Junior Delgado, Director of the Career Center at Westfield State University in Massachusetts, shares his best tips and tricks for how to build allies across campus through genuine interactions.
Junior shares how he’s built so many partnerships in his 22+ years at Westfield, how he leverages them in his work as a career services leader, and why it’s so important to approach these relationships with authenticity.
Resources from the episode:
Meredith Metsker: Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Career Everywhere podcast. I’m your host Meredith Metsker and today I am joined by Junior Delgado. He’s the director of the Career Center at Westfield State University and he also happens to be the current president of the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers. Junior, thank you for being here.
Junior Delgado: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here today and spend some time talking about Career Everywhere and other subjects of interest.
Meredith Metsker: Love it. Well, I’m really glad to have you. So, for those of you listening, Junior is kind of a legend in career services. He’s worked in career services at Westfield State University for over 22 years and has led the career center for the last 13 of those. He also teaches several courses at Westfield, including speech and career development. And, correct me if I’m wrong, Junior, but didn’t you also coach basketball there at one point?
Junior Delgado: Yes, I did. At Westfield about 10 years ago, I was the associate head coach. And, I’ve coached at a couple places. I coached at Westfield State, which was my longest stint. I was also a recruiting assistant at Elms College and then I also was an assistant coach at Springfield Technical Community College. And, by the way, all of those years that you mentioned have all been in the exact same office.
Meredith Metsker: Like, physically the same office?
Junior Delgado: Physically the same exact office.
Meredith Metsker: Oh, that’s awesome. Well, you’re a man of many talents and I think it’s fair to say that you are deeply embedded in your campus community and you have a lot of experience building relationships with all kinds of people from all walks of life, which is why I’m just really excited to talk to you today about how to build allies across campus through genuine interactions because as we all know, partnerships and collaboration are everything, especially if you’ve got really big goals and maybe a small team, and especially if you work in career services. But, it can also be notoriously difficult sometimes to build those bridges across campus. But, luckily we have an expert with us here today with Junior.
So, before I get into the questions, Junior, is there anything else you’d like to add about yourself, your background or your role at Westfield?
Junior Delgado: Yes, thank you. So, a couple of quick things that I always like to share and I think being able to share a little bit about your authentic self is also always important. At least I start all my presentations when I’m talking to students with that and so I think I’ll do the same.
So, I am a first-generation college student. I’m also bilingual, so Spanish is my first language. The other thing that I would say is, and sometimes this rubs people the wrong way, I’m a Notre Dame football fan.
Meredith Metsker: Oh.
Junior Delgado: So, go Irish. I’m also a huge college football fan. The other thing is I’m a father to a nine-year-old girl and what I have noticed in life is that I don’t have the same energy to match my child. And, now what I’m doing presently, which is really interesting, is that time of year. So, it’s Girl Scouts cookies, so I’m selling Girl Scout cookies this time of year, helping my daughter out and partnering with her.
And, the last thing, something that I have been doing probably for less than a year, but really enjoying it and it really ties into what I do with my public speaking is I’m also doing some voiceover artist work. So, that’s something newer that I’ve been doing.
Meredith Metsker: Oh, that’s awesome. And, also, I might have to buy some Thin Mints from your daughter because now you’ve got me thinking about Girl Scout cookies. But, thank you for that additional information about you. Now, before I get into the more specific questions, I want to kick us off with a question that I’ve been asking everyone on the podcast so far, and that’s what does Career Everywhere mean to you?
Junior Delgado: That is an awesome, awesome question because I think that when I look at that statement, it really has a lot of different meanings to me and I think from a global perspective, Career Everywhere is all around us. The small moments, the opportunities to collaborate with individuals and have conversations about what people want to do, about what people want to do for work, where they see themselves, their goals. That has Career Everywhere embedded all over that.
The other thing that I would say is from a campus perspective, and when we talk about students for Career Everywhere, I’m sure that others have this same type of view, but I look at is that we are ensuring that our students have the experiences and opportunities to follow their chosen path in life because it’s going to be different for every single individual.
So again, Career Everywhere, it is something that is all around us. If you think about it, when you have conversations with people, what’s the first thing most times people say other than, hello, how are you doing? What do you do?
Meredith Metsker: Yeah.
Junior Delgado: So, people always want to know. So, Career Everywhere is not just on our college campuses, but it is everywhere in our lives.
Meredith Metsker: That’s a really good point. I love that perspective because it’s true. In any networking, it’s what do you do? It’s almost like our identities are sometimes tied to it a little bit for better or worse.
Junior Delgado: Absolutely. So, it is everywhere. I mean, Career Everywhere is so important now more than ever, especially on our college campuses. Those are the conversations that we want to be having with our students.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah, I love that. I’ve said that in a few different interviews for this podcast so far, but I just… I wish that I had access to some of these resources or at least these strategies that I hear all of you talking about. So, it’s… Yeah. I know it’s going to make a huge difference for this next generation of college students.
Junior Delgado: Of course.
Meredith Metsker: All right. So, now I want to get into our topic today, which is about how to build allies across campus through genuine interactions. And so, like I mentioned earlier, you’ve been doing this for decades there at Westfield. And, can you just first tell me what you mean by genuine interactions and why that’s so key to this process?
Junior Delgado: So, yes, and it is something that I truly believe that I live and I think that what I mean by genuine interactions is actually taking the time to care about those around you, whether that is a colleague, a coworker, whether that is a student, a prospective student, a prospective family. I think being genuine is so important because people… Well, we live in a world where there is a lot of social media, a lot of things are manufactured and people can see through that. But, when you’re honestly genuine with people on your campus and such things as simple as good morning, how are you doing? How was your weekend? How’s your family if you do have family. How was that test? How was your athletic contest? How did that go? Those things, although we might think are so small and minute, are very, very important in building general consensus, building relationships with our students, building relationships with our colleagues because that is important, taking an interest in people.
