’ve been by career services not just to see their advisor. So we would love to be on the list.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, I love that. It’s a good idea.

Maribea Merritt:

Even though we feel like we probably need more people, but we wish we were a required piece of their time here.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. Yeah, that’s great. I love that. So what question would you like to leave for the next guest?

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, we want to know about their career journey. What brought them to career services?

Meredith Metsker:

All right. That’s great. Even just listening to the two of you, how you came from HR and Maribea, you came from teaching. I imagine that is not uncommon for folks to come from.

Maribea Merritt:

We just came from a meeting with the career people from across our state a couple weeks ago, and that was a question that was asked of us when we were in small groups. And it was interesting to hear everybody’s answer. Nobody purposely went to become a career director. That wasn’t anybody’s purpose or on their, that’s what I want to be when I grow up. I wish I’d have known about it sooner. I think that’s what I would’ve wanted to be when I grew up. But here I am.

Meredith Metsker:

There. You found your way there.

Maribea Merritt:

Yep.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I mean, that makes sense. There’s not a degree for career services in higher education. Okay. Love that. Well, thank you both for taking the time to talk with me today. I think our listeners are going to get a ton of value from all of your experience in making a big impact with that small team. So thank you both for taking the time and for sharing.

Maribea Merritt:

Thanks for having us, Meredith.

Megan Baeza:

Yeah, it’s our pleasure.

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