Ep 131 Transforming Career Services: Insights from Bucknell University’s STEM Career Coach Part 2

Welcome to Digication
Scholars Conversations.

I'm your host, Kelly Driscoll.

In this episode, you'll hear part two
of my conversation with Christa Matlack,

career coach STEM at Bucknell University.

More links and information about today's
conversation can be found on Digication's

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Full episodes of Digication Scholars
Conversations can be found on

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I was curious if there are some elements,
you know, in how the ePortfolios are

being introduced or maybe even how
some of the content is being framed

by the students that's specific to
STEM experiences or communicating who

they are and the skills that they've
gained specifically towards STEM.

Um, could you share if, you know, I,
I don't know if it is or if it's more

broad what that might look like for
those that are, are thinking about it.


So right now it's just very broad.

Um, so the, the career course
one and the my career journey

is geared towards a very broad.

Overarching, um, Career Readiness
Concepts, but I have been working on

more industry specific, um, templates.

I just haven't been able to finish them.

Um, so there is one that's geared
towards more of, let's, okay, now

let's explore the STEM industry
because this is where we want to.

To focus our time and so I have a
rough draft of something put together,

but then it's figuring out how do we
incorporate this and how do we get it out

to students and get students using it.

But it does link in a little bit more
of our STEM career community resources

that we're developing in our office.

To help them explore specific
science, technology, engineering,

and math, um, career paths.

And then it, it still then starts,
okay, if we picked these three

different types of jobs, you know,
starting to envision a five year plan

of if I do this, what do I have to do
in the next five years to get there?

Um, and so really starting to plan
out, like, maybe it's grad school.

Maybe there's, like, this is
what I have to do the next couple

years to get myself to grad school
to be able to get to this job.

And so it, it's designed a little
bit more for the juniors and seniors.

And what the idea was is to align it with
our six career communities, which are all

aligned with different industry areas.

So mine would specifically geared
towards STEM and exploring their,

um, their career journey in STEM
and potentially envisioning their

future in that industry area.

Nice, nice.

And I was kind of curious, related to
that, you know, you've only, uh, been

doing this for two years and have made
so much progress and had such wonderful

results based on what I've seen in your
institution's portfolio directory for

those that have been shared publicly.

What are your...

Yeah, what are some things that you're
envisioning maybe for this next year,

or if you thought even more forward,
what some of those next steps might be?

Yeah, I think, um, we are, we've already
implemented some changes in the, um,

Jumpstart course to shift from while
they're going to create a learning

ePortfolio, um, we've added a final
project of, of a showcase ePortfolio.

So something that students could
use, a tangible item they can

use for networking purposes.

So we have already
started to make changes.

So we have a template for a showcase
ePortfolio, so the students will leave

the course not only with a resume, a
cover letter, LinkedIn profile, but now

also a showcase ePortfolio that They're
going to work on building at least one

experience into that during our course.

And the hope is you already have
it now, so just add to it, right?

Add a couple more experiences in here
and, you know, start using it when you

email networking connections now, um,
or are having networking conversations.

And so that's one change
we've already made.

Um, and I think, you know, the envision
for the future is, can we Develop the

career, like the industry specific
templates and start to find a way to

push these out to students too, um, as
a thing that they can use to, again,

not only explore these career options,
but start planning their future.

And then we're even putting like a career
toolbox in there where they can track

networking interactions or track and
reflect upon interviews that they've had.

So that way they can go back
like after you've had five

interviews to try to remember.

You know, what happened and how
you were feeling like it's a

space for them to do that as well.

So when it comes time to I'd have three
offers on the table, I don't remember

any of the interviews and what I felt.

So let's go back and look at this.

Oh, I thank you so much for
sharing that and I think it's a

really important conversation.

