Social Change and Professional Growth Through Volunteering


During the Walden Social Change Networking event on July 21, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Ebony Cray, a Walden student in the MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. During our online chat, I learned that Ebony is an active volunteer in her community. She is on the Board of Directors for OMEP-USA, an “organization dedicated to advocating for children’s rights and high-quality education for children.” She also started World Advocates for Children and Families, LLC, (WAFCAF),  where she offers free resources and guidance for families in need, and she has been a Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) volunteer for three years. Her volunteer work is in addition to her full-time position as a teacher and program coordinator for a child development center. Our conversation focused on her work with CASA.

As a CASA volunteer, Ebony’s role is to guide, support, and advocate for abused and neglected children who are involved in the court system. To become a CASA volunteer, Ebony submitted an application and went through an interview process. Once accepted, she received extensive training on how to navigate the court system, collaborate with attorneys and social service agencies, and most important ― “advocate for children’s best interests.”

After completing the CASA training, Ebony was assigned to a case involving two young brothers. She has been with their case for three years. She meets with the brothers monthly, attends court hearings, communicates with the children’s attorney, writes reports, and advocates for the brothers before the judge. As their advocate, Ebony has built a bond of trust with the brothers. She described her relationship as one that will “tug at your heart strings.” In 2015, Ebony was awarded a CASA scholarship to attend the National CASA conference where she connected with other CASA volunteers and learned more about family law and advocacy. She also attended her state’s annual CASA Day at the Capitol event to learn more about current and proposed legislation that affects children in foster care and CASA programs.

Ebony is a CASA volunteer because she both believes in positive social change and she wants to take an active role in making change happen. Through volunteering, she is strengthening her professional skills, learning about the “plight of others” in her community, making connections, and becoming an adept and persuasive leader for families.

The Career Services Center thanks Ebony for sharing her story, and we wish her continued success in her academic program and career!

To explore the positive impact volunteering can have on your career, view the Career Services Center archived webinar: Maximizing Career Success Through Strategic Volunteering

Written by Denise Pranke, Senior Career Services Advisor



Game-changing Tips to Boost Your Higher Ed Job Search

What does it take to land your first higher ed teaching job?  Bridgette, a Walden DBA student and business professional who recently landed two adjunct teaching positions, would tell you to get the right information before starting your search.  She shares how she shifted her mindset to tackle the higher ed hiring process:

Change Your Game Plan

Bridgette initially approached her job search by hiring a resume service to create a generic CV.  This strategy did not yield results.  She became frustrated and discouraged due to the lack of response from employers until she visited Chronicle Vitae, a powerful networking site for academics and researchers.  On this site, she watched a webinar on CV writing and realized her document required substantial improvements.  She contacted Walden Career Services and scheduled an appointment for a CV review to help strengthen her format, condense her experience, and emphasize skills attractive to employers.

Get Informed

As a defined benefits analyst and client coordinator working in a HR Consulting business environment, Bridgette was unfamiliar with the recruiting, selection, and hiring process in higher education.  Working with Career Services, she revised her CV and learned tips to navigate the job search process.  She also tapped into Career Services’ website resources, including the Doctoral Resources page, CV Guide, and OptimalResume’s CV Samples.

Navigate the Hiring Process

Her tailored CV and diligent preparation attracted employers.  When an online university expressed interest in hiring her as a business school instructor, she reached out to Career Services for advice on salary negotiation and what to expect during new instructor training.  A couple of weeks later, a local college asked her to stop by to complete her human resources paperwork, take a tour, and get her syllabi and books for the two courses she will be teaching this fall.  The advice she received from Career Services helped her build confidence and avoid unnecessary mishaps during the hiring process.

Bridgette encourages Walden students who are seeking higher ed positions to save time and effort by reaching out to Career Services.  She states, “Regardless of whether you are advancing your current career or changing careers, Walden Career Services should be your first point of contact.  Walden Career Services provides ‘game-changing’ advice and current industry information.”  We wish Bridgette success as she starts her teaching career.

