When Arlee Post was a junior apparel design major at Ball State, a career coach from the University introduced her to Elizabeth (Etzell) Murray, an alumna who would eventually become her mentor and supervisor at L.L. Bean.
It started with the Cardinal Career Network, connecting alumni employers with students. “I decided to pick Elizabeth’s brain about her job in Maine and her experience at other companies,” said Post, ’15.
Murray, who graduated in 2007 with a degree in family and consumer sciences, was glad to talk. “When I was at Ball State, I didn’t know much about technical design and other jobs that I could do with an apparel design background,” she said. “There is a lot of focus on becoming a fashion designer, but there are so many other roles in this field. I like being able to speak frankly about the industry and give insight to an area that is more unknown. I do love helping!”
In 2014, Post landed an internship in Southern California, again with the help of her career coach, Jeff Eads, senior assistant director at Ball State’s Career Center. After graduation, Post learned about an opening at L.L. Bean and contacted Murray, who connected her with the manager. That position was already filled, but Post kept in touch with the manager. A year later, Post got a call that a position had opened. A few interviews later, she got a job offer.
Today, she and Murray work together on outerwear for men, women and children; men’s sportswear; and accessories from concept to production. They develop fit and construction for these new products as informed by the design team.
Coaching for future success
Post is among thousands of students who have gotten personal assistance from career coaches, and that assistance helped Ball State achieve a 93 percent career placement rate. In fact, each Ball State student has a trained career coach who specializes in industries related to their major, said Jim McAtee, director of the Career Center. Ball State shifted to career coaching and connecting activities about five years ago.
“Think of a career coach as any sports coach,” he said. “Career coaches assess the current situation and make action plans to help move a student forward. We help them develop skills and challenge them to improve by focusing on outcomes and results. We encourage personal responsibility so they can continue the process post-graduation.”
Career coaches actively connect students with everyone in the process, from faculty to employers. Associate Professor of Sociology Melinda Messineo appreciates the specialization.
Collaborating with faculty
“The staff at the Career Center listen to find what our unique needs are,” said Messineo, also interim associate provost for diversity. “Their efforts are energized, proactive and forward-thinking. The people working in the center are the most committed and collegial you will ever find. They care about us as a program and our students.
“There is often a concern that if a department focuses too much on jobs that students will lose track of the bigger picture of what it means to be an educated and altruistic citizen. Our center knows how to address the pressures of helping students find work while also embracing disciplinary values that lead to better people and better communities.
“We have developed a real partnership with the center and our students’ career coach. It uses their career skills and our disciplinary expertise to find the best resources for our students.”
The Career Center starts working with students in their freshman year, rather than waiting until they’re ready to graduate. Two programs, Intern-Ready and Career-Ready, help students prepare for life after college.
“We asked employers what skills and experiences they wish students had prior to applying for an internship,” McAtee said. “Using their feedback, we created the Intern-Ready program. Also, we collaborate with our faculty internship coordinators to provide them with tools and support for their work.
“The Career-Ready program is an extension of Intern-Ready, adding leadership experience, experiential learning, service and a series of life-skills workshops.”
The Career Center’s approach has received national recognition, including a 2017 Career Services Excellence Award from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
“We set out five years ago to become the career center of 2025 early,” McAtee said, “and I am almost ready to say we have arrived … almost.”
The Career Center’s services for alumni include career coaching, resume reviews and practice interviews, are open to alumni. If you are changing careers or looking to advance in your current profession, contact Brandon Bute.
Alumni are also invited to join the Cardinal Career Network, which offers students direct contact with alumni to learn more about their industries and professions. Contact Jeff Eads.