Very often working with institutions
that may be New to the whole idea

of ePortfolio, they feel like they
kind of have to make a choice about

whether they're going to be, you know,
communicating to students about the

value of the kind of learning portfolio
versus, oh, you know, maybe right from

the get go, these really need to be
polished and ready to share with outside

audiences and You know, our position has
always been that the institution can,

can really embrace both for the benefit
of the students and to create tools that

make it very easy for them to move things
around and repurpose things, you know,

hop into the organizer and drag and drop
things from course portfolios or specific

internship portfolios that they have
so that they can really Kind of curate

whatever experiences and skills that they
have to different audiences and maybe even

create different versions of this kind of
showcase portfolio for very specific kinds

of jobs that they may be applying to.

You know, the way that you were probably
framing who you are and what you've done.

And when you first got out of school,
you mentioned that you were applying

to some positions that were related
to soccer, but you were also pursuing

some things related to science.

And it's a very different story.

So we've always wanted students to
know that they could create, you know,

as many Versions and presentations
of who they are, what they've done

to, to share with specific people.

So, uh, it's wonderful to hear that
Bucknell is already kind of priming

students for understanding the, the value
in both and getting introduced to how

both can, uh, support them in their career
and that they can make choices about.

You know, what part of their learning
journeys, even maybe the challenging

experiences that they had or, you know,
when things got messy and when they

needed to pivot, you know, that these
stories are still extremely valuable for

those that are outside the institution
that are thinking about how they might

fit into their organization's culture.

And, you know, we always value People
that have, you know, gone through

challenges and persevered and learned
from those and, and took next steps.

So I think that's wonderful that
you're even thinking about having

students just reflecting on some
of those interview experiences

because they can be very telling.

And, you know, in the moment you
can be so kind of energized and

talking so much that, you know, it's
important to just kind of sit down

and breathe and think about, you know.

What were some of the things that were
said that resonated with me or you know,

where did I feel pushed back and Yeah,
whether when those offers can come in

they can make yeah more and more informed
decisions or if they keep countering

Conversations that aren't a good fit.

Maybe that they need for something else.

So That's that's fantastic.

And I was kind of Curious, um, for
you with your background in sports

and, uh, coaching, you know, are there
certain kinds of, um, maybe practices

or methodologies where you can find
some common ground in the way that you

communicate with students that might have
been taking place on the field that just

feels really familiar when you're working
with students, Within these new realms.

Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Um, you know, it's definitely
transferable skills, right.

Um, you know, now I'm, I'm not coaching
Like, it used to be the content that I was

coaching was very, Soccer specific, right?

It was all about improving their soccer
skills and breaking it down for them in a

way that they can understand so they can
kick the ball the right way or, you know,

move in the right position on the field,
um, make the right run, all of that stuff.

But, you know, now it's just shifted
to, you know, trusting yourself, like

teaching them how to trust themselves
and their skills and abilities and to

have confidence in it, you know, that,
that confidence piece is definitely a

huge, huge transfer, um, that teaching
them that they have the skills and

abilities, you know, I did that in both.

In soccer, in career coaching,
um, and, you know, talking to them

about their strengths and, and
ways that they can improve things.

Like now it's improving their resume,
improving their cover letter, improving

how they phrase things, you know?

So there's definitely a lot of
that, you know, transferability

from coaching soccer to coaching.

Um, Career, um, but I think
the biggest thing is it's, it's

really empowering them, right?

And encouraging them and, and letting
them know, like developing that

really foundation of trust, right?

With the student that
I'm here to help you.

I understand what you're thinking,
what you're feeling, and I'm here to

try to coach you on how to improve
in your, your career journey.

And that, that could be from just
trying to give them less anxiety

about which career they should pursue.

Um, Or what, what they should do.

Uh, we have students come in so
anxious about, you know, what

student organizations should I join?

And it's like, just try some out, right?

Like we, it's okay.

You don't, it doesn't matter at the end of
the day, which ones they have to be ones

that are meaningful to you, that you're
going to contribute and make an impact.

