Podcast

Connecting Co-Curricular Activities to Career

Dr. Ellen Awad, Associate Dean for Student Life at Hope College, talks about how to help students connect their co-curricular experiences to career.

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Dr. Ellen Awad, Associate Dean for Student Life at Hope College, talks about how to help students connect their co-curricular experiences to career. 

In the episode, Ellen shares:

  • The importance of connecting co-curricular activities to career development
  • How to help students articulate the skills and competencies they learn in these activities
  • The need for students to reflect on their co-curricular experiences and think about how they can apply what they’ve learned in different contexts
  • How career services can partner with student life to support students in making these connections
  • Examples of how she has helped students synthesize their co-curricular experiences and apply them to their resumes and job interviews
  • The common skills gained in co-curricular activities, like communication, teamwork, conflict management, and goal-oriented thinking
  • Why it’s so important for career services leaders to create space for students to reflect on their experiences and think about the significance of their involvement in co-curricular activities

“Our graduates need to not only be well-versed in what they majored or minored in, but they also have to be able to function with other humans in this ever-changing world in a way that they can take from one space to another, to a different setting, to a different context, and be more agile,” Ellen said.

“And they have to be creative in how they approach the work and be able to really apply what they’ve learned in their co-curricular experiences to whatever work setting they eventually find themselves in.”

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’m joined by Dr. Ellen Awad. She’s the Associate Dean for Student Life at Hope College. Thank you for being here, Ellen.

Ellen Awad:

It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I’m super excited to have you. And I’ve been really looking forward to talking to you today about how to connect co-curricular activities to career. So, I know this is something that you focus on a lot there at Hope College, particularly when it comes to helping students articulate the skills and competencies that they learn in those co-curricular activities, and then putting them in the context of a resume or a job interview. So, I’m super excited to dig into this with you. I think it will be a super fun conversation.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I hope so.

Meredith Metsker:

Before I get into my questions, Ellen, is there anything else you’d like to add about yourself, your background, or your role there at Hope College?

Ellen Awad:

Sure. I have worked at Hope College for a long time, which is a small liberal arts institution, but I do hold degrees from the University of Georgia. So, I’ve also worked on a campus like that, and I’ve worked at Michigan State University. So, although, I have made most of my career at a small liberal arts, I have also had that larger university experience on a couple of different campuses.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I’m curious, knowing that what brought you to the small liberal arts campus?

Ellen Awad:

I did choose that as an undergrad, and I just think that there’s, for me, something really special that happens on a small private college campus that you don’t get on a large university campus. And yeah, I chose it as an undergrad and was just so enthralled with the idea of cultivating culture on a campus like this that I wanted to get back and do that work on this campus.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s really cool. Sounds like it was a meaningful experience for you as an undergrad.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, it sure was.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. Before I get into my more specific questions about our topic, I want to kick us off with a question that I ask all of our guests here on the podcast, and that’s what does Career Everywhere mean to you?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, good question. I think when I hear that, I just think that Career Everywhere means that it’s woven into the fabric of the place that everyone’s working to help create experiences that are meaningful and that are going to help grow and develop students, so that they are career ready upon graduation. And I think that requires a learning stance, not just in the classroom, but in all facets of an institution that we’re here to learn. Hopefully, have some fun too, but in that process, actually think like, “What am I learning? How am I growing? How am I developing to ready myself for the next phase of life?”

Meredith Metsker:

I love that, especially your note about it being just woven into the fabric of the institution. That well said.

Ellen Awad:

Thank you.

Meredith Metsker:

All right. Now, I would love to dig into our topic for today, which is again, how to connect those co-curricular activities to career. So, to get us started, can you just tell me a little bit about what you mean when you say that? What does it mean to connect co-curricular activities to career?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I think that from the very start, its helping students think about how they’re outside of the classroom experience is a place where they’re going to grow, develop, and learn. And all that they’re learning and growing in that sense is going to help equip them for what they’re thinking that they want to do after they graduate. It’s getting them ready, and it’s helping them to capitalize on the skills that they’re learning, and how they’ve applied those skills.