Need to boost your higher ed job search?  Visit our “one-stop” Doctoral Resources page to get started.

 Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Dina Bergren

Virtual Interviewing Tips to Get the Job

Woman interviewing on screen

Virtual interviews add extra challenges to the interview process such as managing video technology and conveying a positive image through a virtual space.  How can you conquer technology, exude confidence, and make a lasting impression on your interviewers?

Consider the following tips:

Technology and Environment

  • Familiarize yourself with the virtual platform. Whether your interviewer asks you to use Skype, ooVoo, Zoom, or another system, test it before your interview.  Do you need to install new software on your computer?  Make sure to test system functions before the interview.  Ask a tech savvy friend or family member to practice with you if possible.
  • Check your computer and internet connectivity.  A reliable internet connection, working microphone and speakers, and functioning webcam will help you avoid technology glitches. If you are using a headset, make sure it is plugged in and working properly.  Finally, close all other computer applications during your interview.Organized desk
  • Set your stage.  Position your webcam toward a neutral background and add extra
    lighting to brighten your video image.  Unclutter your desk, organize your notes, and choose a quiet space to minimize distractions.

Presentation and Delivery

  • Focus on professionalism.  Check how you appear in front of the camera. For example, multi-color patterns and shiny jewelry may be especially distracting on video.  Instead, select neutral colors and professional business attire.
  • Pay attention to body language. To make a positive impression, look straight at the camera, remember to smile often, and remain still without fidgeting.  Since you are “on camera,” avoid glancing downward and shifting away from the screen.

 Practice Virtual Interviewing Using OptimalResume

  • Record virtual interview questions.  Did you know that OptimalResume offers an Interview Prep module that you can use to practice interviewing skills in a virtual environment?  Use this tool to record your video and review your responses.  Do you come across as confident, knowledgeable, and friendly?  Build your virtual interviewing skills for a flawless delivery.

Want to learn more about interviews?
Visit the Career Services Center’s Interviewing tab to watch our Interview Strategies video and gain essential tips to ace your interview.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services
(Adapted from the Career Services Center’s Interviewing tab)

Dina Bergren



How Being in the Right Place at the Right Time Led to Two New Jobs

Rudene Thomas

Have networking and being a member of a professional organization helped you in your career?

Joining a professional organization can be rewarding and fulfilling when trying to enhance your skill set.  Some professional organizations are expensive.  You need to determine if an organization meets your needs along with how you can contribute by volunteering on a committee.  A person should not just join for the sake of “what’s in it for me.”  A person should consider how she or he will personally benefit and contribute to the organization and its goals.

When I joined the Federal government in Bethesda, Maryland, I wanted to know how I could enhance my skills.  So I joined a nonprofit organization named Federally Employed Women (FEW).  I attended a chapter meeting and liked the vision, mission, and goals of the organization and what it had to offer.  I considered how I could contribute to this group.  I served in several capacities, and all of the positions were rewarding.

My most notable role was serving a chapter president.  This opportunity gave me the ability to develop leadership skills, do public speaking, direct committees, recruit members, write awards presentations, develop the budget, build professional connections, and meet with senior officials of the FEW organization and leaders from my previous employment.

So, in essence, a person must look at volunteering as a way to gain valuable skills to excel in one’s career.  It also shows that you will go above and beyond to do extra activities outside of work.  It is hard work but fun work that you can add to your resume.  Often employers such as the Federal government like to see that individuals do volunteer work.

Here’s an update on how networking landed me a new job at my current employer as a Program Analyst in the Office of Policy Development and Coordination (OPDC).  In December 2015, I was in the hallway looking at the employee bulletin board.  A man came along and asked me what I was looking at, and I told him that I was looking at the announcement of an employee retiring.  During our conversation, I told him who I was and where I worked along with sharing my educational background.  I had seen this man in passing but never knew his name and still didn’t ask his name.  So we departed, and I didn’t give it any more thought.  The next day the man came into the office where I worked and spoke to my supervisor.  She came over and told me that the man was a supervisor in OPDC, and he wanted me to participate in a grants competition by reading and scoring applications.  So of course, I agreed because that was an opportunity for me to do something different and meaningful.