Because otherwise it just becomes
a bullet point on your resume.

It's just a line.

And, and there's no, there's no
way to tell a story about that.

It's just, I was a member of this group.

Well, Instead of being a member of six
groups, maybe you're only a member of

three and you're really heavily involved
in them and just talking to them more

about, you know, like you had said
earlier, living in the moment and enjoying

what you're doing and making sure that
you're passionate about what you're doing.

Um, because if you're not, right, it's
It's never going to align with you

and your interests, and you're just
never going to be satisfied with it.

You're always just going to be
a little bit unhappy with it.

So, there's definitely a lot of
that, um, that is transferred

over into, into career coaching.

And it's, it's very interesting
to see, um, and I think, I

think it's helped me, right?

Um, to be able to coach on the
soccer field and then now, you know,

coach one on one appointments or
in a classroom being an instructor.


And, uh, as you were speaking,
I was thinking, I know.

In my experience teaching that,
especially in undergrad, you know, I

would sometimes have encounters with
students where they really felt like

they didn't have any skill gaps or um,
you know, anything that was gonna, and

so undecided about what their interests
were and what they wanted to do, maybe

they'd just been kind of Following
what their parents had told them to do.

Um, now when you're, and I
imagine you meet with students,

Like that sometimes too.

What are, what are some things
that you might communicate to them

to, you know, kind of give them
that coaching to maybe think about

themselves in a, a different light?


Um, I think when, when students come in
and they feel kind of lost, like they

don't know either what major they want to.

To choose or they don't know which
career path they wanna go down.

Um, I guess my, my go-to is that like,
you don't have to know, like I'm, I'm

mid-career and I don't know what I want
to do when I grow up either, right?

Like I might change my
mind five years from now.

I don't know.

Um, there's always
going to be uncertainty.

In career, right there.

You may find the perfect job,
but the chances are, it's not

going to be your first job.

Your first job's usually
never your last job.

So just shifting their mindset from.

The anxiety of having to select
something to knowing that

one, it's not linked, right?

Your major is not linked to what
you do, but two, that you just look

at it as there's no wrong decision
to make in your career, right?

You just have to learn something
every time you switch jobs, right?

So either you learn what you
like, or you learn what you

don't like, and you use that.

To pivot you in the right direction
towards something that's going to be more

meaningful to you at the end of the day.

And so, you know, to just not feel like
you have to stay somewhere and that.

You have to understand yourself and
really listen to yourself, and if you're

feeling unhappy, what's causing that,
so then when I look for my next job,

it's something that's not, not going to
bring those same feelings of unhappiness.

I don't want to put myself back in
the same environment if I know that

environment's not for me already.

Um, so really just teaching
them and coaching them to trust

their gut at the end of the day.


Yeah, and that's important.

And as we were speaking, I was also
thinking about, you know, for maybe

some of the students that are coming
to Bucknell that have already, um,

maybe been out in the field and are
now coming back to either pursue a

different degree or maybe they have
been working for a while and want

to, um, you know, maybe they never
finished college and are coming back.


For more of those adult students
that have work experience, what,

what kind of coaching might you
give them in using ePortfolios and

reflecting on their experiences
that might pull in more elements of

prior learning or, you know, how to.

incorporate what they've done
previously and what they're

now doing in their courses?

Because I can imagine that there's
some older students that are

coming back into the fold also.

Yeah, I'm, there are, um,
some non traditional students

that are, um, returning.

Either they've worked or they
decided to work before they

wanted to go get a degree.

Um, so we do have some students like that.

Um, you know, and when they
come in, Um, and we have grad

students, right, that maybe worked
before they got their master's.

So I have met with some
grad students as well.

Um, so when they come in, it's, it's
really talking to them about, you

know, what did you do and how is it,
how can we connect it, right, to what

you're doing now or where do you want
to go and, and showing them that.

