Karen Armstrong recently joined Penn State World Campus as a career counselor. We sat down with her to talk about how she can help students navigate questions related to career counseling:
Please give our readers a sense of your background and interests.
I have been counseling students since 2009 with a distinct focus on career development. It is a thrill to go on a journey with others as they discover their professional passions. I especially enjoy helping students develop a career plan and putting that plan into motion.
What interested you the most about the field of career planning?
Work and employment are areas that consume so much of our lives. Many people view who they are as a professional as their primary source of identity. I love helping people take on challenging career roles and helping them to fulfill their life dreams.
What’s the most surprising aspect of helping a Penn State World Campus student navigate career services?
I’m surprised to learn how many students haven’t considered the professional benefits to joining a club or organization. As a Penn State World Campus student, you have the opportunity to participate in one of our student organizations virtually. Becoming involved in student clubs and organizations demonstrates effective multitasking, innovative initiatives, and managerial skills.
What’s the one thing that people tend to overlook in the job search process?
Our Nittany Lion Career Network is a great online hub that connects students with employers in their fields. Current students can also utilize the Nittany Lion Career Network to search for jobs throughout the country. It is ideal for many of our Penn State World Campus students.
How is searching for a job different today than it was 5, 10, or 15 years ago?
The biggest difference today is technological networking. It is the expectation and the norm that social media will be used as a crucial aspect of your professional outreach. A person’s social media image and presence may be evaluated to determine whether a job seeker is the right fit. More professional relationships are established through social media than ever before. My colleague, Lynn Atanasoff, recently blogged about the importance of your online presence during a job search, and it’s a great read for all of us, even if we aren’t looking for a job change.
What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is looking to switch careers entirely?
Focus on your transferable skills. It helps to write out your job responsibilities to consider which you can use in the new career you are seeking. For example, I was speaking with a former teacher who wanted to pursue a career in marketing. As a teacher, she had many responsibilities that included curriculum design. After gaining approval from the school district, she had to present the new curriculum to students, parents, and community leaders. Marketing was a key aspect of her responsibilities, but she didn’t realize this until she reviewed her work responsibilities with me.
What’s your favorite part of working with Penn State World Campus students?
I love that our students are located all over the world. Counseling someone about their career ambitions can vary depending on the locale. This creates a unique opportunity to learn from each of the students we are working with on a daily basis.
What makes you a proud Penn Stater?
I am proud of the continual community services that Penn Staters are involved in. THON is one example of Penn State serving the community in hopes of finding a cure for childhood cancer. Most of our students are working adults, thriving in their own communities and getting involved in local initiatives to make differences in a variety of ways. That makes me very proud.
What do you do for fun?
I love to travel, because meeting different people and exploring different cultures is always a thrill.