Welcome to MCEEA’s Faces on Campus campaign!
Over the next year – we will be highlighting the career educators and employers who make up our great organization. Each week we will pay tribute to the individuals who devote their lives to helping students take that key first step into their professional career and the employers who welcome and develop them into the professionals they will become.
We hope you enjoy the insights, stories, and laughs of the people of MCEEA.
This week brings us to Oakland University (https://oakland.edu/) is a public research university in Rochester Hills, Michigan. The university offers 132 bachelor's degree programs and 138 professional graduate certificate, master's degree, and doctoral degree programs.
Our interviewee is Jaclyn Fortier – the Internship and ACHIEVE coordinator in the School of Business. Jaclyn began her tenure at Oakland University in June of 2017.
Joe Bamberger - Was that your first role at the university? Or did you have other roles within the school?
Jaclyn Fortier - Officially, it was my first role. For the academic year prior, I did hold a casual position within career services as a career consultant. Then I made my way over to the ACHIEVE team in the summer of 2017.
JB - Was this your first role in higher ed? What led to this position as a career path?
JF - It was a very interesting circumstance. I actually was in the K-12. space, I taught middle school science for a little bit. With the nature of the economy, recession babies coming into kindergarten, our district numbers dropped quite a bit. I was laid off, and I had this opportunity to figure out, do I stay in K-12 or is this my push to see what else is there? I was very fortunate to get connected to some people at Oakland University, I was very thankful timing just worked out, and had an interview. I was able to get into a casual role first, fell in love with higher ed, and then was able to move it into a full-time position.
JB - What's your favorite part of your job now?
JF - Still connecting with the students, it's why I wanted to go into teaching originally. When I have students come back, and they can say you helped me do whatever that is, it's so fulfilling. Cheesy as it sounds, changing their life in some way, shape, or form - if it's getting the internship if it's just helping
them feel more comfortable going through the search - whatever that is, that's what makes the days good.
JB - Perfect. And give us the cocktail party description of what your job is.
JF - As the internship side of my position, working with students one on one to prepare them to be comfortable in the internship search, because it's quite different than just having your first job in high school or college, that professional search looks a little bit different. I prepare them for that process. Then on the ACHIEVE side of things, it is teaching courses related to career and professional development. It's related to internships because it does prepare them, but we do things like looking at their career path: if that is the right path for them, prepping the resumes, bringing in volunteers from the industry. We used to say in the community, but now that we're virtual, we have the opportunity to expand our web. Just allowing them opportunities to connect with professionals and preparing them for that search.
JB - Is there something that you think students right now struggle with the most?
JF - I think right now, probably what everyone is saying is this switch to virtual. Before, when they were able to rely on connections in the classroom, and building their network that way. Before, we were coming out of a booming economy, and so internships and jobs were plentiful. Now teaching students how to be strategic and still looking for the right fit for them, but understanding that it might take a little bit more to find that fit, being open to opportunities that six months ago or a year ago looked a little bit different than what they could be found now.
JB - Let's take COVID out of the situation. This generation of students, is there something in the job process that you think is the hardest for them to wrap their heads around?
JF - I feel like it's never been easy to hear “no,” but I feel like this generation, it's learning and understanding that no is okay. Sometimes, it just wasn't a right fit. Even if they would have loved to hear, "yes, you got the job," if they would have gotten that job, maybe between employer and student, it wasn't going to be a good fit, therefore, they're not going to be fulfilled and happy in that position. Sometimes a no is actually a blessing. It took me a long time, but I think this generation coming up, it's something we talk through a lot that not every no is a bad thing and just to persevere through it.
JB - If I'm an employer and I'm considering recruiting Oakland students, but I don't have a relationship with the university, what's your sales pitch? Why Oakland students?
JF - I will be the first to say that I did not go to OU as an undergrad, it was the school that was in my backyard, and I wanted to get out of my backyard. But coming here, I have fallen in love with the students. They have a work ethic that truthfully, I don't know is parallel to any other university. Many of the students are working very close to full time, if not, part-time, while going to school, and being able to balance that. Also, a lot of students pick OU because it allows them the opportunity to work, which their background, maybe they're first-generation family or something like that, so they see this as a true opportunity for them to excel. Often they're not taking that for granted. When opportunities come up for them, they really see it as this is a way to move up and better themselves.
JB - How does an employer stand out on campus? What's the craziest on-campus activity or event that you've seen an employer put on?