What they did and the path they
chose is unique to them and being

able to tell their unique story
from their perspective, right?

And, you know, they may not, some of
them may not understand, um, really,

Um, Um, the value of that experience
that they have already under their belt

and how it's going to help them when
it comes to, you know, post graduation

job search and all of that stuff.

So really talking to them in depth
about what they learned, what

skills they got, what they did, and
making sure that they know how to

articulate the value of what they did.

In this new context of where they
want to go, because sometimes

it's totally unrelated, right?

Sometimes they have experience doing
one thing and they want to now get their

degree and go in a different direction
and it's helping them connect the dots

and understand that it's not Always about
the company and the position you're in.

It's about the transferable skills
that you've got, that you can still

use and leverage in this new field.

Um, but at the end of the day, you
know, communicating them with them

might be a little bit different,
because they've already gone through

a little bit of a job search process.

Um, a lot of times it might
be a little bit more of Okay,

like, how is this even relevant?

Just trying to talk them through
that, that it still could be relevant,

and it's still probably something
you should keep on your resume or

keep in your ePortfolio because it's
part of your unique story that you

want people to understand about you.

And, and really giving them that ownership
to, to put that in there if they want

it in there, if they want to highlight
that experience, um, or if they, if

they don't, and they want to start from
scratch, you know, okay, now what do

we got to do if we're starting over?

Um, if you don't want that in there.

We have to revisit, you know,
what coursework have you done?

What labs have you done?

What, what stuff can we build you up?

And if you don't want that to be
a defining characteristic on, on

your ePortfolio or your resume.


Oh, and that's a good point too.

You know, if crafting your.

Narrative, right?

And you know, what part of that
prior experience that they feel

like they even want to be part
of their, their story anymore.

So thank you for mentioning that too.

And, uh, I was thinking about, um, also,
you know, as you're kind of supporting

students in this process, I imagine you're
also kind of putting on the hat as the

individual that might be the audience.

For these ePortfolios, um, so whether
they're going to potentially be using them

to get internships or try to get their
foot in the door at one of these companies

that you mentioned that they really want
to work in, um, you know, what's kind of

informing your process about what kinds
of content they may want to include?

alongside, you know, listing some of
the highlights of what their skills

are, because it is such a different
medium than the traditional resume,

you know, where you can just kind
of, you know, it's very flat, right?

You know, you can do those things.

But, um, how are you kind of Coaching
the students in, okay, you know,

you've made this claim that you have
this skill, um, you know, how do you

kind of take them from that point to
maybe, you know, what kind of project

or experience that they might want to
share to kind of back up that claim?



So we talk a lot about using the STAR
method, um, to really craft and draw

that connection between, I have this
teamwork experience and I need to tell

you about a time when I got it, right?

So really using that format of, you
know, what's the situation, what tasks,

what were you tasked with, what was
your action, and then what was the

result, but also relating it back.

So if we're going to tailor that, um,
ePortfolio to a specific, because we

had mentioned before, you could make.

Small versions of it per employer.

Um, if you want to tailor it specifically
to an employer or a position that you're

applying to, to forward on with your
resume, you know, relate it back to the

company's mission, vision, values, relate
it back to the position description

and, and show them and demonstrate to
them that this experience over here

is very relevant and will give me the
skills to help you here in your company.

Talking to them and breaking down that
star method for them so they can start to.

really reflect on and describe how
they got that skill and how they're

going to apply that skill at this
new company in this new role.

Um, and that's kind of, you know, but
then it's like, you have to pick and

choose which ones are the most relevant.

So then it goes back to what's what's
your job that you're applying to.

And does my research experience
better demonstrate it than

this internship that I did?

And trying to, you know, Curate their
story to give them skills, but also like

give them something interesting, right?

Like you don't want everything to just
be all engineering on your resume.

Like they know you're a great
engineer on your resume, right?

So maybe the ePortfolio, yeah, we're
going to have some of that stuff, but

like let's tell a little bit different
story about more of who you are.

