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One-on-one with Chris Whitney G’06, Center for Career Development

One-on-one with Chris Whitney G’06, Center for Career Development
Chris Whitney G'06

You got your master’s in secondary counseling here in 2006 and returned as an employee in 2015. What made you want to work at your alma mater? 

When an opportunity arose to use my experience and skills to serve here, I could hardly pass it up. In fact, I did everything that I coach students to do to best position myself to get this job! I called all my contacts, I practiced, and I prayed. 

You’ve been director of the Center for Career Development for about a year now. What are you working on? 

It has been the busiest year of my professional life. We set concrete goals as a team. We focus on measurable things, from our number of internships and jobs to our number of recruiters. 

Strong campus relationships help in accomplishing our goals, and providing our expertise where needed. Those partnerships also helped make our first Job and Internship Fair a success. 

So, what’s next for you and your team (in 2016)? 

One wonderful project we are focused on is called “The Royal Experience Internship Program,” which will support students in unpaid internships. Across the country, approximately 47 percent of internships are unpaid. I don’t believe that experiential learning should be a financial decision. Our goal is to support 10 students in the first year (2016) at $4,000 per student and we’ll go from there. 

Tell me more about experiential learning (a big part of the new strategic plan!) and why it’s important for our students. 

Whether it’s through internships, externships, co-ops, fellowships or research, it is what I affectionately refer to as “dating your career.” I can tell a student what an industry is all about and how the people interact. When they see it for themselves, however, they can decide if they are a “fit” with their eyes wide open. 

You have a lot of experience in both career development and higher education. What makes the Scranton student stand out to employers? 

with students

The students at The University of Scranton are known for their work ethic and heart. What I have experienced firsthand — and what employers have told me — is that you can “depend on” a Scranton student. That means the world to me. 

What do you tell students when they come to you, overwhelmed about the job market? 

I tell them to breathe! It is overwhelming at first, but when you break it down into industry, geography or population, it gets more manageable. It also gets less daunting when students are comfortable and confident in what they are bringing to the table. It helps them to know what they are looking for, then they can stop looking for things that don’t fit. 

What is the most important thing for our nearly 49,000 alumni to know about the Center for Career Development? 

That’s easy … we are here for alumni too! Once a Royal, always a Royal. 

Web Extra from Chris Whitney

What's your best piece of advice for students and/or alumni?

Use the Center for Career Development as a tool to success in your career path.  If you have found success already, then pay it forward.  Contact us about being a mentor or hosting a small group of students to help educate them about your industry and how you found success.

How do you adjust your goals according to employment rates?

We need to help educate our students on what the options are and how to market themselves in a more competitive environment. It is my responsibility to understand what is happening with various industries so that I can help manage the expectations of our students. I do that by maintaining constant contact with our faculty and with my recruitment partners outside of the campus environment.

What do you tell students who aren't sure what career to pursue?

First and foremost, I tell them to sit down and talk with one of the very capable counselors in the Center for Career Development. Then I tell them that it’s ok to be unsure. It’s actually exciting!

I encourage them to explore and gain experiences (that experiential learning again!) and to figure out what they like and don’t like. Slowly, things start to become evident. It’s a puzzle of ideas and experiences that come together to create a picture of where he/she will fit.  When they have the tools to explore, they will always be able to. Years after they graduate, they may want to make a change or go for a promotion.  If they have the fundamental career tools, it’s easy!  

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