JF - First and foremost, it’s students knowing your brand. They want to go and talk to employers that they are comfortable with or they've heard of before. In regards to the craziest thing that's ever happened, I was not a part of this, it was something I witnessed from a colleague, I have to shout out to I believe Amy Ring Cebelak that put all of this together. There was a Quicken Loans campus takeover day. They went to five different sites on campus targeting three different schools and at each different site it was a full-blown event and it was all in a day, it was jam-packed. It was insane. I am so glad from a logistical standpoint that I was not part of that, but it was really amazing to see. They always recruit tons of students so they definitely get noticed.
JB - What's your favorite Oakland-sponsored event on campus? It can be a career fair, a resume workshop, what's your favorite event that happens every year?
JF - I have two because I can't pick. First, I have a special place in my heart for career fairs. My second day on the job at OU was the career fair. It was jumping right in, but I know the opportunities that can come from it. I love the hustle and bustle. From within my school. within the School of Business. I really enjoy we have an event called the major minor Expo. We have faculty, we have employers, we usually have around 100 students, and it's the same sort of feel, very hustle and bustle, but we get usually younger students. Freshmen, sophomores, and it's just fun to see and it's fun to connect with them early on.
JB - What do you like least about your position?
JF - Maybe times like these when the economy is not as great, and you feel the frustration from students, it's really hard to assure them that sometimes there are brighter times ahead, they will find something. When you feel the frustration, I guess it's a double-edged sword because you're able to be there for that student and comfort them to talk through whatever situation they're in, but when you feel that frustration and you can't just click a button and make everything better, that's really hard.
JB - What major on campus, do you find the hardest to connect with employment opportunities?
JF - There are maybe two within the School of Business because those are the students that I support. There's Econ, and then there's general management. It's not that they're hard to place, it's that their degrees can be so broad. Having those conversations, if they don't necessarily know where they want to go, it's time that we have to sit down and really do some soul searching because the possibilities are somewhat endless. To really narrow it can be difficult. Having students who are really self-aware in those majors help, because both of them are very versatile majors, but if you don't know what you want to go for, then it's difficult to find that direction for them. You can't do it for them, they have to find themselves, so sometimes those conversations are difficult.
JB - Let's switch over to MCEEA a little bit, how long have you been involved with MCEEA?
JF - I believe it has been since 2016. Even before I was in my full-time role, I was fortunate the Career Services team allowed me to go to my first conference, in 2016 I believe. Even though not officially a member of the university, they wanted me to have that opportunity.
JB - What's your favorite part about MCEEA?
JF - The opportunity to connect. There are only so many hours in the day and connecting with employers sometimes, schedules can get hectic and crazy and it allows you that commonality of we're already connected in some way. What's nice is either the meetings or the conferences, you can see people that you've been meaning to talk to for a year and say, "we're both here, let's have our conversation right now." It can happen really easily that way.
JB - Do you have a favorite event you've been to through MCEEA?
JF - Very early on, I went to the holiday mixer, the fourth quarter mixed with the holiday mixer. I don't know recall who the speaker was, but the speaker was wonderful that they brought in and we were bringing in toys for Toys for Tots and everyone was just in an uplifting mood and reflecting on the year. So nature of the time that the meeting was held, but also just a really wonderful opportunity to have that as my first exposure to MCEEA. I think that was one of the reasons why I've enjoyed my membership so much.
JB - If MCEEA had unlimited time and funds, what's something that you wish MCEEA would add or offer its members?
JF - I would love it if they had a greater offering or maybe just meet and greets. Some more informal ways for employers and universities to connect. And that requires coordination, and I know they've done things before similar to this, but making it more on a regular basis. Just allowing that opportunity and allowing that space. Especially now with things being virtual, it's not requiring people to drive across the state, now might be a good time to incorporate some of those types of things. You can't be face to face, but sometimes using technology, it's going to help the situation.
JB - Final question. Someone entering the career educator profession, what's the one piece of advice you would leave them with?
JF - It's okay to not know what you're doing. I say that with a laugh. When I first started, K-12 was all I knew. So moving into higher ed, there were so many times where students would ask me questions, and I had to very quickly be okay with saying, I don't know that answer right now. Then after work, I would be fishing for the answer on the University website or asking someone on campus, and then getting back to the student. You pick it up quickly. Being okay with not knowing everything, that was not a position that I had been in before and I wasn't comfortable with, so knowing it is okay.
JB - Any final parting words or sage advice or anything that you'd like the readers of this to take away with?
JF - I would just say, continue to connect. It's something I tell my students all the time, I know I'm zoomed out or Skyped out, whatever it is right now. Know that the opportunities to get together in the future are going to be there. Having those relationships already in place for when we can all see each other again is great.
Faces on Campus is a weekly interview series highlighting members of MCEEA conducted by Joe Bamberger of Emerge Consulting. Be sure to follow MCEEA on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MCEEA.org
Connect with Jaclyn on LinkedIn