And I think part of that, to connect it to career most effectively means also helping them know how to articulate like, this is the experience I had. But, hey, I can actually talk about it and tell you what I learned and how I would apply that in another context.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay, yeah, I know we talked about this a bit in our prep call, but I was thinking back to my own college experience and I was in the marching band and the pet band, and I definitely learned career related skills like leadership. I led a squad of four people as we learned marching band drill. And yeah, there were lots of opportunities like that, but it wasn’t until much later in my career that I figured out that that’s what I was learning. I didn’t quite realize it in the moment.

Ellen Awad:

Sure.

Meredith Metsker:

So, that’s really cool that you’re working to help those students articulate those skills because they’re learning so many in those extracurricular activities.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah. And sometimes, you can go through life just taking it day-by-day, step-by-step. And if you don’t take the time to reflect or think about like, “Wait, what is meaningful about this thing that I’m doing?” You then aren’t able to apply it in different situations or speak about it in articulate ways when it really does matter.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, it really does take some purposeful thought and some studying a little bit. Okay.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

So, in your opinion, why is it so important to connect those co-curricular activities to career?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I think we live in an ever-changing world, and our workforce is changing, and the demands related to all of that are shifting. And, I mean, we’ve all been through a global pandemic now, and we know like, sometimes, you’re not expecting a shift or a change, and there it is.

And so, I think our graduates need to not only be well-versed in that thing that they studied, that they majored in, that they minored in, but they have to be able to function with other humans in this world, in this ever-changing world in a way that they can take from one space to another, to a different setting, to a different context, and be more agile. And I think, creative in how they approach the work. And also, have to be able to really apply what they’ve learned in their co-curricular experience in whatever work setting they eventually find themselves in.

Meredith Metsker:

Right. Yeah, I remember you mentioning that you work with a lot of, I think, sororities and fraternities in terms of helping them articulate those skills. I imagine there’s a lot of leadership that comes from those skills leading meetings, leading people.

Ellen Awad:

Yup.

Meredith Metsker:

Dealing with conflict, dealing with a diverse array of human beings. And…

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, for sure, I think just knowing that they are building skills in every leadership role that they have or every group context that they’re in outside of the classroom. And then, I think it’s essential to help them see how that does connect. It’s not just this thing that’s contained in your college experience, but it’s something that can be a building block or very foundational for where you’re going in the future, whether that’s medical school or into law, or you’re going to be a teacher or work in finance like, there are skills that can be built outside the classroom day-to-day.

Meredith Metsker:

Mm-hmm. Those are probably some of the skills that we use the most.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, for sure. Yup.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I know communication skills, that’s something that I… I mean, I did learn a little bit of it in the classroom as a journalism major, but I learned a lot of it outside of the classroom.

Ellen Awad:

Sure. And I think, that’s the exciting part. If you’re connecting the co-curricular to career, you’re helping students to see like, “Oh, wait, what I’m doing here can apply in this new and different context, and I could develop skills here and be better equipped for that first job I get, or for going on to wherever they end up.”

Meredith Metsker:

Right, right. So, here’s the big question. How do you go about helping students connect those co-curricular activities to career?

Ellen Awad:

Right. One thing I want to say about it all is, I think there’s something about student readiness or an individual’s readiness. They have to be at a place where they are ready to connect. And so, that does take some understanding of just what happens developmentally with college students. Freshmen may not be at the same place as a senior, who’s ready to graduate to make certain connections.

So, that just off at a base level, I think people working with college students need to understand that developmental perspective. But then, in working directly with students, I want to help them make a connection to what they’re learning and to have time to reflect and think about what happened in whatever setting, and what they’re learning, how they can apply it, how they have applied it, if it didn’t go well, how they could have done that differently or in the future when they run into a certain situation like that again, or a conflict, how they would proceed.

