My decision to transition from a corporate college recruiter to a college career counselor crystallized during an on-campus recruiting visit to University of California, Irvine. What I loved most about my recruiting role was interacting with students and connecting them to satisfying job opportunities. I started to explore how this experience would translate into a student-focused career with educational and helping objectives. An informational interview with a smiling, satisfied career counselor at UC Irvine clarified how I could shift career paths. She started off successful in business marketing, and even had her MBA, but she never felt at home until she was helping students. Another career counselor took me to lunch that day. Ironically, she had once been an employer herself recruiting on college campuses just like me. Looking back on these encounters, I realized that what we all had in common was a desire to focus on helping students who were demonstrating a blazing need for career preparation and guidance.
Having now completed my Masters degree in Counseling and one year of work on the "flip side," I can identify similarities and differences in job functions and resources between the recruiter and counselor positions. The main objective for both roles is to widen the student funnel. In other words, connect with as many students as possible whether to interview and hire them for open positions, or to counsel and prepare them for work or further education. As I had done before, I still present career information to student organizations and plug my purpose at the end, albeit with a different goal and motivation. I continue to work with Employer Relations and participate in career fairs, though now I support logistics and assist students, rather than attend as a recruiter. While recruiting at California State University, Sacramento, I hosted the speaker series "Insurance Industry Night" which parallels the "Career Conversations" events I coordinate now as a counselor to bring professionals and their real life experience to the students. Finally, I am still assessing student fit. As a recruiter, the fit was for the specific job and the company. As a counselor, I guide the student in assessing his or her personality, interests, values, and skills as they link to a best fit major and career.
Knowing recruiting software systems and marketing strategies helped me to translate my technology-based recruiter experience to the university setting. Symplicity, E-recruiting, and NACElink were already familiar to me. The bonus on the inside as a counselor is that I now have free access to targeted student groups through blast emails! Students often report that email delivers the message better than flyers and web advertisements, despite challenges due to the saturation of inboxes today. Another counselor tool is a software system called C3M that records demographic data via ID card swiping at all of my student-contact events. I am then able to follow up with students once again via email, increasing my ability to reach out and connect with students in effective ways.
While many of the resources are similar, higher education and the counseling profession afford different resources than the corporate world, which allow for more professional development of both students and staff. For the students, we have library resources in our Career Center consisting of technology and hardcopy. We can also connect with students through in-class presentations and population-specific counseling groups and targeted events. As a counselor, I am able to take part in networking opportunities at professional conferences and workshops. In addition, I experience consultation and mentoring as well as membership to organizations like the NCDA. Finally, opportunities to collaborate with university departments such as Student Life and Leadership and New Student Orientation foster support and teamwork I did not experience on the corporate side. Through these partnerships, I am able to grow and develop new professional skills involving diversity, teaching, networking, and assessment.
Ultimately, as a corporate recruiter, the bottom line is business. The internal company managers were my customers and the end goal was to get someone into a job because the numbers mattered. Though at times I fondly recall the fast pace of planning and implementation, as well as the free flowing cash on the corporate credit card, my role as a counselor has been a fitting career transition. Now, my bottom line is helping people. The students are my customers and the end goal is to help them understand the path to choosing a best fit career and reaching their goals. It is true that the higher education institution can be slow to change, and decision making and limited budget resources can dry up like a puddle in the desert heat, but I have truly found my best career fit. In my new role, I am integrating the counselor and the employer's view on the "flip side."
Stacy Smyk worked at a leading auto insurance company for three years before pursuing her Masters degree in Counseling in Higher Education from West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She now works as a Career Counselor at Georgia State University in Atlanta serving a population of almost 30,000 students. Stacy can be reached at email@example.com or 404-413-1843.