And, I think as you and I had talked a couple days ago, this is the one thing that I believe and it is so true because I remember reading this and it really stuck with me that most of the time, if not always, when people are talking to you, you are not paying a lick of attention. You are not even present because your mind is so focused on everything else that you have going on. What am I going to eat for lunch? What’s my next meeting look like? Did I prepare that assignment? I need to get to that contest. I’ve got to go grocery shopping today. And so, you’re not really hearing what the other person is saying to you. And, sometimes it’s something as simple as how do I contact the registrar’s office and your mind is somewhere completely different.
And so, I think that being able to genuinely listen, but more importantly actively listen to what people are saying. And, this is no surprise. Being present in the moment with that individual I think is also important when it comes to genuine interaction. So again, giving of yourself that time to value someone else because if I want someone to hear me, then I should also pay that back and hear what the other person has to say.
Meredith Metsker: I love that.
Junior Delgado: That’s what I mean by… That’s what I mean by genuine interaction. It’s a two… It is a two-way. Works both ways.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I hear you when you talk about the difficulty in staying present and doing active listening. That’s something I have to work through with these podcast interviews, is being present and making sure I’m actively listening, and it can be a challenge sometimes. But it’s… The conversations you have are so much more meaningful and deep when you do that.
Junior Delgado: Yep. Absolutely. And, again, that is a challenge for everyone. So, I’m not just saying that.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah.
Junior Delgado: I think that’s a challenge for every single human being. It really is because, again, you want to be present with the individual and that also… That genuine interaction leads into letting that person know that you actually care, especially if they come to you with a problem. And, I always equate it to students. When they come with problems, we want to help. We want to help solve their problems. We want to get them answers. We don’t want to pick up the phone and say, “Here, call 10 other people before you get your answer.” We want to help solve that for them or at least provide the assist in getting them to the right answer. So, being genuine with everyone that we interact with I think is important.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah, for sure. So, now that we’ve kind of talked about what a genuine… What genuine interaction means to you, let’s dig into the how. So, how do you go about using those genuine interactions to build allies across campus?
Junior Delgado: So, there’s a couple of things that I would say and I think that longevity has truly helped me being here. But not only the longevity. I also think that being able to get to want to know people in a particular department, because again, I’m going to have to work with all of these individuals on my campus. And so, some have become friends, colleagues. And so, because I’m working with them, I have to take an interest in what others are doing because again, if I go out and I’m sharing the message of Career Everywhere and the career center and you want to engage with us and you want to send your students to us, but I’m not taking an active role in really getting to know the biology department and the members of the biology department and if I’m not taking an active role in getting to know the team from student activities, then again, how can I have it work the other way and just always say, come to us, come to us, come to us and send your students to us.
So, I think that there has to be that intentionality and that intentionality of getting to know people across your campus. Now, you’re not always going to have the time to get to everybody, but one strategy that I think too that is important is thinking about your own areas of interest. And so, for me, my areas of interest are athletics, so I have made that a priority to get to know the coaches, to get to know the teams, to support the team so that when there is a basketball game, when there is a softball game or a baseball game or whatever it might be, a soccer game, to show up because I think there is a value in students seeing you in places that are outside of the classroom.
I think it’s also important to take an interest when others around campus are doing special programs. Maybe there’s some sort of presentation from undergraduate research. Maybe there’s a play that a faculty member wrote, put together and produced. And so, being able to take those areas of interest because we all have different areas of interest and being able to show up to build those relationships.
I mean, some of the strategies as well can be as simple as contacting a department and saying, “Could we come to your meeting just for five minutes to introduce ourselves? I’d like to get to know the members of your department.” So, those strategies don’t have to be big things where you’re standing on top of the middle place of your campus and you’re singing and screaming like this is us, the career center is here. I think a lot of our wins, and I use the word wins, are through those one-on-one departmental, any type of department on campus, whether that be academic or not, is the way that we’ve, or at least that I have for the last 20 years, have built allies on our campus.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. I’m curious. Why are these relationships so important to your work and to you personally? Because I know they are. I can tell.
Junior Delgado: Of course. Of course. So, for me, again, one of the things that I’m always going to say about our campuses… First, I love Westfield State University, so I will say that, but I think what I have seen in this campus is I see our students are a reflection of who I am. Many of our students are first-generation. We have students of color on our campus. We have students that work all the time. And so, we’re I’m going to say blue collar-ish, I think is the word that I want to look for. And so, that’s my background, so I think that that’s why I resonate with the public state institution as well, that is educating the masses. I think that also resonates with me.
And so, the reason why these relationships being genuine, being intentional, are so important… We are all here for a purpose and our purpose is to work with students to build the next future leaders, the next workers of wherever they decide to go in the world, in whatever field they decide to choose. And so, I want to ensure that we impact every single group on campus. Again, I may not get to all 4,000 students, but I know that through some of these collaborations, the messages that we share, the interactions that we have, if it’s a positive interaction with one faculty member, that faculty member is going to go into their classes and say, “Hey, have you visited the career center? Did you know that they have resource A, B, C, and D for you?.”
And so, I think the importance of these relationships is that so that we’re building a career network, that it isn’t just the four or five staff members in the career center selling the message, that it becomes a university-wide message. And, I think that that applies at every institution. When I talk to some of my colleagues as well at other career centers, that is the message. They want to build as many allies as possible on their campuses so that their message spreads to all of their students in every facet, whether you’re an art student or you’re a health science student or you’re the PA student, that you understand that the institution is there for your success.
Meredith Metsker: Right. Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. I’m curious what… Like we were talking about earlier, it can be kind of a notorious challenge to build those allies across campus. In your mind, what are some of those common challenges and how have you addressed those in the way that you build relationships?
