Finding the Central Core in Daily Work

Dina blog post Central Core

Almost everyone has encountered the following question in social situations:  “What do you do?”  In my role as Associate Director of Career Services at Walden University,  I have had many opportunities to reflect on this question according to the professional “hats” I wear (e.g., trainer, presenter, content developer, project manager, career coach, and website manager).  I have also developed a professional mission statement that reflects my passion for helping mid-career adults “build resilience, embrace change, and find inspiration in their work, education, and lives.”

Recently I asked myself a difference question:
What is at the CENTRAL CORE of my daily work?

Without hesitation, my answer is:  students.


Walden University students are mid-career professionals with extensive life experiences.  They are diverse, dedicated and determined to make a difference in their lives, in their communities, and (for many) on a global scale.  During my nine years at Walden University, I have had the privilege of working with thousands of students from all over the world.  My motivation for designing training materials; organizing webinar programs with expert panelists; coaching on job search, resume writing, LinkedIn, and interviewing skills; and helping students navigate career transitions is driven by the knowledge that I can make an impact on students’ career success.

In Career Services, we often advise students, “Show, Don’t Tell.”  I would like to show why Walden students inspire me through two recent projects.  Following are a virtual interview and a blog story:

Career Spotlight:  Promoting Social Change as a Program Director

Walden University Career Services Blog Article:  Landing an International Volunteer Position with the United Nations

(For additional career stories, visit the Career Spotlights page or read the Walden University Career Services Blog)

My work is evidence of my passion for bringing out the best in adult learners.  What is the CENTRAL CORE of your work?

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Webinar setup photo Dina

Are You a “Leadager?”


I am pleased to be engaged in my second Doctor of Business Administration class, Organizational Leadership.  During my first class, I mastered the basics of APA, navigation of our online classroom, and academic writing for discussion posts and research papers.  With these “rules of the road” behind me, I look forward to the challenges ahead!

Reflecting on my first class, it was more academically rigorous than I anticipated.  Two-week modules required reading 5 to 10 academic articles and then researching additional articles to support four scholarly discussion posts with APA citations.  Also, the eight-week class required writing an annotated bibliography and three scholarly papers up to 10 pages in length.  I learned about disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship, and organizational change through many weekend and weeknight hours spent reading, researching, and writing. Writing scholarly discussion posts and papers with citations seemed similar to my preparing to be called on in law school at Ohio State University.  There is no way to coast in writing a scholarly APA-cited post!

I would like for all successful online learners from Coursera to Walden University to University of Maryland to consider yourselves “leadagers.”  We are leaders supporting change in higher education accessibility and proactively managing our careers at all ages.  We are also highly effective project managers balancing academics with busy professional and personal lives.

Cheers and best of luck in your pursuit of lifelong learning!

Lisa Cook, DBA Student and Senior Director of Career Services

Webinar Setup photo Lisa

Perseverance Pays Off When Seeking a Practicum Site

Chukwuemeka Obi

How do you land a practicum at a competitive field site such as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH)?  MPH alumnus and PhD in Public Health student, Chukwuemeka Obi, sums up his success in one word:  Perseverance.  Chukwuemeka’s diligent practicum search helped him maximize his Walden program, gain valuable public health experience in obesity prevention, and earn a promotion.

What steps did Chukwuemeka take to land his practicum site?

Knocking on Many Doors
Prior to applying at the DPH, Chukwuemeka researched five community centers in the Los Angeles area.  He contacted these centers and requested to speak with their field officers to learn more about the work their clinics were doing in the Los Angeles area.  He landed several informational interviews where he shared his knowledge of public health, his passion for social change, and the research he conducted at Walden.  These initial contacts helped him gain a deeper understanding of public health issues in the Los Angeles area.  When he applied to the DPH, he brought in-depth knowledge that helped him stand out from other applicants.

Not Taking “No” for an Answer
When Chukwuemeka submitted his application and practicum requirements to the DPH, he was initially told that Walden was not on the list of local area colleges/universities.  How was Chukwuemeka able to educate the DPH on the quality of his Walden program and land a selective practicum over other highly- qualified candidates?  Chukwuemeka proved that he was the best candidate by sharing examples of his academic work including a presentation he created for one of his classes on infectious disease prevention, research on early childhood obesity, writing samples, and copies of online discussions. He also emphasized Walden’s commitment to social change in the field of public health.  The DPH’s field coordinator was impressed by Chukwuemeka’s level of knowledge and education.  After two months, Chukwuemeka’s persistence paid off; the DPH contacted Chukwuemeka and arranged a practicum for him in collaboration with the Affordable Care 411 Network.  As a part of his practicum experience, he was posted at the Martin Luther King Center for Public Health in Compton, California, where he delivered health-related presentations to community members.

Bridging Experience and Education
The hands-on public health experience Chukwuemeka acquired through his practicum helped him complete his Master of Public Health degree and advance into a Program Director position at Hopeful Steps Foundation Incorporated, a Los Angeles- based nonprofit organization.  Chukwuemeka continues to evolve as a nonprofit leader and has started the next chapter in his academic career by pursuing his PhD in Public Health.