Well, I did such a fantastic job that the Director, OPDC, sent an email to my supervisor, her boss, and the OPDC Supervisor.  The most notable statement in this email from the Director, OPDC, was that I was very detail-oriented, concise, and thorough.  Also, I provided supporting information to justify my scores on the grant applications.  I was so thrilled to see these comments in writing.   I considered reaching out to the OPDC Supervisor since he invited me to participate.  I reached out to him and requested a brief meeting.  I printed out my resume and went to his office.  I expressed an interest in his office if an opportunity opened in the future.  He offered me a detail assignment for six months.  This gave me the opportunity to try out a new job and see if I liked it and if the team liked me.  Well, the detail assignment worked out, and I’m permanently in this office.

I don’t know if this was luck or being at the right place at the right time.  If you are seeking a new opportunity, it’s best to share your story but be brief.  Just tell the person the office you are in, your position, and your educational background.  Remember you only get 1-2 minutes so do your best, stay calm and always be ready because you never know who has that next great opportunity.

Good luck!

Written by Rudene Thomas, PhD in Public Policy and Administration Student, Guest Blogger

Rudene Thomas

Online Networking: A Review of the Master’s Networking Social

Walden Career Connections Networking eventOne of the primary concerns I had about becoming an online student was the loss of interaction with my classmates. Most of my classes added in a component with discussions and other ways for us work together with our classmates, but this was purely academic. I definitely enjoyed hearing about my classmates’ thoughts on the weekly lessons, but I sometimes felt like I was missing that professional connection. This is why I was thrilled to be a part of the online networking event that Walden University offered on May 19th.

The timing of this event was perfect for the working professional—which seems to be a common theme among graduate students. It occurred in the evening on a Thursday night. For me, living in the Eastern time zone, this time was after working hours and traditional “dinner time”. I had plenty of time to get organized and prepared for the event after the typical working day.

Going into the event, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I knew that there were individual rooms based on your degree programs, but I wasn’t sure what the exact format would be. When logging onto the event, the user first sees the lists of rooms that are available. These were, again, based on majors and programs, but included some of the following: Education, Information Technology, Business, General Chat, and more.

Contrary to what this may sound like, these are not typical chat rooms. When selecting which chat you wish to be a part of, you will be placed into a line waiting on a conversation. I never had to wait longer than a few seconds. In fact, most of the time, the next conversation loaded immediately after finishing the first one.  As soon as a “chatter” is available for you to speak with, a conversation screen is loaded on your computer and the clock starts.

In this chat, you are connected to one person. That person’s information is displayed on the side of the chat screen, usually with a photo, their connection to Walden University, major or program information, and a link to their LinkedIn page. The timer starts as soon as the conversation loads, and you have seven to ten minutes to connect with this person. During the sixty minute event, I was able to connect with six people—so it moves fairly quickly.

During the course of the event, I moved between a few of the rooms, meeting and interacting with students. While the rooms may have all been different, the conversations typically started out the same way: “Why are you here and where do you want to go?” I met authors, educators, non-profit professionals, and IT professionals from all over the world. It was truly a virtual networking experience.

The system notifies you when the chat timer is about to expire, but as previously mentioned, you have other ways of staying connected. In the future, I would recommend loading the person’s LinkedIn profile as soon as the chat begins so you don’t have to scramble to pull it up while the clock runs out. This is an excellent way to begin or continue to grow your LinkedIn connections. I would strongly encourage Walden University students to take advantage of these opportunities. These people are your classmates or alumni from your university and they lead fascinating lives all throughout the world. Meet them, connect with them, and stay in touch!

The Career Services Center invites you to participate in the next Walden Career Connections event:

Social Change Networking Hour, July 21, 2016, from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. Register for the event here.

Would you like some ideas on how to prepare for online networking events? Read:  Three Tips for Maximizing Our New Online Networking Tool, Walden Career Connections!

