Q&A with Tammy Spenziero

Director of Career Services
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Tammy Spenziero joined Excelsior College in 2019 as director of career services. She is familiar with what it takes to be an adult learner and balance a career, having earned a college degree nontraditionally while working and being a single parent. Since joining Excelsior, she has focused on ensuring that students regard their careers and what they can gain from career services as a critical part of their educational experiences. Photo: Mike Hemberger

What excites you about the career services field?
What excites me about the career services field is to help others achieve their goals and realize their full potential. The world is changing and now, more than ever, we have the ability to offer students and alumni educational opportunities and career and professional development that have a positive influence on their lives.

What challenges exist in providing career services in an online environment, and how do you overcome them?
Providing career services online is efficient and flexible for students. The benefits outweigh the few challenges that exist now. Challenges that could arise such as time zones, technology learning curves, and technical issues, are easily overcome.

You recently founded a group for online career services professionals within the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). What led you to do that, and what opportunities do you see for the group?
When I started leading career services at Excelsior College in mid-September 2019, I put out a question on the NACE Community Discussion Board to connect with others in similar online roles. I asked if there were any affinity groups available that I could join. None existed. The idea for a group gained attention and interest from NACE leadership as well as from my colleagues in the field. I worked with NACE to create this new national affinity group, and it now has more than 370 members in universities across the United States and in other countries. I am currently working with them on a series of webinars on the topic of online career services.

What does it mean for Excelsior to be part of the NACE group that you founded?
One great benefit of being a member of NACE is the ability to connect and engage with like-minded colleagues. We share ideas and challenges, and we work together to achieve goals toward the success of our students as well as of the career services field. I am excited because, although it was simply my intention to reach out and make connections with others in similar roles, I am now the founder and leader of a national group that positions Excelsior as a thought leader on the subject of remote and online career services to institutions across the United States.

What can students and alumni expect from career services at Excelsior?
Students and alumni will learn more about their career potential, which enriches their educational experience to provide a strong foundation for their future career decisions. They are offered coaching and tools for self-assessment, career exploration, job-search techniques, goal setting, decision making, and other needs. We strive to ensure that all students and alumni are offered the tools to establish their career goals in alignment with their educational pursuits, so they can hone career competencies to position them toward success in the workforce. The mission of career services is to empower students to proactively prepare for their unique careers and life goals, aligning them with meaning and purpose. Our vision for career services at the College is to inspire and encourage students to pursue professional goals that coincide with their life dreams.

What career guidance do you give most often?
Always follow your passion, and do what makes you fulfilled and happy. Know your talents, have confidence in all that you offer, continue learning and working on areas in need of improvement, and connect with others.

What was the best career advice you ever received?
The best career advice I have ever received is the same advice I give most often: Always follow your passion and do what makes you fulfilled and happy. In addition, be a good listener, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. “Mistakes” can be lessons, big and small, that set your path toward the future.

What’s most needed in the field of career services and why?
Making a shift to career preparation and planning is needed most, along with assistance in making connections. We need a greater focus on helping students to understand what it takes to be prepared, and to plan and make decisions toward a future that is a best fit for them, their talent, and passion. With technological advances, networking is better than ever and making connections is on a whole new level for students, alumni, faculty, and employers. These connections are most valuable when working toward career goals and going beyond an outdated career center model and into a more interactive, technology-driven practice of networking, which is key.

What do Excelsior students say the impact of career services is on their lives and careers?
What I hear most from students is that they have found the most success in reaching their career goals when engaged early on with career services. Those who take advantage of knowing what phase they are in along the career development path find it easiest to set goals when they enroll in college. Many students who wait to set career goals until right before they graduate and expect to reach career goals often fall short and are not able to achieve success in a competitive market.

What job search question do you get asked the most?
How can I stand out and get selected for an interview with “X” company? Oftentimes, students have their sights set on a specific job or company and want to land an interview. My advice is to do their homework and research the company’s strategic plan, mission, values, work environment, people, and day-to-day operations. See if the company aligns with their own personal values, strengths, talents, and passion. Making connections, finding a mentor in the field, and participating in company information sessions or even volunteer events and internships are good ways to get a feel for whether a company is the right fit.