Junior Delgado: So, I think a lot of times there is fear, fear of rejection, fear of some of someone not liking you, fear of a different philosophy in the way that you believe in careers. And, I can say that I’ve had conversations over the years where I don’t always necessarily agree with from a career perspective what some believe on our campus. But I also have to respect what people share and what they think and how they view it because through those interactions, I’ve also learned that I don’t know everything and there are different ways to approach problems, to approach challenges.
And so, I think that that for me has also been a humbling experience, that I’m not going to say that I’m the smartest person in the room, but I think that when you listen to others talk, you get to pick up different perspectives and different viewpoints and that has helped.
And so, the other thing that I think is that individuals believe that a lot of times they have to do it en masse, in a mass number, and I think that when you’re trying to build these things is pick one or two. So, the goal shouldn’t be, I’m going to hit 100% in my first year, especially if you plan on being somewhere for a long period of time or a couple of years. Say, this year we’re going to get to know three departments and we’re going to get to know their faculty and we’re going to get to know all the individuals in the department and we’re going to find out what it is that they’re interested in. Because, you might take a department like business and you could have faculty members that have varied, varied interests from their field of research to whatever it is that they’re doing.
And so, you would say, okay, I want to pick these three departments. And, then because of that, that’s going to lead us into hopefully working much, much more closely with the students from those three departments. And, then in year two, you reevaluate and assess where that relationship is with those departments to see, okay, have we made some inroads? Have we impacted those students? And, then, okay, the next year we’re going to add now three to five more departments. And so, you begin to slowly build that network. But I think it’s that fear of will they work with us, will they not? And, I think that if you never ask or if you don’t approach a department, then you’re just not going to know. And, that is the… I think that’s the hardest part, the ask.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah, it is. I can see that. Kind of on that note of outreach and reaching out to new people across campus, aside from going to some of these events, what are some of the ways that you reach out to new people? Is it email or are you going to their office? What does that look like for you?
Junior Delgado: So, it’s a combination of everything. And so, I think a lot of times it’s the email, but it’s a very clarified email as to what we’re looking for. I just read something today, which was very, very, very interesting and it said, don’t waste people’s time by delivering an email that’s very dance-y and fancy. Get to your point. Tell people what is it you want because if it’s not something that’s clear, then it’s not a priority for people to answer. So, that is one way.
I think the other way is by… And, I think for me when I do the outreach is in person. So, if I’m at an event or there’s a faculty appreciation dinner or an award ceremony, and I do see the faculty member, I’m going to go over and introduce myself, I’m going to talk. Oh, I know that or I’ve been told that you’re from this department and that this is your background that you are focused on. Whatever it is. Ligaments or… I’m just using an example.
And, then you can say, “Oh, how did you get into that?.” And, “Why did you study that?.” Or, “Why did you get your degree in that area?.” And, then just at least trying to get to know from an academic perspective why that person chose their field. So, that is in person.
A lot of times we do some outreach as well through some of our social platforms and just… That’s more of the masses. But, I think the individual stuff, it’s either email or it is in person. In person tends to be the most effective as long as it’s for us, if it’s with a purpose. If I’m already at an event or if I see… Because, a lot of times I’ll go to a basketball game and I’ll see faculty members sitting in the crowd or I’ll see somebody who works in a particular office sitting in the crowd. And so, I don’t bother them during the game because of course they want to watch the game the same way that I do. But during halftime or the beginning of the game, hey, how’s it going? How you doing? This is who I am.
Or, the other one which I have also found which is very effective, is when another individual on the campus introduces you to that person.
Meredith Metsker: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Junior Delgado: “Hey, have you met Junior from the career center?.” Or, “Hey, have you met Dr. So and So from this particular academic department?.” And so, slowly, once you start having that conversation, that individual will say to you, “We need to have a greater conversation because I want to know how to help my students.” Or, “I’m advising these five students and they’re exploratory and I really just want to get some more resources to impact those students.”
Meredith Metsker: Okay. So, it’s a [inaudible 00:19:29].
Junior Delgado: So, I think it’s a… It’s a combo. It is a combo.
Meredith Metsker: Nice. So, when you’re having those conversations, like those first interactions, how much are you telling them about the career center? Are you just kind of introducing yourself, saying your job title and that’s it for that first interaction or…? Yeah. What do you tell them?
Junior Delgado: It is. They’re not very long conversations and so again, it’s just, “Hi. I’m Junior Delgado from the career center.” But then it’s, oh, so you’re here, you’re just, or you’re new to Westfield or you’ve been here for two years and I just… I’ve never met you, but I’ve heard from some of the students that have talked about you and they enjoy your classes and whatnot. And, then I just… I start prying by asking a lot of different questions around their area of study, why they chose their major, where did they get their degree from, just that. Then, I can build some common bonds with them because then it’s not all about business. And, again, I can’t come into it at like a moving train at a thousand miles a minute and say like, “Hey, we’re from the career center and I want to talk to you about careers.” Because, I know that they’re going to tune me out. [inaudible 00:20:26]
Meredith Metsker: Yeah. No one wants to talk about that at the basketball game.
Junior Delgado: No. So, they’re not going… They’re going to tune me out. But, I think that if I ask just a couple of questions and say, “Hey, at some point can we get together for a meeting?.” Or, “Can we have you come over to the career center and have a conversation, a greater conversation with us?.” And, I think that’s very effective. So, it’s one of those things where it’s quick. I try and really measure the timeframe because if I know that halftime’s about to be over, they want to go get a refreshment, they want to come back, sit down. So, I come in with a purpose, I think is where we’re getting to right now. So, you have to have a purpose with that conversation as well.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Do you follow up with them at all later on or…?
