My faithful readers know that I love to learn about everyone’s job and have a few laughs along the way. While I may be able to convince a Diplomat, a Sex Toyologist and an Opera Singer to tell us about their respective careers, I may not be the best person to advise you on how to make the transition from graduate school to your career of choice. But if you do happen to be in that position (and if you are, we’re all proud of you!), fear not — because today’s Cool Jobster, Shawn Graham, is the guy to ask.
Shawn’s currently the Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh, and a contributor to FastCompany.com, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications both in print and online. He’s also recently published Courting Your Career, which you may want to check out if you’re currently shopping your resume around.
So is it a dream job to help others find their dream jobs? Apparently, Shawn thinks so!
When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?
Good question. I still haven’t quite figured that one out. I normally tell people I work in MBA career services. It could be me or the blank stare I get during the conversation, but I typically find myself adding “Basically, I help MBA students find jobs.” Oversimplified yes, but don’t get the feeling that most people want to hear a lot about the glamorous life of being a career counselor…unless I was a celebrity career counselor. Now that would be an entirely different story.
What are the things about your job that you love?
My job allows me to interact with students and recruiters so I get to take on more of a traditional career counseling role while also interacting with hiring managers and alumni at some amazing organizations.
I also enjoy delivering presentations. In this line of work, you definitely can’t be afraid of public speaking.
Finally, a campus career office is like a small business. We have to think about customer service, how we market ourselves to students and recruiters, and develop a short- and long-term strategy. This fulfills my entrepreneurial side and keeps things from getting stale.
What are the things about your job that you hate?
We do a resume critiquing blitz every fall and believe me when I say it s wall-to-wall (to ceiling) resumes. If there’s a downside to the job, that would be up there. It’s also hard when you’re working with a student who is doing everything right but is still struggling to find a job. I wish I could just hand them a job, but that’s not how it works.
What education, training, vocation or just plain luck would someone have to have in order to get a job like yours?
Funny you should ask. I was downsized my first job out of college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but did think back to the time I spent in the campus career office when I was an undergrad. I contacted three colleges in the area and offered to work for free. Two of them told me no. I literally started on the ground floor a little over 10 years ago as an unpaid intern and was lucky to have found someone who was willing to give me a shot. Most career counselors on college campuses have a graduate degree in counseling, college administration, or an MBA or law degree if working at a business or law school career office.
What is the funniest story you can think of that involves your professional training or your job?
One of the funniest things happened when I was the unpaid intern. We shared a building with the English department. One day, in the middle of winter, I came back from lunch and everything on or around my desk was gone—keyboard, calendar, tablet, pen, desk chair. My ceiling fan was on full blast and a window was wide open (again…middle of winter in Western Pennsylvania). Through a Law and Order like investigation, I was able to identify the perpetrator. After a short, light-hearted interrogation, I found out that was something he did to new employees he liked. I often think back to the mental image of my pea-green metal industrial desk with nothing on it and that ceiling fan spinning so fast that I thought it was going to fly off, and I can’t help but laugh. I think that experience inspired me to keep things light (when possible) at work. Career counseling can be a stressful job so it’s important to have fun.