“Connecting” seems to be Christy McDonald’s favorite word. While she is standing in the room of the new location for the Career Center, her eyes light up. “Future Career Center Location RM 224,” says the sign that is up on the wall on the right side of the white door. McDonald is the Director of Career Resources at Maryville College. She looks around the room and points to a spot at the wall on the opposite of the entry.
“There will be the reception area, here the writing area and printers and laptops over there. Lots of our requests already got approved,” she says.
McDonald has an enthusiastic personality. She is not very tall and has a delicate build and mid-length blond hair. She often wears dresses and colorful clothes; she has a big smile and she squints her eyes when she laughs. When she enters a room she spreads a positive, optimistic aura to the people in her environment. She used to study piano when she went to college, but it was not the right fit for her.
“Studying piano took the love out of me“, she said. One day at a piano class she broke out in tears. That was the day she decided to quit her studies. Since then she has never touched a piano again in her life.
After she turned her back on the piano, McDonald started studying English and then achieved a master’s degree in American Studies. She studied abroad in London and worked for years as an academic advisor for international affairs at George Washington University. When she started to work at Maryville College in July 2014, she returned to a place she used to call her home since she went to high school in Maryville.
She finds that people around Maryville are more polite than in Washington D.C. She explains the students there as more aggressive and competitive about success. About herself and her position at MC she says, “I think I’ve found my fit. It has been a wild ride“. Now it’s her mission to help students to find the right career and their right places as well.
When a student visits the Career Center for an appointment the first time, it is usually about identifying strengths and potential work areas. “Many students are unaware of skills and are overstrained“, says McDonald.
After finding out strengths, they work through a target list the students make with McDonald. Sometimes that even means that she and the student are trying to break it down together to figure out what classes the student likes. After finding interests and possible work areas, they can search for potential employers. McDonald, who used to be a teacher, also tries to give the students optimism on their way.
“They found out that optimistic people tend to be hired a lot faster,” she explains.
The goals of the Career Center are to support and enhance students and convey skills for self-promotion and self-branding. McDonald and her staff members try to help students to find a work environment that fits the students’ abilities and interests.
“I went to the Career Center when I was changing my major and they helped me with looking into other majors“, says Payne Fisher, senior student at MC.
Callie Crabtree, also a senior student, currently gets help from the Career Center to develop and rework her portfolio for applications. “They help you with personal touch; they seem to get to know you to be able to help you,” she says.
However, even if getting support from the Career Center to prepare for your future career is free for MC students, some students are not interested in going there. “I’ve never had a reason to go to the Career Center“, says junior student Elliott Jackson, majoring in computer science. “They never had careers that I was interested in”.
In the last school year, 251 students had an appointment at the Career Center. The aim is to double that number, and the ideal goal would be to get in touch with all students on campus somehow. To achieve these goals, the Career Center is going to expand and have created a new position for marketing. McDonald and her staff do not only plan to expand, with the new edition of the Career Center they also intend to do a change in content.
The room for the new Career Center is located in Bartlett Hall on the left side on the way to Isaac’s Cafe. When the students enter the building, the new location is the first door on the left side. There are three big windows the students could look through into the newly renovated room, which now has a set of doors leading to a conference room. The excitement in McDonalds’ eyes when she is standing in that room looks like she can see ahead into the future three months.
“We want this to be an active space,” she says, “with a lot more programming and networking opportunities.”
The reason is not only for a bigger office, but also for students to have a place to work. “We want to increase visibility. Lots of students didn’t know how to get to us so far,” says McDonald. External communication aims include having more accurate data about companies and thus also “more networking opportunities” for students “one-on-one.” The ideal vision is to invite employers to talk to student in a personal conversation.
Finally, what do the students expect from the move and the changes of the Career Center? What has to change so that they have more reasons to go there?
Jackson, who said they would not have careers he is interested in, said he would like them to have “more internship related opportunities for students.”
Crabtree, who already makes use of the service of the Career Center, has high hopes for its future.
“Hopefully they will be able to help more students and increase the graduate to employment ratio for the graduating class; hopefully they will be able to open up more opportunities on campus for work-study jobs,” said Crabtree. “Maybe with their expansion and new space more companies will look towards holding meetings and career days with the Career Center.”
The newly renovated center opened in January. With the new changes, the Career Center hopes to respond to these student concerns and create a more inviting space for students.