Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
In 2017, Lindsey Saxby Baltz switched to the career development side of the career services office when she was hired as a career counselor at the University of Delaware (UD).
Baltz had been coordinator of employer programs on the employer relations team at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, but now works primarily with engineering students. Several actions helped smooth her transition into this new area.
“At first, I worried a lot about engineers not taking me seriously since I don’t have the same background as they do,” recalls Baltz, who was an English major in college. “I worked hard to talk with as many professors and alumni as I could—doing informational interviews with alums via LinkedIn—to make sure I had a good understanding of the basic curriculum and entry-level job options for engineering positions.”
She also worked closely with recruiters and attended information sessions to hear what types of skills and qualities they were looking for.
“Since engineers are typically more data-driven than English majors—at least in my case—I’ve also worked on incorporating more statistics into my meetings to help them see the importance of different career development aspects in more data-driven terms,” she says.
“It also helps that I’ve built strong relationships with the engineering faculty, and many of them give me time in their classes to present on career development topics. I think this has helped tremendously because students see that their professors ‘approve’ of the information I’m sharing, which helps the students see the value in it.”
Baltz says that even though she’s more comfortable in her position, she’s still learning the nuances of the engineering field.
“It’s okay not to know everything,” she says. “The best piece of advice I got when I started at UD was to give myself a year—a year to get comfortable at a new school, in a new office, in a new role.”
She did encounter challenges that bubbled up because of her inexperience with counseling, the biggest being how to frame a counseling conversation.
“I definitely have a bit of imposter syndrome,” she admits. “I don’t have a background in counseling, and sometimes I wish that I had gone that route rather than a standard higher education degree. In that regard, it’s one thing to know how to do resume reviews and cover letter edits, which my background as an English major and starting off in publishing really helps with, but it’s another to help someone through their decision-making process and thinking about future career options.”
To become more comfortable with those conversations, she read numerous books and articles on coaching frameworks. Baltz says she found the principles of motivational interviewing and coaching conversations exceptionally helpful. She especially found the following books useful:
- “Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills”;
- “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life”; and
- “The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career.”
She also works with international students and found “The International Advantage” to be an excellent resource.
Another outstanding resource has been her co-workers and colleagues in the career services field. Baltz says that experienced practitioners can best support those new to the field by having concrete suggestions for things that have helped them in their careers, and by being willing to “pay it forward.”
“Having a mentor is so important,” she points out. “None of us would be where we are if we didn’t have someone who helped us along the way.”
Now, with more than a year of experience in her new role, Baltz has advice and recommendations to pass on to those new to the field or to a role:
- Be patient—"Be patient with students, with employers, with learning. Patience is an important skill to have as you’re learning any new field. It takes time to build up your skills and get comfortable with coaching, but it’s valuable to have in any field.”
- Keep learning—"I ask for feedback all the time and run conversations by those who have more experience than me to make sure I handled difficult situations in the best way possible. Especially with not having a counseling background, I like to get feedback on how I handled more stress-inducing conversations. Also, keep up with industry trends and theories, and continually practice your counseling/coaching skills.”
- Know that you know more than you think you know—"This goes back to imposter syndrome. It’s easy to feel that way in a new field, but you wouldn’t have been hired if you didn’t know what you were doing.”
- Clarify—"Ask questions like ‘Did that answer your question?’ or ‘How are you feeling now after talking?’ to make sure that you’ve appropriately addressed the student’s needs.”
- Accept that you can’t please everyone—"Know when to refer a student to someone else. If you’re unable to help a person in the way they need or want to be helped, it’s okay to refer them to someone else. Whether it’s because you don’t know their field or industry, or if their concerns go more into the realm of mental health counseling, know when and who to refer to.”
“It’s important to remember that as a career counselor, the student comes first,” Baltz says. “We have a lot of constituents in career services and it’s important to balance all the different needs, but keeping the student at the forefront can help in all the different relationships.”