Spotlight – Leslie Stevenson, University of Richmond
Director of Career Development, University of Richmond
Leslie attended the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!!!) as an undergraduate and the University of Maryland for graduate school. She has been in her current role at the University of Richmond for 7 years.
What was your career path (previous roles) to get your current role?: I’ve had practically every role in career services. My first career services experiences were teaching a career class as a graduate assistant at Maryland and interning in a community college career center. I really loved the variety of clients there. I returned to UVA and served in several roles – I coordinated a large regional diversity career fair (the same fair where I found my first job!) , taught the career class I took as an undergraduate student, advised students and served as a liaison to student development. While at UVA, I later served as the leader of our first employer development team. Next, I moved to lead career services at the University of Baltimore and really appreciated working on an urban, commuter campus.
What was your first job?: My very first job was as a cashier at KFC. Unfortunately, I had trouble identifying the extra crispy pieces of chicken and left within a month for another food services position that was a better fit. My first professional position was as a bank manager and I learned that I liked leading groups and delivering great customer service. Though I really excelled at sales, I didn’t always believe the products I represented were best for my clients. That realization prompted me to consider graduate schools.
Why did you choose this career? : Soon after enrolling at Maryland, one of our first assignments was to conduct an informational interview with someone in a functional area of interest. I was fortunate to interview EACE’s own Linda Lenoir. She confirmed that this is a dynamic field where you can really make an impact. I appreciated that career services makes a difference in people’s lives and there are tangible ways to help.
What is the skill that is most important in your current role?: There are so many skills needed in this field and in this role – managing budgets, leading teams, influence and advocacy, research and information sharing, marketing and outreach, technology, vision…the list is really too long to name (this is where I put in a plug for the NACE professional competencies -http://naceweb.org/career-services/professional-competencies.aspx. It was an honor to work with that team). On a daily basis, I find that listening is the skill I use most often. Of course, I listen to students’ needs, employers’ hiring expectations, and parent/family questions. I also listen to the feedback of office and campus constituents. By really listening closely to what is being said (and the often unspoken underlying motivations), I am better able to create connections, make decisions and communicate a realistic vision.
How did you develop this skill and how do you fine-tune it regularly? Did you have a mentor? If so, how did that mentor help in your career development?: I am so fortunate. I’ve always advised students to seek mentors, but have relied on happenstance to seek my own mentors. Thank goodness, some of the best mentors have been placed in front of me in the form of NACE/EACE members such as Jim McBride and Sam Ratcliffe and former supervisors Allen Delong, Marsha Guenzler-Stevens and Steve Bisese. These folks have all seen potential in me before I saw it in myself and have positioned me in unique opportunities. Thank you! As important as these mentors have been, I’ve also benefitted from peer mentors – people who were at similar stages of their careers who could also offer sound advice and challenge me. Now that I’m no longer a “new professional”, I find that I also learn regularly from those who are beginning their careers. Whether it’s a current or former student or a colleague, I find that I can definitely learn from the skills and talents of those around me.
Did you hold any EACE leadership roles? If so, how have they helped in your career?: I credit EACE with so much of my personal success. Through EACE, I was provided with many opportunities long before I ever encountered them in my day job. Since 1997, I’ve served on a variety of committees and chaired several of them. I’ve presented at conferences and co-chaired the program committee for a conference (lots of work, but fun!). I also served on the Board.
What is your biggest career accomplishment?: One of my biggest accomplishments was definitely a group effort. I worked with a newly formed team to envision an office model that would meet our constituents’ evolving needs. We created new positions, moved our office, created and achieved a bold strategic plan.
What is your advice to students looking for their first job?: I advise students to talk to as many people as possible about their career aspirations. Even with the presence of so many good online career tools, the value of networking is still vitally important.
What is your advice to young professionals in the field who aspire to your current role? : I encourage young professionals to get involved in professional associations. It is a terrific way to develop skills, make connections and give back to the profession.
What was the best career advice you have ever received?: Probably the best advice I ever received was “Find a job you love”. Even with minor annoyances (too much email), I truly love the career services/college recruiting field!
What would you like colleagues to know about your organization (i.e. hiring practices/programs)?: The University of Richmond is a terrific place to work. It is small enough that it is easy to foster relationships and get to know students and colleagues. It’s large enough that we are encouraged to dream big and transform higher education.
Leslie did visit her career center when she was in college.