When Personal Meets Professional

Exploring how your personal identities impact your professional career.

When students meet with me to explore their major and career options, I generally start the conversation by asking questions about their values: “What does career mean to you?” “What did you want to be when you were younger?” “What do your family members do for work?” For many students this becomes a discussion of weighing salary versus passion. And while I would like to note that this doesn’t always have to be an either/or choice, this discussion tends to be relatively easy to navigate. Other times students will share their priority of balancing a family and their career; these conversations vary greatly depending on the student’s upbringing, life views, and goals. Sometimes students will share the impact their family has on their major or career choice, which also helps me understand their personal motivations when choosing a career. When hearing that a student places high value on their family’s views on their careers, it is important for me to be aware of my own biases from my upbringing and any American-centric notions that career should be chosen based on interest or passion. As a cis-gendered, heterosexual, white, American-born woman, I try to recognize my blind spots when it comes to providing career counseling to people from different backgrounds than me.

All that being said, I also don’t want to make assumptions on students’ priorities and concerns in their career exploration and job search based on their outward appearances or even what is disclosed to me in their appointments. That is why I encourage my students to share their individual concerns and salient pieces of their identity with me with me when they are comfortable, so that together we can navigate the challenging discussions of how personal meets professional. Whether it be discussing what challenges could be faced by a woman in a STEM field, discussing stereotypes or microaggressions experienced by people of color in the workplace, navigating the legality of LGBTQ discrimination in different states, exploring career options as they relate to immigration status, or if and how to disclose a disability to an employer, I will work with you to explore your questions and help you find your answers. I recognize that these are not easy discussions to have, but I encourage you to start exploring how salient aspects of your identity will impact your career choice while you are a student at UConn. When you are ready to share, I am ready to listen, engage, and support you.

At the Center for Career Development our office supports all UConn students in their career development. While our career consultants have different career coaching and counseling styles, each career consultant works towards the same goal of supporting all UConn students. The entry above is my personal approach of working with students on their career values.


Image via: https://chicostateblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/the-diversity-iceberg/

By Emily Merritt
Emily Merritt Career Consultant, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Emily Merritt