What advice does Chukwuemeka have for Walden students?  He recommends starting the practicum search early, researching multiple locations, and proactively networking with field officers.  He states, “There are many places where you are needed.  Consider how the knowledge you’ve gained in your classes can be applied in the field and always ask to speak with decision makers.”

Wondering how to best market yourself and your Walden program to potential field sites?  Watch webinar recordings on our Field Experience page.

Want to learn more about nonprofit leadership?  Listen to Chukwuemeka’s story and visit the Nonprofit page.

 Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Webinar setup photo Dina

‘Tell me about yourself.’ Strategies for Telling Your Career Story

“Tell me about yourself” is one of the most challenging interview questions you may face.  Although the question seems so basic, the direction you choose to take with your response can make or break your chances of getting the job.

Vintage inscription made by old typewriter

This is the opportunity to tell your story – not your life story, but your career story.

The Power of Storytelling 

Research conducted by psychologists and neuroscientists tell us that stories form the basis of how humans think, organize, and remember information. In addition to strengthening your brand, sharing your career experiences using storytelling techniques is a great strategy for:

  • Self-assessing your skills and strengths;
  • Helping you become confident, convincing and persuasive;
  • Establishing your identity and revealing your personality;
  • Establishing trust and communicating what you have to offer; and
  • Making you memorable by connecting with your audience.

Your Story Must Be Memorable

Stories are powerful because they are memorable. People rarely remember a series of facts or accomplishments. A Stanford research study showed that statistics alone have a retention rate of 5-10%, but when coupled with anecdotes, the retention rate rises to 65-70%. When details are included in a story, we remember the core of the story – or the central theme.  So, to make your story memorable, generate a theme.

What is the Theme of Your Story?

When thinking about what story to share, it might help to reflect on the following questions:

  • What is the central theme or message you would like to convey to your audience?
  • How are you sharing your passions with others?
  • Did you recently get a new job or promotion?
  • How has your degree changed your career?
  • Did your networking efforts lead to a new career opportunity?
  • How did your volunteer work help you to build your skills and relationships?

Your theme should come from your accomplishments.  That way your theme will be unique to you.  Think about an appropriate, but memorable theme for your career story

Are you the community educator with a passion for HIV prevention, the brilliant strategist with a knack for relationship building and sales, or the leader who inspires her teammates with a passion for student success?

The Elements of a Building Your Story

According to writer Robert McKee, “Essentially, a story expresses how and why life changes.” There are several keys to telling a great story:

  • Start with a clear purpose. Remember that in a job search the purpose of story-telling is to communicate your abilities as a candidate.
  • Set the stage. Make sure to give a brief description of the circumstances, so the audience understands the context and situation of the story.
  • Show how you overcame a challenging situation. The best way to engage your audience is to include some type of inciting incident. It is important to show how you face challenges.
  • Describe your achievements. You are the protagonist of your own story, so be ready to tell your audience how you overcame adversity and highlight your achievements to complete your story with a memorable “happy ending”.
  • The key to good story- telling is pacing. A good story has a clear beginning, ending, and a connection to the listener or viewer. In an interview setting, this can include a segue way back to the interviewer’s question.

Share Your Story

Whenever possible, integrate parts of your story throughout your job search process and career marketing documents.  For example, add your passions and accomplishments to your cover letter, resume and LinkedIn Profile; write about your research and industry trends in a blog; or use an e-portfolio to communicate your story to employers even when you are not present.

Learn more about career storytelling by viewing the Career Services archived webinar, “Telling Your Career Story.”

View Walden student and alumni success stories on our Career Spotlights You Tube channel.

Written by Nicolle Skalski, Senior Career Services AdvisorWebinar setup photo Nicolle

Three Tips for Maximizing Our New Online Networking Tool, Walden Career Connections!

We all know that networking is important, but it can be stressful! What if I told you that Brazenyou could engage in networking that’s purposeful, fun and fast?

On Tuesday, March 8, from 7:00– 8:00 p.m. EST, the Career Services Center will be launching its new networking tool, Walden Career Connections. The event is online, so attendees will chat live with other members of the Walden community from anywhere in the world!

“We are very excited to offer Walden students and alumni live virtual networking events,” said Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services. “Through personally attending one of these networking events, I was matched in a virtual chat room with a career services director on the East Coast.  Her recommendation led to our launch of this new tool for Walden.”

Here are some tips to make the most of your experience:

1) Brand Yourself

Make sure to add a picture and headline to your registration to kick-start the conversation and project a friendly, professional image. Consider having your “elevator pitch” on hand during the event so you are prepared to communicate your interests, experience and values. Remember – your brand should be centered on your educational and career goals, not your current job. Walden Career Connections allows participants to use their LinkedIn profile to register, which can make the branding process easier!