And I think, a lot of that also involves helping them get to a place where they can synthesize all that they’re experiencing, so that they can get to a place where they’re thinking more with more complexity about whatever that context is, whatever the situation is in which they are doing either leadership or maybe they’re just a group member, but how did they contribute to that certain situation? How can they take that and apply it somewhere else?

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. So, what’s an example of a time that you’ve done this where you’ve helped a student synthesize all those things that they’ve learned and apply it?

Ellen Awad:

Sure. I can think of… I’ve worked with college students for a long time, so lots of examples. But more recently I can think about, I was working with a group and there were leaders meeting with some group members, there was a conflict. So, the leaders were hearing the conflict from the members, processing through that, trying to figure out how to handle the situation.

And when the group members left, I stayed and I took time to actually debrief with those student leaders. And then, talk about how they handled it, what went well, what needs to be done next. And in that conversation, and I often find myself saying this to college students, when you’re in your first job interview, you’re going to look back on this and have a great example to share of a time when you had to manage conflict.

And so, I think part of it is just naming it for students and saying, “In the future, you could look back to this moment and have some material to talk about what you’ve learned, what you would’ve done differently,” that kind of thing. So, I try to, in situations with students, make space for them to reflect and to debrief or process what has happened, so that they can actually take the time, not just to move on to the next thing in their busy lives, but to make space for what just happened here. And so, what? What do we need to do about that? And what can we do next with what just happened?

Meredith Metsker:

How do you go about making that space, so students have a place and time to reflect?

Ellen Awad:

Sure. I think in working with college students, while in working with any human, you do have to work at building rapport, developing a relationship, creating a space for trust. And I think also saying like, “Hey, none of us are perfect and we’re going to learn together this year.”

And so, again, going back to creating a learning stance so that they know they don’t have to be perfect, nobody’s perfect, and that it is a space where they are learning. And hopefully, growing as a human. So, I think setting the stage for that, and then literally spending time and making space to do the debrief for the process after. And I think part of that too involves just giving feedback to students.

So, there are lots of times where something happens, maybe it’s not even a bad thing, maybe it’s a great thing. I see a student leading a meeting really effectively. And so, after that meeting I would say, “Hey, you did such a good job saying this, doing that, and giving them that actual feedback in real time,” so that they can put that in their back pocket and take it out later to say, “Oh, gosh, okay, I do know what I’m doing.” I think doing that also builds their sense of, “Wow, I really can do this. I have a sense of self-efficacy in this situation, working with other humans,” and that’s just going to help ready them for their first job.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, nothing like a nice little boost of confidence to help you enter the job market a little bit easier.

Ellen Awad:

For sure.

Meredith Metsker:

I’m curious, what are some of the common skills or competencies that you see students gaining in co-curricular activities? And then, transferring to career?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I think a lot of it all comes back to some of the things we’ve been talking about. But communication skills, and that could be written communication like, how do you send an email? Are you using emojis and text abbreviations? Or are you using words? So, some of it is written, some of it is about how you see students communicate with one another? How they are leading a meeting or participating in a meeting? Are they being good citizens in a group? Or are they not contributing positively?

So, a lot of the people, person-to-person kind of skills, teamwork, how are you working together? I think one that we’ve been seeing since the pandemic that we’ve had to help students maybe cultivate a little bit more is related to actually taking a task or a goal like you have a goal, a group has a goal, how do they move it to completion? You can’t just talk about a thing and it happens. You need to think about the steps to get it to the goal. And that has been, I don’t know, something that I think we may be lost in a few years of more virtual communication, so helping students know how to do that.

I also think, and I already spoke about it, but just conflict management, conflict mediation, and knowing how to work through differences of opinion or conflicts between personalities. Also, working with people who are different from you on all levels.

