Career Services Advisor From Carrington Tucson Helps Students with their Career Journey
“School is an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Whoever you were before. Whatever you were before. It doesn’t matter. This is your brand new start,” said Career Services Advisor Heidi Sellers.
She supports the diverse body of students at Carrington College’s Tucson, Arizona campus where students from a wide variety of backgrounds create new paths and opportunities for their lives through career education. Heidi’s students are specifically in the Associate Degree in Nursing, Medical Assisting, Medical Billing & Coding, and Pharmacy Technology programs.
Heidi has multiple responsibilities in her position and all of them contribute toward accomplishing one central goal: advancing student success. As a self-described cheerleader, she is there to applaud when students succeed. Likewise, when the inevitable challenges arise, she offers guidance and support. She teaches her students the essentials of professional development. She also makes arrangements with medical practices for student externships during their final term and schedules employment interviews after graduation. All the while, she pays close attention to personality and temperament, doing her best to ensure students are well-matched with their externship sites and future employers. Her guidance, coordination, and attention to detail frees students to maximize their time at Carrington and focus on learning.
Heidi came to Carrington in 2010 after gaining eight years of healthcare experience working at a cardiology practice in the administration department. That’s where she learned about healthcare human resources—in particular, the qualities and skills medical clinics are looking for in their employees. Instead of placing students at practices, she was speaking with advisors at schools who were hoping to place their students with her employer. Her reputation for being outgoing and caring in that role eventually led to a recommendation for the position that she does today at Carrington. The school needed someone who would work side-by-side with students, preparing them for the workforce.
“It sounded like an opportunity to make a difference—to be able to help prepare them to work in offices with doctors, nurses, and medical assistants, and other medical professionals” she said.
The experience that Heidi gained at the cardiology practice combined with her work at Carrington, has allowed Heidi to develop deeply valuable and well-rounded insight into what it takes to succeed in healthcare today. She is also familiar with the issues and challenges that students commonly face and has developed tested strategies for working through them. She “helps students create a plan that transcends into employment” and is motivated by “seeing the potential in students that they can’t yet see in themselves.”
Carrington students often have full lives outside of school and many maintain jobs to support themselves and their families. Under ideal circumstances, their families are accommodating and supportive of the time they spend focused on school. However, Heidi has noticed that not all students receive the same level of support. This could be for multiple reasons. Perhaps they are running into conflict because they are choosing a career outside what was expected of them by family tradition (“all the men/women in our family do this…”). It could also be that they are running into outdated ideas about gender roles (“only women/men do that…”). The list of circumstances and cultural factors that influence family feelings and beliefs really is limitless. Then again, the issue may simply be, as Heidi has observed, “family doesn’t always place the same value on education that we do.”
She explained how students may miss school due to family demands and how that affects their learning.
“But Carrington is an accelerated course—you could miss an entire skill if you missed one day.” Heidi helps students navigate external pressure and discern what is most important to them so they can remain focused on achieving their personal goals and becoming the person they want to be with new opportunities in their life. “College is a brand new start. It’s a reinvention of yourself and that can be really powerful,” Heidi explained.
Because of Heidi’s familiarity with healthcare human resources and warm personality, she has built a large network within the healthcare community. These relationships have provided Carrington students with numerous educational externship opportunities. After finding student’s externship site, Heidi provides support by coaching the students and facilitating communications between them and the externship location. It could be said that she is a bridge or a connection between the sites and the students. She not only helps to communicate feedback from the site to the student but she also helps the student constructively process feedback through an educational and professional lens. This is valuable guidance that the student likely would not be able to find elsewhere.
Heidi also helps with other practical job skills such as résumé and cover letter writing and revision. To prepare students for interviews, she coaches them on basics like appropriate attire and what to take to the interview. She also sits down with students to practice interviewing techniques and answer questions so they become comfortable and prepared before they meet future employers. Mock interviews might feel a little silly but they help students learn what to expect in the future, gain practice, and become more confident. The students also receive feedback on their responses so they can improve them and ace their interviews after graduation.
The same people skills and community connections that make Heidi so successful at arranging externships also come in handy when she helps graduates find permanent employment. It usually takes “about a month” on average to find employment when students focus and work with her on their career plan. She also doesn’t forget about students who fall out of touch or need to tend to other responsibilities in their lives after graduation.
She said she, “stays persistent and continues to reach out. I send them little emails to check in regularly.”
One example of her persistence paying off happened in late 2020. Heidi said, “I had a student finish in March of 2020 who had a baby and wasn’t interested right away with COVID19 happening. We kept up contact. Then the week before Thanksgiving, she wrote and said that she was ready to look. I got her set up with three interviews within a week and she was hired to start her new job by mid-December!”
In addition to working with graduates to help find interviews for permanent employment, she will give them insight on the culture of the office, personality of the physician, and any other advice she feels is helpful at the time. She does everything she can to equip students and graduates with the knowledge they will need to be successful. Heidi is the advisor, cheerleader, and advocate students need while they are attending Carrington and in their lives following graduation. Seeing them succeed motivates her and she certainly enjoys providing support along the way.
When asked to describe her job she replied, “It’s a feel-good position.”