SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2016) Karine Gill worked in sales and marketing at hotels around the world. Christine Caldwell owned a home health care company that posted $2 million in annual revenue. And Karin Weichlein held top sales positions at companies in Europe and the United States before launching her own startup.
With USF Sarasota-Manatee aiming to guide students toward successful careers, it’s turning to experts like Gill, Caldwell, Weichlein and others to not only help students select the right classes but equip them with first-hand knowledge about their potential careers.
The three are part of a new six-member team of “career advisors” responsible for helping students assess and achieve their career goals.
“We’ve introduced the role of a career advisor into this process to guide students so they’re making decisions about which classes to take, which programs to be a part of and which experiences to have, such as internships and clubs, all geared toward the understanding that those experiences may impact their future careers,” said Dr. Terry Osborn, regional vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. “It’s like a career coach or mentor in a lot of ways.”
Available to students from the moment they enroll at USFSM, the advisors can offer insights about what to expect from particular jobs, how their careers might unfold over time and whether, ultimately, they make a good fit based on the students’ goals and abilities. In some cases, they might refer students to faculty to talk about graduate school options.
“What I do is emphasize their talents, strengths and passions and put all those together to show them the opportunities that are available to them,” said Caldwell, who worked in marketing in Silicon Valley for 16 years before purchasing Sarasota-based Approved Home Health with her husband. The pair sold the business in 2010 after growing it to more than 250 clients and $2 million in annual revenue.
Drawing on decades of experience, the advisors can tap a wealth of career knowledge – from government and the educational sector to health care, business, technology, hospitality, insurance and sales and marketing, among other vocations.
Lauren Kurnov, director of student success, said she hopes students visit the career advisors often – at least once a semester – to talk about their studies and whether they should pursue internships, job shadowing or additional options to get a jump on their careers.
In some cases, a simple conversation about overall goals and employment experiences may prove helpful. Such was the case for a student who recently met with Weichlein. A bookkeeper, the student returned to school for a career change and to “get behind something she really cared about.”
Weichlein, who worked in top sales and marketing jobs across Europe and the U.S., assessed the student’s skills and work history and inquired about her ongoing classes in professional and technical writing. Then she put her in contact with several local charities about possible grant-writing jobs.
“It’s something that requires a lot of research in order to position the charity in just the right way, and it draws on her skills in bookkeeping and professional and technical writing,” Weichlein said.
The student was thrilled by the prospects.
Kurnov said the advisors’ aim is to assess students’ goals and abilities and recommend a variety of options, whether a career or graduate school exploration. For students lacking experience and unsure about their likes and dislikes, an advisor might suggest an internship, job shadowing or a volunteer experience to set them on the right path.
Caldwell did just that after one recent meeting. A student came to her expressing interest in working for an international aid organization even though she lacked practical experience. Caldwell suggested she round out her education by logging some volunteer time and was able to put the student in touch with a health clinic that assists the needy.
“What we do is ask the students what they want to end up doing, and then we try to broaden their horizons,” she said. “In this case, I was able to broker an introduction to a program that works with the uninsured and under-insured.”
Kurnov said that in some cases, students may require “real-world” career experiences to assess whether a vocation is right for them. That’s where career advisors can help, by serving as a bridge to an internship, job shadowing or a volunteer experience to sharpen their career goals.
Gill is another big believer in “experiential learning.” But she also suggested that before firming up their career plans, students should go a step further and take stock of their likes and dislikes to make sure a career is the right fit.
An advisor to the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, Gill worked for years in top sales and marketing jobs at hotels in New York, London, Brussels, Mexico City and Miami, before launching her own executive search company.
She says that while students may possess excellent occupational skills, meeting all the educational requirements, they can sometimes fail to explore whether a vocation is suited to their personality. That’s why it’s important for students to make honest and thorough self-examinations when choosing a career.
This is especially true of hospitality jobs, but can apply to just about any profession, she said. Additionally, she advised students to hold off judging a career based on a disappointing entry-level experience. Careers can evolve quickly and some companies may offer more promise than others.
“Don’t look at what you might do at entry level as your entire career. You need to take a broader look, not only locally but at the corporate level,” she said. “It’s so important that to go into this with your eyes open, whether it’s hospitality or any another business.”
Here is a look at USFSM’s new career advisory team:
Christine Caldwell has more than 30 years of experience in technology marketing and health care. She previously owned Approved Home Health, a 250-client home health agency. Prior to that, she worked as a technology marketing executive in Silicon Valley. Active in community service, Christine is a Rotary Club past president, a board member and finance committee chair for Mental Health Community Centers, a volunteer for the Sarasota Economic Development Corporation’s Health Innovation Program and a mentor for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Bright Ideas on the Gulf Coast initiative. Christine serves as a career advisor for College of Science & Mathematics students.
Katherine Ceaser is veteran teacher, having taught at elementary, secondary and university levels. She began with Teach for America in the New York City and Washington D.C. school systems. For several years, she worked with pre-service and veteran teachers to use data and assessments to drive instruction and planning. She worked closely with the Sarasota County School Board’s Professional Development and Teacher Evaluation Department to assist teachers requiring additional modeling and instructional support. Most recently, she worked for the Florida Department of Education to train teachers in Sarasota, Charlotte and Manatee counties about differentiated instruction, effective behavior management strategies and the use of assistive technology. She advises students enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences.
William Failor is a 40-year business professional with expertise in risk management and insurance. Bill has consulted for major corporations worldwide, focusing on the assimilation and divestiture of property and liability assets. Additionally, he has worked with clients to achieve major economies of scale, cost reduction and improvement of their safety environment. Prior to joining Birmingham, Ala.,-based Cobbs Allen, Bill served as managing director for Marsh & McLennan in Columbus, Ohio. Bill is a career advisor for College of Business students.
Karine Gill has been a global hospitality professional for over 30 years. She currently runs a successful executive search business in the hospitality and leisure industries with an extensive network of clients in cruise, hotel and travel companies. Previously, she worked as a sales and marketing profession at hotels in New York, London, Brussels, Miami and Mexico City. Karine is a career advisor for students enrolled in the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership.
Neil Spirtas previously worked as a senior vice president for public policy and small business at the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce. He coordinated legislative affairs (local, state and federal) as well as programs related to tourism, downtown redevelopment, infill, sustainability, transportation, the small business council and the natural resource committee. He was employed there for 30 years. He previously worked at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Florida as a community development specialist (off-campus instructor) and at the Florida Department of Commerce as an economic development specialist. Neil is a career advisor for College of Business students.
Karin Weichlein has an international marketing management background and more than 20 years of business consulting experience in the public and private sectors. She has worked with business partners on strategic plans and startup ventures and has leveraged her marketing expertise to launch a business in Southwest Florida providing volunteer solutions, promotion and event management at major sporting events. Karin is actively involved in community and non-profit organizations and serves as a board member at the Children’s Healthy Pantry, which provides healthy snacks to Title I schools. Karin is a career advisor for College of Business students.