So, I just feel like, and I’m obviously passionate about this, but in the co-curricular realm, there are so many skills to be learned, and it’s like on a college campus, so many opportunities to practice those skills and develop them, so that by the time you are ready to apply for a job, you’re like, “Yeah, I know how to lead a meeting. I know how to manage conflict. I can work through this. I can plan and organize events,” all those kinds of things that student groups do, or it could, yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay.

Ellen Awad:

I was going to say, it could also… You could take it to athletic team or you talked about marching band. There are so many different places and pockets on a college campus where that co-curricular learning takes place.

Meredith Metsker:

I was going to ask from your perspective like, what are some of those common co-curricular activities that maybe our audience who’s in career services that they can keep an eye out for in terms of helping students identify some of those learned skills and competencies?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, that’s a great question. And I have… And thinking about this today, I have thought about for career center staff to understand and know what’s happening in the co-curricular realm.

So, in student organizations, fraternities, sororities, I think on athletic teams, there’s development that takes place. I think in residential life for students who are resident assistants or work in residential life in some capacity, there’s a lot of space to learn, grow, and develop skills there. And I think, you could also think about spaces where there’s peer tutoring or academic support.

I think that those are places where maybe that learning is going to look a little bit different, but maybe then those students are talking about how they learn to coach a student to perform better, that kind of thing. Yeah, there’s so many different ways that learning can take place outside the classroom.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, there are so many different student organizations and groups, whether it’s athletics or the arts or academics or as you said, so many opportunities for that kind of learning on a college campus.

Ellen Awad:

Yup, for sure.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, it’s exciting. I’m curious, in your opinion, how can student life, your department there and career services partner to help students connect those co-curricular experiences with career, with life after graduation?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I think first of all, getting to know each other and working together to make sure that we understand what each other does. And I’ve thought a lot about how I must like the image of weaving. But weaving together what we’re doing, so that we’re inviting career into our world and maybe they’re understanding or looking to ways to better understand what we do, so that we can help ultimately help students the best, really by setting a foundation for a meaningful connection between the two.

I think, like I said earlier, for people in my shoes to make sure that we’re talking to student leaders about how they could talk about the role on their resume, or talk about how they could use it in an interview for us to be knowledgeable about what comes next in that process for them. And likewise, for career staff to say like, “Oh, I see that you are a leader in this organization. Talk to me about what you’ve learned in that role.”

And so, to turn it around on them, I’ve always said to students like, “You shouldn’t list something on your resume if you don’t have something meaningful to say about that.” And maybe, career people will fight me on that, I don’t know. But I think your resume is an example of who you are. And if you can’t speak to the student group that you’ve listed or that co-curricular activity, if you can’t speak to what it meant to you, what you learned from it, how you can apply what you’ve learned, then maybe it wasn’t as meaningful as what you thought.

So, I think both ways we can help each other out by getting students to think and take time to reflect. So, it’s like the what? Here’s what I did. So, what? Why does that matter? And now, what? I can apply it here in this next context of my life.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I’m curious, what does this partnership look like there at Hope College between Student Life and Career Services?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I think that we have a good relationship. And we call on them on the career folks to help us out with different trainings that we do, anywhere from our new student orientation through all the years that students are here. So, we try to connect with them and have them talk to both our student leaders, but just also students in general about what they offer and how student leaders can beef up their resume with what they’ve done while they’re on the college campus.

I think we have a great supportive network between our two offices here. But that takes time, and it takes an interest on both parts to actually get to know what’s going on in each other’s worlds, and to look for ways to make connections.

So, we’re a strengths campus and haven’t always been, but when we started doing that, our office oversees new student orientation. And so, we looked for ways to work with the career center to bring in strengths to our orientation program from the very get go. So, students are introduced through their new student orientation process to the career center because of that connection that we have cultivated.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s really cool. Is that the strengths finder?

Ellen Awad:

Yes. Yup, yup.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I’ve always wanted to do that. I’ve never done it before.

