Someone, Please Tell Me What To Do…
By Lisa Wiley Parker
Today is the day I get the keys to John Hill’s old office. Three months ago I put my name in the hat to become the next Director of Alumni Career & Business Services for the Michigan State University Alumni Association. Did I think I’d get the job? Not really. Who expects to land one of the coolest jobs on the planet? Especially with so many talented professionals vying for the opportunity! When all was said and done I got the nod, so here I am with these keys ready to unlock the door to my new adventure.
How did I get here? It’s important you know this is the only opportunity I’ve applied for in the past 9 years. I thought it was 7 years until I remembered I’d stopped counting my age 2 years ago and it was throwing off my estimates. By no means did I approach submitting an application lightly. I was firmly in the camp of those never wanting to work for someone else again. I’d spent over a decade in the aggressive world of third party recruiting and had finally found my bliss working directly (and independently) with displaced professionals for the past several years. While doing what I could to inject momentum and strategic focus into the job searches of experienced professionals, I crossed paths with Dave Isbell of MSUAA’s Career Services. We hit it off instantly and made an effort to collaborate whenever possible. Dave and I are opposites who, as it turns out, work really well together. Dave is great at helping individuals get in touch with what truly makes them tick; with what would bring them genuine satisfaction in this thing called “work” that occupies a significant chunk of our lives. That’s so important considering how many of us end up in professions that are more a result of circumstance than intentional design. Every day I meet someone wanting “more” out of their life’s work and Dave is the man for that conversation. Me, I’m the strategy girl for those who have figured out where they want to go, but need guidance on how to get there, what skills they should be acquiring and who to tap on along the way. Combined, we’re a career services yin & yang.
Dave suggested I apply for the position so we could work together in a more formal way. The position wasn’t guaranteed. Though I’d have to fight for it, the idea of going all in fascinated me. Not only could I take my efforts to help professionals navigating a job search to a higher level, I could also use the knowledge gained from working on the front lines with those going through a career crisis to help employed professionals shore up their skills and habits so they may avoid a similar fate. Even better, this role wouldn’t feel like a job at all. Those who work for MSUAA will likely tell you they don’t have a job, they have a mission. Their work is an extension of a service-based lifestyle. I’m definitely down with that. Though I’m not what some might assume a career services professional working in higher education should be, this role and this environment suit me to a tee.
When I started telling friends and family about joining the team at MSUAA, two questions dominated the conversation. One, “will you be wearing a sweater vest?” That would be a “no.” John rocks the sweater vest better than I ever will. Besides, John is still very much a part of the mix and I’d hate to cramp his style. If you’re disappointed, talk to me around Halloween. I can probably be persuaded to give it a try and join the dozens of John Hills running around East Lansing with pillowcases full of candy.
The second question has nothing to do with my wardrobe and is one I’m unable to answer just yet. The question, “what will your job involve exactly?” The truth is I haven’t a clue. It’s not for me to decide at this point. Scott Westerman, MSUAA’s head servant, made it abundantly clear through the interview process the goal of the Association is connect with alumni in a meaningful way so MSUAA can learn what challenges they face and how we can be of help. Committing to a plan of action ahead of asking the Spartan family what it truly needs would be premature. That’s not to say Dave and I don’t have some ideas. John Hill built an amazing network of Spartans who are ready for action. Much of what Dave and I do will involve tapping into that network to create valuable tools and channels for the exchange of ideas and knowledge. In a basic sense, we know we’d like to add more layers of resources and connectivity for alumni of all ages, professions, cultures, geographic regions, etc.
That means it’s not up to me to tell you or anyone else what I’ll be doing. It’s up to you to tell me. Over the coming weeks and months, Dave and I will be asking a lot of questions. If one comes your way, please help us out with some answers. Your input will help us write the next chapter. We know we want to find new ways to engage Spartans at the top of their field who are interested in sharing what they’ve learned along the way with other Spartans. We’d also like to make sure we have a balanced approach to helping those in career transition, those looking for professional development and businesses wanting to attract and grow excellent employees. The specifics will come from you and we’re looking forward to receiving our marching orders.
Lisa Wiley Parker joins MSUAA Career & Business Services with over 15 years of experience, 10 of which as a third party recruiter, working directly with businesses and professional level job seekers on a variety of career related initiatives. She’s a 1996 graduate of Michigan State University and resides in Okemos with her husband and two children. You can find her on Twitter and in the places below.