Junior Delgado: Oh, yes. Yeah. Yeah. It works both ways. I either follow up or the person or sometimes the faculty member will beat me to it or a staff member will beat me to it and say, “Hey, remember the conversation we had? I’d like to have a greater conversation. What are the resources for my…?.” I don’t even know. Whatever major. They’re going to say, what are the resources for this particular major? And, then from there, that slowly starts to build and then they’ll come back again and again and we notice they keep coming back because they want more information. And so, I feel like once we hook them once, I think we can continue to get them over and over to come and use our services and get to know our team.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Gotcha. That makes sense. So, I’m curious, Junior. How are you leveraging some of these allies that you built over the years? How are you leveraging that in your work as director of the career center?
Junior Delgado: So, I think that if… On some campuses when you leverage some of these allies, some campuses will call them Career Champions, which I think is an [inaudible 00:22:01] for us. I don’t think it’s an official title that we’ve given anybody but we do have many, many Career Champions across our campus. We can always count on the same faculty members. We can always count on the same staff members that really do… They’re almost an extension of the career center and they will share our message.
The other thing that I think has worked for us, which we’ve noticed every year, is we continue to get asked to come and speak in more and more classrooms, which is our direct pipeline to students. And so, because of that, we continue to see new faculty members. We continue to see new academic departments that will invite us in. We’ve built relationships across the entire campus over many, many years and I think that our team is very intentional, so it is something that really makes me happy when I see our team members sharing our message, spreading the message because we have worked with, I don’t even know, 15, 16 different academic departments. We get invited into something like 40 to 70. It really depends on the semester, classrooms per semester.
Meredith Metsker: Wow.
Junior Delgado: But, then we’ve taken it one step further. What we’ve done is we’ve also been intentional about partnering with students. So, we’ve partnered with many of the clubs and clubs will contact us now and want us to come in and do presentations around whatever career topic of interest.
Another one that we’ve found… There’s one group that we’re working on campus with and I just had a meeting this morning, and one of the things that we’ve done is it isn’t a pre-planned program. So, we don’t go in with anything for presenting. What we do is we just say, here’s three minutes about the career center, and then we give them a note card. We tell them not to put their name on it and ask any question they want.
And, what we have found through that is that as we go through those note cards and we start to answer the question, sometimes seven of the whatever, 30, note cards have the exact same question on it, which really makes the students feel well because then they also feel I’m not alone in this or I’m not the only person who had that question. And so, some of those programs have been genuine because what we have found is that when we do some of those, we see an influx of students that come in for individual one-on-one appointments because, hey, you were great at answering that question, or your team member was great at answering that question. I’d like to talk more about that.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Yeah. I don’t know why I was thinking this, but when you said build allies, I was thinking… I was focusing on faculty, but there’s the whole… There’s the student clubs. I’m sure there’s administrators.
Junior Delgado: Yeah.
Meredith Metsker: [inaudible 00:24:31]
Junior Delgado: And so, it’s a little bit of everything and I think from a career center perspective, and if you go back to what… I mean what we started talking about, which is Careers Everywhere.
Meredith Metsker: Mm-hmm.
Junior Delgado: Or, Career Everywhere. That again isn’t just our students. That’s impacting every facet of our university and I think that the one thing that I would be remiss if I don’t say is that Career Everywhere impacts everyone from the maintainer all the way up to the president of the university. And, that is important because many times I don’t… I don’t and I hope that this is not happening, but I think it does, that some of our people in some of those service industries get dismissed and those are people that are having some great, great conversations with students. They have great conversations with faculty and staff about careers. Because, you’ll see students. If you’re a maintainer in a building and you happen to be vacuuming and you stop for a student to walk by, hey, how’s it going. Then, they start to see you every day. There’s that I know who you are now because I see you every day. What are you studying? What are you doing here at school? What do you want to do when you leave here?
So, those career conversations are happening at every facet of this university. So, again, it’s important for me to understand that the message that we share isn’t just for students, isn’t just for faculty, isn’t just for staff. Because, we all have a part to play in educating our students and making sure that when they leave this university that they are at least prepared for life or ready to undertake whatever they’re going to do when they move on.
Meredith Metsker: I love that. I love that perspective so much and it makes me think back to my time working at a public university. I worked in marketing there on the central marketing team and it’s true. Even though I was in marketing, not necessarily a faculty member or anything like that, I still felt very connected to the mission. Any student I interviewed for marketing content, I was genuinely interested in their story. I wanted to… Several of them I’m still connected with I think on LinkedIn and Facebook and it’s fun to watch them grow and shine and see what they do. So, I think that… Yeah. It’s absolutely true. Everybody on campus is hopefully dedicated to that mission.
Junior Delgado: Yeah. And, I think that people… People don’t. Maybe they do or maybe they don’t. Sometimes it takes a little bit to realize the difference that you’re making in students’ lives. And, I’m only talking about students right now, but I think faculty and staff are really impacted by this because as we’ve seen over the years, staff or faculty that get invited to weddings, faculty or staff that get invited to some sort of family function. And, that is the truest form of you made an impact in this. You really Career Everywhere-d this person effectively because now they’re inviting you into their personal space, into their personal life and saying, I want you to share this moment with my family or with my friends because you had such a great impact on my life while I was in school. And so, that happens across this country at many universities and everybody, I would hope, and I think has a story very similar to that.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah. It’s making me smile because I invited two of my professors to my wedding. So, yeah. That’s very true. And, I still meet several of them for coffee on a regular occasion, so.
Junior Delgado: Oh, yeah. And, they… I’ll tell you. One of the things that staff and faculty love on campuses is when alums come back that they worked with or they happen to be in the area and they want to meet with you and share with you and then they start talking about their stories from when they were students.