Ellen Awad:

Oh, it’s so… Oh, you should totally do it. I highly recommend. It will give you good insight into how you’re wired as a human.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, and I love things like that. I love those personality tests, StrengthsFinder, all that.

Ellen Awad:

Yup, yup.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, okay. So, I’m curious with that partnership, how did it start? Maybe, this happened before your time, but how did that initial contact happen?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I have worked here for a long time, and our career center has gone through some changes. We used to work in the same division, so it just more happened because of person-to-person, people thinking like, “Hey, we could really help each other out here.” And so, taking steps to build those connections and think about how we could support one another. And yeah, through the years it’s just evolved.

We’ve even connected… This hasn’t happened for a while because global pandemic, but the career center on our campus and our office used to host a dinner for students to learn etiquette, so that when they would go to that first on the job interview where you’re having a meal with somebody that you wouldn’t be nervous about, which fork to use or what is this glass for or that fork for. And so, that was a really cool partnership that we had between our two offices for a lot of years.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s really cool. That would be handy information to have for sure because I have been…

Ellen Awad:

Right.

Meredith Metsker:

I have been in those job interviews where you’re eating a meal, and it’s like, “Which silverware do I use? Am I crunching too loudly?”

Ellen Awad:

Yeah. Did I butter my role properly? All those things…

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, yeah, go to an etiquette dinner and learn the right way to do it instead of feeling anxious when you’re already having feelings about being at a job interview.

Meredith Metsker:

Right. Yeah. So, it’s those real-life skills, again.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Yup, stuff you don’t learn in the classroom.

Ellen Awad:

For sure, yup.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I’m curious, what advice do you have for career services leaders who want to help their students articulate what they’ve learned in these co-curricular activities and apply it to resumes, job interviews, that kind of thing?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I think if career center folks could make space for the students they’re working with to actually, reflect on why something is on their resume, and have them think about what they learned as a result of that, why it mattered. Sometimes, we learn things and it’s just for fun, and that can be okay too. But when thinking about a resume, “Why did it matter that you were a part of the Quidditch Club while in college or the knitting club? What did you learn from that? Why did it matter?”

And then, also help them think about how the student can apply it to the next context. I think like what you said earlier, you were in marching band, and then it took you some time to think back and reflect on what you learned. I think how cool would it be if we all were helping students to think and reflect on their experience while they’re actually in it? That would create more opportunities for further growth and development for them, unless it’s on their graduation day, but while they’re actually at the institution.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, that would be so valuable. Yeah, just again, thinking back to my own experience, if I had been able to articulate some of those leadership skills, conflict resolution skills, communication skills, that would’ve been so beneficial in those first few job interviews for sure.

Ellen Awad:

Yup.

Meredith Metsker:

So, you’ve touched on it a little bit throughout our conversation, but can you just walk me through what you do when a student comes to you talking about, or either maybe with a resume or just talking about a co-curricular experience? And how you help them break that down?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I like to help them to think again about what it was, what that experience was all about. I think having them first describe it. So, talk to me about what you did in that role, in that group, in that experience you had. And then, so, what? Why does it matter? What about that is meaningful for you in your life? What did you gain from it? How did it change you? What did you learn?

And then, I think the next part is, how are you going to apply that? What you learned there is useful in other contexts? So, think about how that translates for you into just who you are as a person, into how you go about your interactions with other people in how you might apply that if you’re in a different organization or a different space.

And just giving them actual time to reflect on that and talk through them with that, I think helps them realize what they have gained from the experience. And again, I am a developer through and through. I love helping students grow, learn, and develop. And I always think there needs to be a twinkle of fun in it too.

So, I don’t discount that some of the things that we do in the co-curricular realm are about making great memories, and about fostering friendship, and about just having a good time. So, I don’t want to discount those. But through all that, you can also learn and really develop as a person.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, agreed. It can be a win-win situation. You can be learning, and you can be having a great time at the same time.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, yup.