Like, instead of just a one liner
about this club you're in, that you

did a lot of stuff for, but you didn't
have room to explain it, maybe we

pick that to really talk about your
event planning, or your supervision of

other individuals, and thinking about
ways that you can And I think that's

Make yourself, um, like more three
dimensional, like a more whole person

by using that ePortfolio to tell more
of your story, not just what's on paper.

Because they already saw the paper,
they already understand that.

So, um, trying to find different unique
experiences in that ePortfolio, but

also, like you said, supporting them.

Do you have Pictures of
the event that you planned.

Do you have pictures of your project
of that thing you created in your

engineering course that you can show the
process you went through to start from?

Here's my sketch to
here's the end product.

Like, can you show that progression
that you went through and demonstrate

that you know what the design
process takes, um, and how it works?

And iterations, like, that's, that's a
lot of the stuff that, you know, they

could put in an ePortfolio that you can't
really put on a resume other than writing

one short bullet point statement about.

Yeah, yeah.

Thank you for sharing that and I,
I do, that really resonates, uh,

a lot with how we approach the
tools that we're creating too.

You know, we want to have it as a
space where individuals can really

use it as that creation space.

So not just, you know, housing files.

You know, of course you can upload
documents, um, but really using it

as a place where you can go deeper
and create almost this kind of more

three dimensional presentation of
who you are and related to that.

So there have been more and more
research around whether, you know,

people that are making hiring decisions
are interested in viewing ePortfolios.

And I was curious from your perspective,
you know, if, you know, the, the world

could move in that direction, how you
might hope that these could, this kind

of technology could be incorporated
into the kind of hiring process, um,

maybe at what stage or how it might
be viewed, um, or maybe even for

some of the organizations that are.

Recruiting from your
institution, how might they be?

involved in viewing some
of those e portfolios.

I'd love to hear your
perspective on that as well.

Yeah, I think right now, obviously
there are industries like education

where, you know, the ePortfolio plays
a huge role and they still do the

paper portfolios, which are those
massive binders that are like this big.

Um, so, you know, I think the ePortfolio
has totally transformed education

use of Portfolio, um, and has made
it, has made it more accessible.


It made it very much more accessible to,
for the students to share what they've

done with those search committees and
with the people that they're meeting with.

And, um You know, I think it would
be really nice to see that transfer

into the other industry areas, right?

Like that, that is a very niche place
where it's being utilized heavily.

I know that in the creative arts and like
graphic design and stuff like that it is.

But it's really, like you
said, when do we introduce it?

Um, because it can be a
lot of information, right?

Um, and information overload.

Um, so sometimes it's, it's hard to
know, like, when should that be put.

You know, into the hiring process at
what point, um, you know, we, we talk

to students about the possibility, like,
what are the possibilities I could do?

If I create one of these, how could I
potentially use it in my hiring process?

One thing that some of the
education students are, they're

putting a QR code on their resume.

So when they apply, it's
just right there, right?

So why can't an engineering
student do that?

And then it's at the
mercy of the employer.

If they want to look at it.

Here's more for you.

I want to give you more of my story,
and this is how I'm going to do it.

Um, Other ways that they could
potentially use it is maybe in

an interview setting, right?

Like, have a business card
with a QR code on it there.

And, oh, I have a really great project and
I do actually have it on my ePortfolio.

Here's the QR code if you want
to take a look while I'm kind

of answering your question here.

You know, there, there are ways that I
think they could get really creative of

like, how do I insert this ePortfolio?

And then, They're still walking
away with your ePortfolio because

they have the business card, right?

So, even if they don't read it, yeah,
yeah, and, and they have a takeaway,

right, that they can, maybe they're
not looking at the entire thing right

there and reading it word for word.

But maybe later on, after they're done,
they're like, that's really interesting,

kind of want to see more of what this
person has done, and it gives you that

opportunity to share that with them.