I mean, we just had an alum that came back the other day and he’s very well known on the news in the Boston area and when he comes back to campus, there’s still two or three professors that are here from his time and he talks about that and says those were some of the best years of my life and the memories that he has from the professors. And, it’s funny because even the professors that are still here that knew his name, call him by his nickname, which for me was funny because I’m only… I’m always so used to just being so formal with this alum. But it was… It’s interesting to see those stories. And, again, those stories happen in the hundreds on college campuses, including ours.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah. Oh, I love that. I was just thinking back to one of those professors that I invited to my wedding also called me by a nickname and still does to this day,
Junior Delgado: Too funny.
Meredith Metsker: So, this is kind of a natural segue way to the next question, but I imagine after 20 years of building all of these relationships with all of these different people, I am willing to bet that there are some stories or people or memories that have really stuck with you. Would you be willing to share some of your favorites?
Junior Delgado: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, as I was thinking about this earlier today, obviously I knew the question was coming, so I thought about this because I wanted to come up with some. I mean, and one of the things is one of the students… It’s really ongoing and it is happening presently and even this morning, I met the same student again. And so, I’m working with this student who has never in his entire life owned a suit or owned a sports coat. And, we… From time to time, we’ll bring in our sports coats, put them in the closet, and the other day was talking about interviewing and potentially looking at doing the Washington Center Internship program and going, “I think I need clothing for that program or I need something better than my sweatpants and my hoodies.” And, we said, “Yeah, probably you do.”
And, he came in and I just happened to say, “What is your size and what do you wear?.” He goes, “I have no idea.” So, I mean, it’s to that level that he had no idea what kind of size jacket. And so, a lot of times we make these assumptions that we think they know, but sometimes students don’t know. And so, I had him try a jacket on. It was a jacket that wasn’t being worn and it was just sitting in my closet for students and to give him… I gave him the jacket and one of the things is the expression on his face of joy and happiness to say, “Wow. This is… I’ve got a professional jacket now that I can wear.” And, we keep ties here for some of our students that want to use ties and giving them three ties that match the jacket. He said, “Thank you because this has made such a big difference in my life already, having this professional jacket that I knew nothing about. I didn’t even know what size I was.” And, now he has an indication of what size he is. And, the jacket fit perfectly to a T so it was probably meant for this student.
And, the student came in today and we’re talking about again that Washington Center program and being able to apply for the program. It’s something that will become a reality and the words that came out of his mouth this morning. “You don’t understand. This is life-changing for me.” Which was amazing. And, the student really got choked up. And, to me, that’s so powerful to say like a program like this for some might be just a consideration, and for this student to say, this is life-changing for me. My family has never even been anywhere near Washington D.C., which is really interesting. So, that to me is very powerful.
I had another student, which I think the mom is still very upset with me, but I had a student that I worked with and she wanted to go into teaching and so a lot of times, especially in Massachusetts, a lot of our Massachusetts students don’t think about leaving. And, she was presented with an opportunity to go to Arizona and teach in Arizona. And, to this day… This is what now? Six years, seven years. She’s still teaching in Arizona. And, I remember meeting her mom at graduation and she said, “Oh, you’re the man responsible for sending my daughter away.”I don’t think she’s too happy with me to this day because of that.
So again, just being able to open that student’s eyes to say you don’t have to stay in Massachusetts. There are other opportunities that you can look at. And so, being able to present these things when students aren’t necessarily geared into what else is out there. So, that’s another one.
I can also say there was a student that I worked with, and this one was funny because I still remind her of this. And, in her sophomore year, she had come in and she wanted to participate in a program and the first words out of her mouth when she sat down is, “Hi. Is this only a program for rich kids?.” That was the first words out of her mouth.
Meredith Metsker: Whoa.
Junior Delgado: And, I said no.
Meredith Metsker: Speaking of direct communication.
Junior Delgado: And, I said, “No, it is not. There is aid available.” The student was able in their senior year to participate in the program and now they work for the program, which is super interesting. So, talk about coming full circle. And, I still mention that and we get a good laugh out of that when I do interact with them in this program. So, that is interesting.
And, then probably the last one that I will say… This happened to my colleague the other day and so again, it just… It’s everybody is impacted in a way that we make a difference in students’ lives. And, she had been working with a student and helped a student with the resumes, with cover letters and looking at opportunities, and the student was participating in an undergraduate research conference and contacted my colleague and said, “Would you be willing to come to see me at the research.” And, she said absolutely. So, she schedules herself out, went over to the conference, and then lo and behold, I’m looking at LinkedIn and there’s a picture of our colleague with the student and the student’s thanking her for making a difference, for being there, for listening, and for providing guidance and serving as a mentor. So, that to me just was so powerful to see. When the student is actually posting this and posting the picture of them standing together next to a research project was awesome. That was absolutely awesome.
Meredith Metsker: That’s amazing. Talk about just an incredible real life result of all this work that you’re all doing.
Junior Delgado: Yeah. Yeah. It’s… And, again, and those are just a few of so many stories over the years. I mean, if you think about… If I think about 22-plus years of being here, it’s… There’s a lot of those and it’s… I think that my mission and my calling here is that I get truly my most happiest, and I probably did say this to you, but I get my most happiest when that student comes in and says, “Junior, I got the job. I landed the internship. I have that fellowship. I got this experience. I’m going to graduate school and here’s where I’m going to be. I’m getting into law school and here’s where I’m going. I passed the MTELs, so now I can start student teaching.” Those things truly, truly make me happy because that is a game-changer for the students and that really does propel them to their next step of where they’re headed. So.
Meredith Metsker: And, I imagine all of these genuine interactions and just positive relationships with students especially, they’re probably talking to their peers like, “Hey, have you talked with Junior and career services? He really helped me.”