 Written by Samantha Shore, Walden Career Services Center Intern

Samantha Shore

Success Story: Dr. Janice Hawkins

Janice Hawkins

It’s always nice to hear a success story, right? Well, success is definitely something that comes to mind when hearing about the post-graduation life of a Walden University alumna—Dr. Janice Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins graduated from Walden University in 2013 with a doctorate in Public Policy and Administration. She has experience in child welfare in New York City, and has worked in diverse positions from caseworker up to administration. Since graduation, she has been involved with many organizations and presented at several conferences.

Dr. Hawkins saw speaking at conferences as a way to nationally establish herself professionally. National and Regional conferences typically turn out guests and members from all across the country. Being able to present your research or papers at one of these events is definitely a great way to get your name out there and let your voice be heard.

In addition to establishing herself professionally, Dr. Hawkins really wanted to affect social change. She felt that there needed to be more understanding between clients and those who write the policies affecting those clients.  She started out by doing workshops for parents at local public schools and then began presenting at various conferences. She has given presentations on many topics including: “What To Do When Children Protective Services Knocks on Your Door?” and “Is Social Welfare Best Practice for Children as Fueled or Deterred by Outside Influences such as the Media?”

Dr. Hawkins is presenting at the National Association of Social Workers National Conference in Washington, D.C. this summer. Her topic is “Social Work and Developing Effective Advocacy in Your Social Work Practice.”  When asked about her presentation, Dr. Hawkins said, “Effective advocates can influence public policy, laws and budgets by using facts, their relationships, the media, and messaging to educate government officials and the public on the changes they want to bring for their families. My talk is about how can we do this.”

Are you interested in presenting at a conference? Well, Dr. Hawkins has some advice for you! She mentioned that the following things will be helpful:

  • Get on the mailing lists of any organizations or groups that are in your interest area.
  • Write, write, write comments, blogs, letters to the editor, columns, books. This helps establish you as an expert in your area.
  • Join at least one professional organization.
  • Go to workshops when you can to familiarize yourselves with how they run.
  • Be open to doing “freebies.”

For more ideas on ways to impact positive social change, view the Career Services Center archived webinars in the Social Change Series.

Written by Samantha Shore, Walden Career Services Center Intern

Samantha Shore


Employee Engagement & Bridge Building

Minneapolis Bridge

How do you engage employees?  You build a bridge between leadership and “on the ground” employees.  You offer staff opportunities to be heard by leadership who actively listen and appreciate their ideas.

Our university has implemented “skip level” meetings over the past year.  These opportunities don’t cost anything except time and they pay off in spades!

I recently met with our Chief Academic Officer, our top leader in our Minneapolis office, to discuss my idea for advancing our university’s mission of positive social change through a live virtual networking event involving our students and alumni.  I promised to take only 15 minutes of his very busy schedule – and that’s all it took.  He appreciated my input and called out the initiative in a university-wide meeting the following week.  I’m grateful for our team’s opportunity to advance our mission and to be recognized for it.

So I “paid it forward” with my team.  I was offered the opportunity to meet with the Vice President of Information Technology and the Executive Director overseeing the implementation of a new customer relationship management system when they visited our Minneapolis office.   I invited three of our team members to this meeting to share their ideas for tailoring the new system to our specific needs.  We had a pre-meeting to strategize.  I asked each team member to choose which point she wanted to cover.

When the meeting started, I provided an overview of our team, our mission, and the students we serve.  Then I handed it off to the team.  Our team works with these systems day in and day out.  No one could do a better job of making the case for tailoring a new system.  You should have seen their beaming smiles as our IT leaders asked them questions.  Our IT leaders even made suggestions on how we could streamline tasks immediately while the new system is being built.  We were so appreciative of their time and the opportunity to provide input.  I know our team will be buzzing about this for quite some time!

I hope to teach business classes someday and tell these great stories of how our leadership valued and implemented our suggestions.  Employees “on the ground” often have great ideas that miss the chance to cascade up the chain.  I’m very grateful to our leadership and to my team for our very productive conversations.

We are truly “walking the talk” of employee engagement!

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services and DBA Student

Lisa Cook