And so I think there are definitely ways
that students could find to weave it in.

Other than networking, right?

Networking seems to make
the most sense, right?

Of, you know, here's more, I'd love
to, like, show you my ePortfolio

and, like, have a conversation about
who I am and, like, how I could

potentially fit in the company.

And sharing it that way makes the most
sense, I think, for, for most people,

but there are other creative ways, you
know, even sending your thank you emails

and putting the link to it in your
signature line, um, you know, finding

ways that you're still getting it out
there and potentially getting views.

Um, but will it get to that point?

I have no idea.

I think it would be really
nice, um, to, to start.

Allowing that to be an option, right,
because I think it does tell you

more about the person than a one
page resume can at times, uh, because

of the ability of them to curate
who they are in a more visual form.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

And I know, Christa, we're getting close
to the end of our time today, but I,

I had a question that's kind of been
moving around in my head, kind of going

back to, Your experiences on the soccer
field and then what you're doing now.

Um, I know from my background in
playing sports is that feeling

you get when you've got a win.

And, uh, I was wondering, you know,
in your experiences today, you

know, are there certain times where
you might, uh, be coming home and

thinking, you know, I had a win today?

And if you could describe maybe
some things that have led to that

feeling, maybe how that feeling
may Come out in some of the work

that you're doing with students.

Yeah, I think majority of those wins
come in the one on one, um, appointments.

Especially when they're students that
have, have met with me multiple times.

Um, for example, um, I'm sure
she won't mind me sharing.

But I had a student come in, and we
have been working all summer on a

personal statement for graduate school,
and she came in very stressed out.

Her word count was, like, almost 300 above
what it needed to be, and so she was very,

feeling very stressed about it, right?

Um, but by, we spent a lot of time.

Going through, re rephrasing, cutting
things, figuring out, you know,

what is the main points we're trying
to get across and is there stuff

we can trim down on or rephrase?

And we got it down to about, I
don't know, 50 words over the limit.

So, she was ecstatic.

She was like, Oh, we
did a great job today.

This is awesome.

I'm so glad that I started working
with you on this earlier and the

excitement, um, in her voice and
just feeling that rewarding, like

I did help this person, right?

I helped her get closer to her
goal of finishing her personal

statement for this graduate program.

Um, and another example is I had
a student come in very anxious,

doesn't know what she wants to do.

She's a senior and You know, just
talking to her and having that real,

real communication of it's okay.

We'll figure it out.

We'll find you your first stop.

But no, it's not your last stop.

Like, you're going to find,
you just have to try something.

Um, and then the nice thing
is, is once you have that job.

It makes looking for another
job a lot easier because the

pressure is off at that point.

And I said, are you feeling okay?

Like at the end of the
appointment, she said, I always

feel better when I leave here.

And when they say those things,
like, it just like, it touches you.

And that's, those are the wins
that I, I see now is knowing

that they're leaving my office.

Feeling so much better
than when they came in.

Well, thank you so much for
joining me today, Christa.

It was wonderful to talk to you and
learn more about you and hear from

your experience and, and insights.

I'm really looking forward to, to sharing
this with our community of listeners.


Thank you very much.

It was awesome.

I'm glad that I had the opportunity
to meet you and talk to you, Kelly.


Thank you so much.

Take good care.

You too.


Coming up next, we'll be chatting
with Rebecca Thomas, Director of

the Pathways ePortfolio Program and
Adjunct Assistant Professor of the

Electrical and Computer Engineering
Department at Bucknell University.

Here's a quick preview.

I do hope, though, that being exposed
to this, more students will be prepared

to take on these problems because I
think that's a big part of the issue

is in the past and, you know, even
kind of right now, a lot of students,

right, who are just prepared with a
very technical focus, you know, don't

have the kind of preparation they need
to, like, make solving these kind of

problems even a possibility, right?

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