Junior Delgado: Oh, I can’t say that enough. That’s… It’s like in anything in life. Right? If you think about even stores, if you think about shopping, if you think about vacation destinations, if one person tells the next, that next person will tell the next and the next, and then it snowballs. And, a lot of times I’ll say to students, because we ask the question, who told you about the career center? What are you doing here? Well, this person told me to come see my colleague or this person told me to come see your other colleague. And so, we know that that word of mouth is really getting out and students are coming to see us because their friends have had a positive experience. They’ve had their questions answered or they have found somebody that they can work within their time here that’s going to help them or direct them career-wise.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Have you seen similar results with your work with faculty, staff, administrators in terms of that word of mouth really playing into it?
Junior Delgado: Absolutely. Absolutely. Oh, I can’t even. That one… That one again for us is so key. I mean, students are… I mean, students are pivotal. They’re the reason why we’re here. But I know that if I don’t have a relationship with a set group of students from a set department, if I can get at that one faculty member and that one faculty member really develops a relationship with us and understands what it is that we do, that faculty member will tell the next faculty member will tell the next faculty member in the department, and the next thing you know is we’re getting an email or somebody’s giving us a phone call. Hey, I spoke to this, my colleague, and they said that you do X. We’d like you to do the same thing for our classroom and come in and present on that topic.
And so, that’s why I think our classroom presentations have increased every semester because we’re making so many inroads with other colleagues and they know that we’re genuine, that we’re not there to… We’re not there to steal. I call it stealing their show. We’re not there to be a distraction. We’re there to really complement what it is that our faculty are doing and share the message of, because you’re an English major, here are the resources that you can use for being an English major. Here’s where some of our other English majors that have graduated from this institution have gone. And, I believe that our faculty really appreciate that level of transparency and that communication with them.
So, again, it just… Once we get one hooked, it just… Again, we get the next one and the next one. And, then what we’ve found, which is really funny, is when we are having a conversation with one faculty member, one department, and then all of a sudden they’ll say to… We’ll get a call from another faculty member in a completely different department. Hey, I was talking to this faculty member and they said, you do A, B, C, D. And, I’m going, wait. And, I’m trying to put the connection together. Wait, when do you two interact? Oh, at the last general faculty meeting, we saw each other and we were talking.
And so, that to me, again, it’s what I always say. If we don’t develop relationships with students or if we don’t have a relationship, I can almost guarantee that students are going to and are having those relationships with those faculty members. And so, I need to… And, I need to build those bridges with faculty members because again, if we want to impact a greater number, sometimes those are the folks that students are speaking with.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah. I’m hearing that pretty consistently across these interviews that it’s faculty are just kind of the key pivotal part of this whole puzzle.
Junior Delgado: They are the… What’s that word? The gate, the gatekeepers. [inaudible 00:38:33]. So, we definitely need them.
Meredith Metsker: The gatekeepers to knowledge.
Junior Delgado: Yes. So, we need to build relationships and it’s… And, it’s… And, again, it can’t be about us wanting to get our agenda across. We have to collaborate. We have to partner with our colleagues.
Meredith Metsker: Right. Well, I was even just thinking when you were talking about those classroom presentations that you do, the content that you’re presenting. It’s really lending credibility to their subject matter. If you’re like, here’s what English majors have gone on to do, here’s the kind of jobs they have, here’s the skills they have, that lends credibility to that professor’s class and hopefully gets the students more excited about participating.
Junior Delgado: Absolutely. And so, we see that a lot. And, I used English. It’s funny that I used English because that’s where we see a lot of that because a lot of the work that they’re doing in some of the classes, they connect to real life. So, when we’re able to come in and share some of those things, it just resonates with students much, much more clearly. But again, it’s… We’re trying to replicate that within every single department, within every single faculty member.
Meredith Metsker: Sounds like a lot of work, but fun work.
Junior Delgado: Yes. Yes, it is. It’s something that we definitely enjoy.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. So, what advice would you give to other career services leaders who want to build allies across campus like you’ve done?
Junior Delgado: This is a great, great question. And, I think that, again, longevity plays a part in it. So, I think that if you have been on a college campus for a good number of years and you haven’t stepped outside of the realm of where you work to get to know people, then to me that’s something that you want to evaluate. But if you’re just coming in fresh and you want to get to meet people, well, first I think you have to get to know your team. You have to get to know the people in your department and here’s why. Because, your team members as individuals are also out and about on campus meeting people. Not only are they meeting students, they’re meeting other faculty, they’re meeting other staff.
And so, you’re not going to know who’s being impacted or who are the people that you’re working with if you don’t have those conversations with your own staff because you might have a goal or something strategic that you want to do, and you’re saying, oh, wait a second, I didn’t know that my staff member who this advisor is working with six faculty members in that particular area, perfect. We can go at it this way. And so, I think that getting to know your team first and what it is, who their allies are, it’s… I mean, when you really think about that, isn’t that networking?
Meredith Metsker: Yes, it is.
Junior Delgado: So, you’re getting to know who your team is to find out who their network is because you’re always trying to expand and grow your own network. And so, that is something for every leader in terms of getting to know.
And, then the other part of what I would say for every leader that wants to do this is again, what are your areas of interest? What is it on the college campus that excites you? Because, I would venture to guess, and I’m going to probably say this in the nicest way that Junior Delgado knows how to say. My hope… My hope is that if we all work on college campuses, that we’re still excited, that we still come to work with energy and that we want to see all of our students, every single student, succeed on our college campus.
So, I think that being able to understand what your area of interest is and a greater level and then connecting with those so that if you are interested in government, in politics, well, most campuses have a student government association. Why not make that the natural first connection that you have to students? Because, again, you’re going to have a great number of majors that attend that association and you want your message to be spread quickly throughout campus. And, again, it comes better from student to student and if you’re impacting different majors, but it is an area of your interest. So, that’s why I think that you see a lot of different career staff professionals that are involved in a lot of areas.
