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Career Counseling Interns Help Fellow Students Find Career Paths

A student’s path from a major to a career doesn’t always follow a straight line. For those on the fence about choosing a major, Stony Brook University’s Career Counseling Interns (CCIs) can help.

“Career Counseling Interns are crucial front-line helpers who meet students, assess their needs and assist them in many areas, including but not limited to internships and job searches relating majors to careers,” said Career Center Associate Director Elena Polenova.

Career CounselorsSenior Danette McKellar and junior Haiyin Tang, both psychology majors and CCIs, received rigorous training from the Career Center and, as such, are well-prepared to work with students independently. McKellar and Tang’s CCI training included attending a summer retreat and weekly seminars throughout the year.

McKellar said she has helped many confused students narrow down their possible career choices, recalling one freshman last fall who wasn’t sure about her major (biology). McKellar asked the student a series of questions about her options, preferences and hobbies.

“I learned that she liked science because it made sense to her and hated writing, and that she had considered health science, particularly nursing programs, when applying to colleges,” said McKellar. “I then asked if she saw herself pursuing a career revolving around helping or interacting with people directly, and she said ‘yes.’ Considering her answers, I suggested that she do more research on nursing to see if it was a strong possibility for her and to look into ‘helping’ career fields, such as social work or counseling.”

Tang said that for undeclared students — those without a major — a CCI could be especially helpful when it comes to narrowing down preferences. She remembered one student who was particularly challenging to work with because in addition to not having a major, he did not have any hobbies or interests.

“Danette and I approached this problem using the process of elimination. We told him to cross out majors that he could not imagine himself choosing or that he simply disliked,” Tang said. “Most of the majors he crossed out were liberal arts-related. In the end, we found out that his interests gravitated more toward science and computer science-related fields.”

Because choosing a major can be so stressful for underclassmen, the Career Center, in conjunction with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS),  has held several workshops titled “Freaking Out About Your Major” that are designed to ease students’ concerns. One workshop held last fall attracted so many students that McKellar and Tang had to push tables together and create an impromptu session for the extra students who sought guidance.

In many ways, reaching out to other students reinforced McKellar and Tang’s own career choices. After performing volunteer work, internships and various jobs where she worked with school-aged children, McKellar is considering working in a school setting. Tang, on the other hand, had initially been drawn to scientific research but after immersing herself in lab work and interning at the Career Center, she now knows her calling is to interact with people, possibly in counseling or human resources.

Indeed, it isn’t unusual for CCIs to change their own career paths in the process of helping others, said Amie Vedral, senior intake advisor at the Career Center and intern supervisor.

 “These internships serve as great preparation for many professional fields ranging from counseling and social work to education, corporate human resources and industrial/organizational psychology,” she said.

By Glenn Jochum; photo by John Griffin


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