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Interview with Eleanor McFarlin, Head of HNU’s Career Center

Eleanor McFarlinAssociate Dean and Director of Student Success, Eleanor McFarlin oversees the Career Center and the Upward Bound Program at Holy Names University. Prior to working at HNU, she was Director of Student Affairs at JFK University. Eleanor deeply believes that everyone possesses interests and experiences that can lead to a rewarding career. Learn more about her approach to identifying and supporting career pathways for our students and alumni in the interview below:

What would you describe as the most important work the Career Center does?

The most important part of our work is to support students’ entire career paths. Our approach goes from broad to narrow: first, we get to know people; then, we help them determine their target; and finally, we provide training and tools for success.

To begin, we like to learn about why students chose HNU, why they chose their field of study, and what other activities are a part of their lives, e.g., athletics. We recommend that students take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory and Strong Interest Inventory next. These will provide suggestions for the exact fields and positions that are a good match for their interests. I always say, “Take it when you’re energized and positive. When the world feels exciting.” To get the most out of the tests, we ask that students come into the center or meet virtually to receive the results and discuss them with us.

Transitions can be scary, and we encourage students to share their fears with us. We sometimes help students make a connection between family influences and their passion. For example, we had a student whose family had encouraged him to major in Business but who was unsure this was the right path for him. We learned that he was already running a soccer coaching business but simply didn’t see himself as an entrepreneur.

Another student said, “I didn’t do anything in high school.” I asked her what she did after school and she replied, “I worked at my dad’s restaurant.” Well, it turns out she actually kept the books for the family restaurant in addition to hospitality work.

We partner with students in their job search process and help with follow-up, too. We encourage students to share their stories in their cover letters, which gives them a chance to convey their voice and personality. When it comes to the resume, we see it as a tool that students get to design and shape. It’s an arrow heading for a target. I always encourage students to ask themselves what their resume is for and design it with these intentions in mind. Also, I always encourage people to own their intrinsic qualities! Here’s a pro tip: Go out and ask 10 people to share three attributes, skills, or strengths that you own. You should pay attention to those you see more than once and put them on your resume.

I know that the Career Center is now placing a greater focus on internships. Can you talk about the value of internships to students at HNU?

HNU’s internship program has been a great overlap with our academic work. Jules McKnight, our Internship Coordinator, has connected with faculty, advisors, coaches, and students to understand the needs of the HNU community.

Jules is also starting to develop community partnerships and a database of local employers. One source that students are particularly excited about is the Bay Area Progressive Directory, which includes about 1,200 organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area that are related to progressive activism and/or supporting people who are disadvantaged.

What are the biggest barriers to succeeding in an internship?

I’d say the time that internships require of students in addition to schoolwork and paid work can be a big barrier. Cost and commute time are other significant barriers.
We are taking two approaches to address these barriers. One is seeking opportunities for “micro internships” which could last as little as three weeks or 10-30 hours total. Often these can easily be remote as well. And the other is working to raise funds with Advancement to pay for students to intern.

Most internships are unpaid but are very worthwhile. Students can gain more information about the kind of work and environment they like. Internships on a student’s resume demonstrate dedication and experience to employers. And so many people simply learn better with hands-on experience!

Finally, I’d say another barrier to successfully taking advantage of internship opportunities is starting too late. It’s common for students to start seeking internships in their senior year, and while we always encourage internships, we have seen students get the most out of the experience by starting earlier on in their college careers. This simply gives them more experiences to learn from and to leverage later on when they are in the professional world. Come to career services early, students!

Where can students and alumni find you?

Career Center Open House (virtual and in-person)
Wednesday, February 23, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m
Enjoy snacks and information in an open Q&A format.
Students, check your email for more information.

One-site Career and Internship Fair
Wednesday, April 20, from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Our annual Career and Internship Fair will be in person this year. We will hold our Career Clothing Event at the same time so that students and alumni can take full advantage of the resources we have to offer.
Students and alumni, check your email in the coming weeks for more information.

Find us on HNU’s website.

Follow us on Instagram @HNUCareerCenter!
On Tuesdays, we post about internships, and on Wednesdays, we post career advice.