The other thing that I think that I want to also share, which to me is super important, is that we’ve gone about trying to really impact particular populations on our campus by being very, very intentional because I know one of the things that we talk about today is equity, making sure that our students of color have access to all the same services or understanding. And, I know that there was a class we had the other day where a student wrote in and said, well, how are you serving our students of color on this campus? And, I had to sit there and think about, okay, how do I have this conversation with the student and share everything that we’re doing?
And, I think my first immediate answer is that when we career counsel, we career counsel to the individual. We don’t use a cookie-cutter approach. I think that if a student comes and is interested in a particular area, we’re going to counsel that student. And, some of the things that we’ve done. We partner with one of our programs, which is our Urban Education Department, which has, I don’t know, three, four, 500 students that are involved in that program. So, we work closely with the advisors. We work with the director. We have also partnered with our TRIO program, which is that federally funded program and we’ve gotten to know the advisors and we work with students.
And, the one thing about those areas which is really nice, and we also partner with our Veterans Association here on campus because that’s super, super important as well. We actually host hours out of their offices. So, we will go to their actual centers because one of my… One of my I think strategies that I wanted to do is I started to notice that sometimes some of the populations don’t necessarily come to the career center. And so, I said to my team one day, if they’re not going to come to us, we’re going to go to them. And so, it’s almost like… I call it guerilla marketing. We’re going to go to the streets.
Meredith Metsker: Yep.
Junior Delgado: That’s where we have to go. If people are out somewhere else and they’re not coming here… We’ve done that with our athletes. We’ve gone right to the athletic facility to host counseling hours for our students so that they can meet with us and say like, oh, I didn’t go there. And, then hopefully, hopefully we’ve demystified that the career center is not a scary, scary place.
And, we’ve noticed that once we meet them where they are and in their space, which tends to be sometimes their safe space, they are more apt to come and see us. Why don’t you come see me in my office and we’ll sit down and we’ll meet? And, then they’re more apt to come in here. And, I would say in the last two years, personally, just for myself, and I’ve seen way more students of color. The numbers have definitely increased in the students of color that are coming into the career center. And, again, I don’t know what that… Maybe that’s the message we’re selling. Maybe it’s because they see another face of color and there’s comfortability in that. But I’m happy that they’re getting here and they’re not just meeting with me. They’re meeting with my other colleagues as well and that really makes me happy that they’re getting here and they’re coming in and they’re taking advantage of the resources and services.
Meredith Metsker: That’s an amazing result.
Junior Delgado: Yeah. Yeah.
Meredith Metsker: I like that.
Junior Delgado: Again, we want to keep growing because we want to have all them come. And, the one thing that I’ve said, and I think my colleagues, and hopefully they agree with me across the country, hopefully will agree with me across the country. A lot of times I have found that we have on our campuses all different varying levels of students. We have students that are highly motivated. We have students that are in the middle. They’re somewhat interested, somewhat not interested, and we have other students that are just not interested. And, something that I’ve said on my campus and I think when I’ve had other conversations with my colleagues, we want to impact all students, all, because I know that my highly motivated student here is going to come in. They’re going to go to the career fairs. They’re going to go to the networking nights. They’re going to show up to everything.
I want all students to feel the same way, to feel that excitement, to feel that energy, especially… We see it when it really resonates with a student and they’re like, “Junior, I got three interviews for three different internships and I’m so excited, but I’m super, super nervous. What do I do?.” And, I know that light bulb has gone on now because I had a student today that I met with and said to me, “I got to take this stuff much, much more serious, but I’m geared in this now. I got to remove some of the other things that I’m doing, which I’m wasting time, and I got to really focus on this stuff because this is my future.” I had a student say that to me this morning.
Meredith Metsker: That’s a light bulb moment if I’ve ever heard one.
Junior Delgado: I was like, whoa. I’m like, yeah, you get it now. So, I think that, again, to me, we want to see all of our students succeed and when that light bulb goes off, we are so excited.
Meredith Metsker: You’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong, but in addition to some of this in-person work you’re doing to improve access to kind of get career services out there, y’all have kind of improved access to your web presence and your digital presence too. Right?
Junior Delgado: Yes. So, absolutely. Oh, absolutely. 100%. One can’t happen without the other.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah.
Junior Delgado: It is a very different time. Accessibility is very important to students and we know that some can’t come to campus. We know that we have students from all parts of the world taking classes here as well as other states and so a lot of our content has to be both. It has to be virtual. Some of our networking nights are happening virtually as well. And, what we’ve noticed with some of those is because, for example, Westfield State, we’re two hours from Boston and so a lot of times when we want some of our alums from the eastern portion of the state, hosting a virtual program seems to make much, much more sense because then we’re getting geographically and different industries that we normally would not have if we’ve just brought those folks to campus.
So, that to me is also interesting. And, then the big one I think for us which is going to be a game changer. We have recently signed on with uConnect and so I don’t know if I can say this on the air or not, but hopefully within the next couple weeks, we’re going to be releasing our platform, which I think there is a tremendous amount of virtual content on there and there’s content that anybody can access 24/7.
And, the most exciting part of that for us and for our team is that the content is going to be specific to each student, which is the message that we always sell. So, if a student has an interest in A, B, C, and D, they’re going to be able to find that through the platform. So, we’re super happy and excited. But yes, you cannot have virtual without the in-person or the in-person without virtual because all of our students are… They’re consuming our content in so many different which ways and we want to be able to meet those needs as well and it isn’t just all in person.
Meredith Metsker: I suppose that’s kind of one way to start building a relationship with someone these days is just put the information out there and let them come to you a little bit in addition to all the work you’re doing to go to them as well.
