Monica Clem: tackling ‘an office of one’

Category:  News
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 at 4:47 PM

She’s welcomed by hundreds of emails when she walks into her office every morning. Her voice box is full of calls from employers, students and alumni, and she has three spring events to plan so her desk is filled with folders of information regarding the employers she hopes to secure, floor plan logistics and catering menus. She pulls up her calendar and it’s filled with speaking engagements, meetings, periods of grading homework, and little carved out snatches of time to work on a dissertation.

“I’m an office of one. An institution of this size would usually have five full-time staff members,” said Director of Career Development at Edinboro University Monica Clem.

“What many people don’t understand is that my job has so many different aspects to it,” said Clem. “I don’t just work with all 6,550 current students, I work with alumni, and prospective students as well. And yet students and parents only see the center as a place to go get a resume. We do so much more than that.”

Clem is busily preparing for an event when first encountered. A table spread of college snack staples — pizza, cookies, crudité, and dip — are laid out at the entrance of the newly minted learning commons classroom.

Her assistant helps the small crowd of students swipe their ID cards to sign in. She fills the doorway for a second, a smile on her face, “Come in! Help yourself!”

Then she’s gone. She appears again a second later wielding a pair of scissors, explaining, “We’ll be starting soon, so make yourselves comfortable.” She quickly snips the plastic packaging of the vegetable spread open, confirms that all is well with the food selections, adjusts the positioning of the napkin on the table, and turns her attention to getting the projector up and running.

The screen flashes blue, then white as her PowerPoint appears. The room is filled with a jazz tune seconds later and the screen flashes purple. “Kahoot!,” the slide projected declares. It seems that students are going to play a game sometime during the presentation.

“I was a first-generation college student and working at Mercyhurst, which is a small private university, I found that my experiences were very unlike the experiences of the students I was working with. I felt that I would be able to [better] provide my experiences to students that are more like me and be able to anticipate their needs more so than with the students I was working with.”

From the front of the room, she scans the set-up, making sure that everything is just so. She nods her head slightly as if affirming that everything is okay, and addresses the crowd of students piling their plates high with pizza. She addresses the students, “How about we all move up and sit closer together? I want this to be a low-stress, comfortable setting.”

Making students — especially students unfamiliar with the college environment — comfortable with career development resources is Clem’s biggest goal.

“Mentors played a big role in the way that my career has unfolded,” she said.

Her computer alerts her of an email and she is distracted for a moment. She scans the email for a second, before smiling guiltily, “I should turn off my notifications.”

In her year and a half at Edinboro, Clem has accomplished quite a bit. She’s worked with the marketing department to rebrand the image of the Career Development Center; helped develop not one but two apps (HireEU and Tradeify) to not only help students find jobs and evaluate their career interests from the comfort of their dorm rooms, but also to streamline all job postings in a location that is easy to access for students and departments across campus; and she has hosted four major career expos — drawing employers from as far away as Missouri.

“We used to mass e-mail every single job posting we got to the entire university, but HireEU allows students to just log into one database that has all the job postings that we receive,” Clem said.

However, despite her accomplishments, Clem laments the fact that she can’t do more for the students who most need her help.

“Students will walk into the career center and no one will be here because I spend so much of my time out of the office,” she said. “I get emails all the time from students asking for help writing a resume or help to look for internships and I have to say ‘no’ because I just have no time in my schedule for that. We have the resume rescue sessions, and Lauren can meet with some students, but meeting with students is still my job.”

She pauses for a second.

“The guilt about that is the hardest part.”

She continued: “I worked in corporate before I started career coaching, and one of the reasons why career development has spoken to me is because I’m helping students find that next step in their lives; in corporate I was just working to increase the profit margin of the company I worked for.”

“She really shouldn’t be meeting with students at all,” said Lauren Parent, Clem’s assistant who works 18 hours a week managing the career development email account and meeting with students to go over resumes. “I tell her all the time that I’ll deal with the students and you just focus on the planning and communication.”

One gets the sense that the fragile balance Clem keeps between, directing the Career Development Center, teaching two sections of a career preparation class, and writing her Ph.D dissertation will all be undone if one commitment weighs a little too heavily.

“I’ve accepted that at this point in my life I’m not really going to have any free time. Any time that I have not working I’m writing my dissertation.”

All hope hasn’t been lost yet though: the Career Development Center has just begun looking for new staff to help carry the burden.

Shayma Musa can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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