Meredith Metsker:

Yup. I’m curious, what if you can recall a recent time you’ve done this with a student, what were some of their answers? Especially, when you ask them to think through the so what?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, let me think of an example. I can think of some student leaders that I worked with in the past year who… I’ll think about one of them because it will make this clearer. But she took on a leadership role without really having a 100% confidence that she was equipped for the role.

And so, in talking with her and helping her to reflect on what she had done, what she had accomplished. It was just really cool to hear her articulate all the things that she had learned as a result of the role. And it actually, made her rethink the direction of her life a little bit, which maybe can be good and probably also scary when you’re heading into senior year.

But she was able to reflect on the parts of the role that she really loved and that were life-giving to her, and was thinking about that made her think about her chosen career path and how she wondered would she find those same things on the path that she was on.

So, I think that’s an example of sometimes a co-curricular experience can interrupt the path that the student is walking on and thinking like, “Oh, this is what I’m going to do, and this is going to be what it is for me.” And then, think like, “Oh, there are parts of myself I didn’t know existed.” So, for her, it was some new self-discovery that took place, which I’m so happy happened for her, right? Because I don’t know what will happen with her life, but better to think about and work through that before you go down a path that you end up maybe not being happy with in the end.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, that’s a great example of what you were talking about earlier with how important it’s to just make that space. It’s like, maybe she wouldn’t have come to that realization if there wasn’t that time, that reflection, that whole process to help her debrief what she had experienced.

Ellen Awad:

Yup, for sure. Yeah, and actually, in telling you that story, I think that’s actually part of my own story. I got to my senior year and I thought I was majoring in one thing, and I thought, “I’m not equipped for this. I don’t want to do this.” And I started talking to people in the co-curricular world at my institution, and they’re like, “Ellen, you can go into the field of higher education, and do these things that bring you joy.” And I’m so grateful that they gave me a perspective, gave me something to think about, and it led me ultimately here to my chosen career. So, they interrupted my path when I was like, “This is wrong.” And I’m grateful.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, as you were sharing that example, it just clicked for me that even more how there is this very strong connection between co-curricular activities and career, and not just the skills and competencies that you’re learning like we’ve talked about before, but the entire direction of your career path.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, yup, yup. And what matters to you, right? I think for the student I described, she did all the different things that made up her role, and part of it was that she had fun in the mix and figured out that’s a value to her. Not everybody maybe wants that in their day-to-day. Maybe, some people are all business and want to get the business done. But she figured, “No, I need a little bit of fun in the work that I’m doing for it to be meaningful to me.” So, having those moments to reflect and think about that I think are really important.

Meredith Metsker:

She needed that twinkle of fun as you described it.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I am curious, is there anything else about our topic that you would like to add? Or any questions that I didn’t ask but should have?

Ellen Awad:

The one thing that I have been thinking about since we met a couple of days ago is, just how important it is to have a learning stance in life, and to be okay with being a lifelong learner. You don’t have to have it all figured out today. It’s a process. It’s a journey. And what you have figured out today might shift and change as you discover more things about yourself and where your passions are.

And part of that takes the ability to be self-aware. So, being in tune with who you are and making sure that you’re making space to check yourself along the way. Sometimes, we can enter something or college students can enter and say like, “I’m going to major in this. This is the direction I’ve been thinking about.” And get into that.

And if they take time to check themselves, they can either say, “Yes, this is actually what I want to do.” Or they check themselves and they’re like, “Actually, this is not how I want to spend my life, or the next however many years.” So, I think having that learning approach and being self-aware can really make a difference in how you enjoy your life, and how you create a career for yourself.

Meredith Metsker:

Sounds like a good advice for both students and the career leaders who help them.

Ellen Awad:

Yes, yes, for all of us, all people.

Meredith Metsker:

Right, right. Yeah, it’s about doing what gives us energy, brings us joy, and then, yeah, fulfillment.

Ellen Awad:

For sure, yup.

