James Madison University - B.S. in Sociology
Job discontent is a well-traveled—albeit bumpy—path to career bliss. Just ask Emma Maynard, who was feeling disappointed and unfulfilled in her job when she realized she had to make a change. “There was a time when I would come home and just complain about how unhappy I was. I was so focused and determined to figure out why I was so unhappy that, well, I forgot how to be happy.”
After noticing a number of her friends seemed satisfied, productive and motivated in their respective jobs at her Alma matter James Madison, Emma applied for a position in JMU’s Office of Career and Academic Planning. And now, she connects undergrads to abundant resources, helping them avoid the pitfalls Emma had to face early on.
If you’re a student, this is a must-read, but we think there are plenty of gems here for everyone. Who doesn’t want to consult a career counselor’s resources at one point or another?
Happiness, like any feeling, is a state of mind, followed by action—not the reverse.
What inspired you to pursue your current job?
Feeling unfulfilled and consequently unhappy is what initially put me on the inner path toward finding what was missing—or better yet, discovering what I already had inside, but was unable to put to work in my current environment. It's funny how environment alone can have such an impact on overall morale and productivity.
During some of that soul searching, I kept finding myself wanting to emulate many of my friends' happiness, most of whom worked at James Madison. I knew that no job was perfect, but I was fascinated by the fact that they all seemed so driven in their various roles within the university. In their late 20s and early 30s, they had already accumulated many accomplishments. Undeterred by their professional trials and tribulations, they seemed almost recharged by their passion and ambition to better themselves in what they do.
At 27, and five years into my professional journey, I desperately wanted my own stories to tell—so one random day in May, it hit me that if I didn’t take action now, I’d continue to postpone what “could be.” With unleashed hope and yes, admittedly a dash of fear for the unknown, I applied to JMU’s Office of Career and Academic Planning. My fingers were crossed and my passion ignited!
What does your job involve on a daily basis, and what types of responsibilities do you have in your position?
I have yet to experience even two days that have been the same. I thrive on not knowing what each day will bring, but in knowing that it will be fulfilling.
As the recruiting programs coordinator, I coordinate various recruiting events/programs and serve as the employer contact for our fall and spring career fairs. I assist with the ongoing coordination of our On Campus Recruiting Schedule and promote employer presence to students and faculty.
In addition, I supervise our graduate assistant, media student assistant and Centennial Scholar on daily tasks and project-based assignments while co-leading our marketing media student assistants group where we establish marketing agendas for a number of resources.
I also focus efforts on building mutually beneficial relationships with new employer contacts while strengthening the ones we currently have at JMU. It’s a vibrant role in a dynamic office and I couldn’t feel more satisfied.
What connects you to JMU?
Well, as my fellow Dukes would say, "I bleed purple." In fact, being a Duke runs in the family. My parents, Peggy and Bill, met at JMU their freshmen year and married the same year they graduated (’79). My older sister, Laura, attended JMU and married a fellow Duke, Greg, in 2008. Then I attended JMU and met my husband, Alan, during my senior year, marrying in 2009. My husband and I now live in this wonderful college town and enjoy life as alumni who still get to be so involved with our alma mater. Go Dukes!
What do you think is the No. 1 thing that students should do to stand out to employers?
Know how to effectively communicate—in person. In many ways, social media has become a crutch, so I work with students on understanding the importance of communication outside of the realms of Facebook and Twitter. When you’re 1:1 or better yet, in front of a panel to interview for the job of your dreams, you can't rely on 140 characters or emoticons to get you through. Being able to present yourself as a polished and professional communicator is so essential; not only in an interview, but also throughout your career. So many opportunities await those who have skill and expertise in this area, because it truly can set you apart from the crowd.
What’s been the biggest success so far in your career?
What's the saying? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Although young in my professional journey, I’ve already dealt with challenging colleagues, hard transitions and even being laid off, but my biggest success so far is that despite some of those lowest points, I have not given up. I’m sure to come across more other “learning experiences” along the way, but my foundation is strong and I’m confident in my resilience and perseverance to move forward.
How do you help students navigate their path? What foundation do they need in order to do this?
I try to emphasize that they need to be a sponge: absorb everything, and I mean everything, that is available to you now. As a student, you have infinite resources at your fingertips—from internships, career guidance and interviewing help—so why wouldn’t you use them now?
When I was a student, I was also told this, yet I kept putting it off because I thought, “I have plenty of time later to plan for that.” The most important thing to remember is that the future will come faster than you think. You’ll be so thankful if you take the time now to make sure you properly prepare yourself for that chapter.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I can't believe I have this job?" What was it?
If you’re familiar with the final scene in “Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation,” you’re able to picture Clark Griswold standing in his front yard after surviving another hectic holiday season. With a big 'ol grin on his face, he simply exclaims, "I did it!" and the movie cuts to credits.
I had this exact movie clip looping in my mind after the completion of my first committee standing for our career fair implementation. For four months we met, planned and strategized to successfully launch this event, all while maintaining our regular job responsibilities. It was a long journey, full of peaks and valleys. When the event went off without a hitch, a powerful rush of accomplishment ran through me. I couldn't help but smile just like Clark and reflect on how good this feeling was and how experiencing this end result made the journey worth taking.
What are some of the rules you live by?
“If you want to be happy, be.”
The quote is as simple as the message. My husband, Alan, is the one who truly helped me not only love this message, but live it. There was a time when I would come home and just complain about how unhappy I was. I was so focused and determined to figure out why I was so unhappy that well, I forgot how to be happy.
My strongest piece of advice: never forget how to be happy. Happiness, like any feeling, is a state of mind, followed by action—not the reverse. So if you want to be happy, be. The rest will fall into place.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
At age 21, you don't have all the answers. At age 28, I still don't have all the answers and I'm sure when I'm retired, I'll still have plenty to learn. It’s awesome if you have confidence in yourself, but I’d advise you to not think of yourself as an “expert” at anything. I know, I know; it sounds a little curt. But I wish the 21-year-old me knew that the key to growth is the openness to learn and the key to openness is accepting that you don't have all the answers.
When I was 21, I felt invincible and that I had fully prepared myself for the experiences I would have, but in fact, I hindered myself by not being more open to the lessons, strengths and the knowledge of others. Be confident in your abilities, but always be open to what others can teach you.
What is one thing we might be surprised to know about your job?
Although part of my job is to encourage students to take advantage of our resources, I’ll admit that I never took advantage of them myself as a student. Surprise!
My professional journey has not been perfect, but I have no one to blame but myself. If I had used the resources provided to me as a student, then maybe I would have hit fewer potholes along the way.
I think the reason I enjoy being part of career and academic planning so immensely is because I can help educate students about all of the wonderful opportunities that are available to them and emphasize how placing the stones of their path down now will save them a heck of a lot of time from being “lost in the woods” later on.