Junior Delgado: I’m going to say this also, one of the things that we have found is we also encourage students to come see us. So if a student emails us, then we want to have a virtual meeting or we want to have a phone conversation. And we’ll encourage, if they send out an email message that says, I just have this quick question on X for us, it’s then the response is, Hey, thank you for reaching out. We’re so happy to reach out to the career center. Tell me a time that you’re available so we can have a quick conversation. We can go into greater detail on that and we can give you some additional resources. And so that we have found that we’ve been able to develop some relationships and that way just with light encouragement, not a hard press or a hard sell, but we’d like to talk to you.
And I’m going to say that probably 90, 95% of the time, those students are very receptive and they’ll respond back and say, sure, when are you available? So I think that that also is the encouragement, because a lot of times I have found that I think offices sometimes or different places on a college campus where students can be very intimidating or scary. And if you’re able to take that and demystify that, like, okay, they’re friendly people. They’re there to assist, they want to have a conversation with you. It makes students a little bit easier when students know that we’re approachable. I think that’s also important because a lot of times students will see, oh, I can’t approach this person because this person is the director of X, Y. And I think sometimes we, even as people forget that we’re all human beings. And so as a human being, we want our students to be able to approach us and be able to talk to us about whatever it is that they’re thinking about from a career perspective.
And sometimes, I’ll tell you this, Meredith it, the question that a student might ask might not even be career related. It could be about, I don’t know how to find this particular office on campus who the person is that I should talk to because I want to deal with, I need to pay a bill or I’m behind on a bill. And just being able to make that connection for the student has helped us build relationships as well, because then the student knows, oh, I can come back and see them and they’re going to help. And then they start to see the career center as a resource and assert,
Meredith Metsker: Yeah. Goes back to what you were saying earlier about being interested in and knowledgeable about more than just their work, than just their classes.
Junior Delgado: Absolutely.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Well, we are right up against our time here, so I want to kind of start wrapping us up. But Junior, is there anything else about our topic of building allies across campus that you would like to add that we haven’t already covered?
Junior Delgado: I would just say that it’s encouragement to the people that are doing this work every day, my colleagues, friends, continue the to do the good work that you are doing. So it’s more encouragement, continue to do the good work that you are doing, even when you think that a student might not be impacted, they are impacted. Continue to serve your campuses to the best in making a difference. Because at the end of all this, whether it’s my campus or yours, this is the workforce of the future. That’s all I’m going to say on that. So keep up the great work everyone, because it is appreciated
Meredith Metsker: For sure. It’s a great encouragement. So Junior, if people want to learn more from you or connect with you, where’s a good place for them to do that?
Junior Delgado: I think the two best places would be LinkedIn. So I am on LinkedIn and the other one is they can email me directly at email@example.com. Those are probably two of the, I would say, vehicles that I check the most regularly during my workday.
Meredith Metsker: Okay, perfect. And for those listening, we’ll make sure to include that email address in the link to his LinkedIn in the show notes. So junior, final question. So at the end of every interview, I like to do this, ask or ask a question, leave a question kind of thing, or answer a question, leave a question. So I’ll ask 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 that I talked to is Josh of Penn West. And so he left the question, are you truly creating an equitable, sustainable, and accessible process within your industry, career center or department? Reflect on that, and is there an area that you could really improve to make sure that the three Career Everywhere tenants are hit? Big question.
Junior Delgado: So I would say thank you, Josh, for that question because that question is a mouthful, but I did jot some notes down. And I would say for us, I think that the importance has been in building inroads throughout our campus. So we’re very intentional in building relationships with departments, building relationships with student clubs and groups. So I think that’s one, and I think we’re always looking at ways or different ways to serve our students by talking to students and asking what works best or doesn’t work best for students, and the same with faculty members and staff when we’re trying to accomplish some sort of goal, asking them what works best. The other one is that we’re looking at all student populations as well, and that is everything from our first-year population to students that are returning back to school to our veterans. And one that population that we’re really focused on as well is our exploratory students, which is those students that are truly undecided, whether they’re first year, second years.
The other thing that I would say is being accessible to share our message and our story. That’s another way that we’re trying to really be equitable and sustainable. And so I think you always want to be selling the message at the career center because every college and university has so much changeover where you see presidents come in or new vice presidents or deans or whatever it might be. So being accessible to share your story and your message and have conversations wherever you’re asked to speak on it. And then the other one for us that I think we’ve looked at is being, again, intentional in developing relationships with, in collaborations with new departments. And for us, some of those have been working on a nursing career fair health sciences, which we’re doing a lot of collaboration with health science. And now because we have a large, large number of students.
So I think those are the ways, and the final part of that question is for me, if I could improve on those three tenants, I would want to have a specific staff member would, this would be my wish to have a staff member that could really focus on all these areas that could focus on and building a strategy around being sustainable, being equitable, because a lot of times we are being asked to do so many different things, and I think that having a staff member that’s really geared and focused to that would really help this office out.
Meredith Metsker: All right. Great answer. So Junior, what question would you like to leave for the next guest?
Junior Delgado: Oh, I feel bad for the next person, no, I’m kidding. So my question is this, whoever the individual is, when you decide to leave or retire from your place of employment, how are three ways that individuals in that organization will describe you or what will they say was your lasting impression?
Meredith Metsker: Ooh, that’s a good one. Yeah. Oh, okay.
Junior Delgado: So it’s a packed question.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah, I mean, that’s good though. It’ll require some reflection and hopefully some positive thoughts about how people will remember them.
Junior Delgado: Yes.
Meredith Metsker: Cool. Well, thank you so much Junior, for taking the time to be on the podcast and for talking with me today. I just really enjoyed this conversation and I’m excited to see how our audience can use what you or your advice and everything that you share today to build better relationships across campus.
Junior Delgado: Awesome. Thank you again for having me. I so greatly appreciate it. And again, Career. Everywhere is, we’re all responsible. Every single person is responsible. Whether you’re on a college campus, you’re an employer partner, Career. Everywhere is, we’re all responsible for that.