Meredith Metsker:

For me, I was an English major when I first started college, thought I was going to be a big book publisher in New York City. And I got a year into classes, and I just couldn’t stand my English classes. I was thinking, I really don’t enjoy discussing literature. I just like to read for fun. I don’t want to dissect the color of the curtains or whatever symbolism is in there.

Ellen Awad:

Right, right, right.

Meredith Metsker:

So, but yeah, it took time to figure that out, and I completely, I course corrected, went into journalism.

Ellen Awad:

Yup, yup. Yeah, yeah, and I think, again, going back to where we are as a society, I think there’s pressure on students to have it all figured out. Higher education costs money. You want to make the right choices, but also understanding that we need to make space for their own developmental journey, so that they can come to a place where they’re like, “Yeah, this is what I want to do. This is what I am passionate about. This is what I care about.” Because whatever career you choose, you’re probably going to spend a lot of hours doing it. So, make it something that you really enjoy or interested in because it’ll just make life better.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, no kidding. It’s a lot of hours to be unhappy if you choose the wrong one.

Ellen Awad:

Yup, yup, yup.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I see we’re coming up towards the end of our time, and I want to be mindful of both of our time here. But is there anything else you want to add before I close this out?

Ellen Awad:

I think I’ve said most of the things that have been front of mind for me. So…

Meredith Metsker:

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

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, they can find me on LinkedIn.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay, great. And for those who are watching or listening, I’ll be sure to include a link to Ellen’s LinkedIn in the show notes, so you can go ahead and check that out. And to close this out, I want to do this, answer a question, leave a question thing I do at the end of every interview. So, I’ll ask you a question our last guest left for you, and then you will leave a question for the next guest. So, our last guest was Amanda Morgan of Washington State University. And she left this question for you. Professionally, what are you most proud of?

Ellen Awad:

That’s such a good question. And I was just in a meeting last night where I was categorized as old and…

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, no.

Ellen Awad:

I have feelings about that. But I’ve also had several decades where I have been working. And I think as I look back, I could list accomplishments that I’ve had. But I think I’m most proud professionally of the authentic relationships that I’ve cultivated with both students and colleagues through the years, ones in which we’ve learned together.

We’ve been ourselves. We’ve made space to be ourselves, and really learned well. Having that twinkle of fun that I have referred to, the best experiences I’ve had through the years at work have been ones where even if we’re doing really hard… Dealing with really hard things, we can still find space to laugh, appropriately laugh, but laugh at whatever to get through, whatever tough time we’re working with. But just really proud of all the relationships I’ve cultivated with people.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s really cool. That’s a great thing to be proud of.

Ellen Awad:

Thank you.

Meredith Metsker:

All right. What question would you like to leave for the next guest?

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, I am always curious about a person’s why. So, my question for the next person is, what’s your why for doing the work that you’re doing?

Meredith Metsker:

Ooh, I like that. I love those questions that really just dig into the heart of the why, as you said.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, like what motivates you in the work? Yeah, I’m curious.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. For me, it’s about telling and hearing people’s stories. I have always been obsessed with stories. I think that’s why I originally went into English, and then eventually, went into journalism. I just love stories. I love storytelling. So, that’s my why.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, that’s awesome. And I think when you do have a why and you’re able to articulate it, it just makes the work so much more meaningful.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. And fun.

Ellen Awad:

Yeah, for sure, yup.

Meredith Metsker:

Cool. On that note, Ellen, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. This was such a fun conversation. It’s full of so many helpful pieces of advice that I think our audience of career services leaders are really going to be able to take away a lot from. So, thank you so much again for sharing your time and your wisdom.

Ellen Awad:

Thanks so much for having me, Meredith. It’s been fun. I’ve had fun. I love talking about this.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I can tell you’re just super passionate about this work, which just makes my job as an interviewer even more fun. So, yeah. Thank you.

Ellen Awad:

Thank you.

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