2) Prepare Some Talking Points

The conversations on Walden Career Connections are only 8 minutes, so it is important to have meaningful interactions. Aim to establish new relationships by finding common ground. Be prepared with questions so you are never at a loss for words. Here are some examples:

  • What inspired you to seek a degree at Walden?
  • How did you get into your current line of work?
  • Where do you see your career in the future?
  • What are you looking to provide or hoping to gain from this event?
  • How do you embrace Walden’s social change mission?
  • What’s the best piece of career advice you have received?

3) Follow-up

The most important part of networking happens after the event is over! Remember, establishing a professional network is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure to follow-up with your new contacts. You will have access to a transcript of your conversations so you can review notes and identify people that you would like to connect with further. Make sure to gather their contact information and follow up via email or LinkedIn.

If you have not registered for Walden Career Connections, make sure to click this link and get started. Create an account with Walden Career Connections and complete the event registration form. On March 8, from 7:00– 8:00 p.m. EST, log in and join the live session from anywhere. Join a booth based on your college and you will be matched with other Walden community members for one-on-one timed chats.

Make sure to use our networking tips to make the most of this exciting event!  We hope to virtually see you there!

Written by Senior Career Services Advisor Angie Lira


Connecting with DBA Colleagues at Residency

DBA Residency Feb 2016

Recently I completed a four-day academic residency with highly talented and motivated Doctor of Business Administration students who want to make the world a better place. Pictured above are some of the students I have had the privilege of getting to know the past four days in Anaheim, California.

I am in awe of my DBA colleagues. They are rock stars in their fields! I appreciate the collegiality, the motivation, and the humor we shared the past four days, culminating in a terrific video to be posted on YouTube. (Our group pictured above will get the prize for best class video – no doubt about it!)

Additionally, I highly value the wisdom and mentoring from our two faculty members who facilitated our daily morning residency sessions. They walked us through the doctoral study process from problem statement to the review process to finishing our papers. With their support, we are leaving this residency with new mentors and friends to talk us through this journey and a much more solid hold on our research topics.

Here is a sample of DBA students’ research topics planned in support of positive social change: recruiting more women of color into STEM occupations, engaging employees to promote greater productivity, using supply chain management to improve emergency disaster responses, and many more.

To the wonderful colleagues I met at this residency, if I can support your success through this journey, I’m just an email or phone call away. I wish all of you the best of luck in our doctoral journeys.

You all are truly rock stars and I admire your drive and passion to make the world a better place!

Lisa Cook, DBA expected 2019

Transitioning into Human Resources: Strategies for Boosting Career Success


Are you transitioning fields? Seeking new strategies to maximize your career? Maria is a MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology alumna who navigated her career from case management to human resources (HR). She recently landed a position at a marketing firm as a HR Specialist with an emphasis on industrial/organizational psychology and business development. In her new role, she performs HR functions and applies the knowledge from her Walden program to develop surveys, analyze data, and design training to promote employee engagement.

What strategies made a difference in her career transition?

Gaining Hands-on Experience
Maria took it upon herself to bridge the gap into Human Resources by networking with a friend whose company was looking for extra help in their HR department. Maria took a proactive approach by explaining her goals, what she wanted to learn, and how she planned to contribute as an intern. She carved out her own internship opportunity to gain skills in areas of HR related to industrial/organizational psychology. This experience increased her marketability for future opportunities.

Building Career Research Skills
Maria made an extensive effort to hone her career-related skills. She scheduled several career advising appointments during her Walden program where she gained insights into researching career options, employers, and jobs. Maria utilized the Walden University Career Services Center website to uncover opportunities aligned with her career goals. From her research, she was able to pinpoint the types of positions and areas of employment that would maximize her knowledge, interests, and skills.

Getting the Inside Scoop
When Maria applied for the HR Specialist position, she tailored her resume toward specific skills the marketing firm was seeking. This effort helped her land an interview with the HR Director. To prepare for the interview, she researched the firm’s website and located news articles that mentioned the firm. One article mentioned a new marketing campaign, which helped Maria ask in-depth questions about the impact of this campaign during her interview. The article also listed the name of their vice president whom she researched online. Knowledge of the organization and key stakeholders helped Maria identify and share examples of how she fit into their culture and could contribute to their goals.

Rebranding on Social Media
As an avid LinkedIn user, Maria updated her LinkedIn profile to emphasize her HR skills and academic program and joined LinkedIn groups related to HR and industrial/organizational psychology. The director at the marketing firm visited her profile and was impressed by her online presence. Her image supported her overall brand as a skilled, driven, and well-connected professional.

As Maria pursues a bright future in HR and industrial/organizational psychology, her advice for Walden students is to create a career strategy by researching position requirements, employers, and key stakeholders within organizations. She says, “Career Services helped me identify skills from my prior career. My boss valued the skills I brought.”

Would you like to gain strategies on how to build your experience, strengthen your network, and rebrand yourself for your future field? Visit Career Services Center’s Get Started page and start working on your career goals!

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services