Marian Mason joined the College of Engineering in October to take the lead on efforts a few faculty members had been doing ad hoc. Creating a program from scratch isn’t new to this professional and her hard work is already having a positive effect on engineering students. They now receive weekly emails with internship and job openings, in addition to monthly tips on how to look for a job, how to write a resume, and how to interview properly. Mason also is busy creating workshops that give students practice doing mock interviews and negotiating their first salary.
She’s meeting one-on-one with employers, introducing them to the college, and asking them to share any internships or jobs they may have. Thanks to the web team at UNLV, the college now has a job board for students where they can search for jobs and internships by department, title, location, and name.
In February, Mason joined forces with the Computer Science Advisory Board to make this year’s TechConnect job fair the most successful yet with more than 300 students attending. But Mason has only just begun. Her future plans include more collaboration with other colleges and schools at UNLV in relation to job fairs, in addition to more engineering-specific career events.
I have a friend in Las Vegas who was always encouraging me to move out here. I’ve lived in the western United States before and was open to the idea. At the time I was working as the president of the Chamber of Commerce in Kentucky, where I’m from. I’ve actually spent years in that industry, working with businesses and connecting them with resources, customers, and each other. I also had prior experience in career counseling, a role I really enjoyed. When I saw the job posting at UNLV, it seemed like the perfect opportunity!
What inspired you to get into your field?
I love helping people. I took an untraditional path to my career. I have a degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in English from the University of Texas, Austin. I worked in the field for a time and then found my way into career counseling. My interviewing experience has definitely been a help. There’s really no better feeling than being able to help someone find a job, make a career change, or find a new path in life. People are so appreciative that someone would take the time to help them. And often individuals have the skills they need, they just don’t know how to package them. That’s an area in which I can help.
What’s the biggest misconception about your field?
People often come to us thinking we’ll find them a job, rather than help them find a job. We teach them how to conduct their own job searches, help them write resumes, and give them as much practice as possible with mock interviews. Our job is to provide people skills they can use not to just find a job right now, but future jobs as well.
What is the proudest moment in your life?
Following Hurricane Katrina, I joined a nonprofit tasked with providing career counseling and resources to victims of the disaster. Over an 18-month period, with a very small team, we successfully assisted 2,200 individuals find work, go to school, or start their own businesses. It was the most fulfilling professional experience I’ve ever had. The majority of them were able to stay on the Gulf Coast, too.
What is your one tip for success?
For someone wanting to get into career services, I think one of the most useful things they can do is shadow someone who is doing it. I love the field, I find it incredibly motivating and rewarding. But just like any career, it takes a certain type of personality. The best way to find out if it is for you is to spend a little time with someone who does it.
For students trying to find a job, a great way to get a foot in the door is to ask for informational interviews. A lot of students aren’t necessarily thinking long term but just about getting their first or next job. But if it is the right fit, that job could turn into a career for them. I ask students to make a list of the top five to eight companies they’d like to work for. If they don’t know, they can do some research — the companies can be local or national. Then we strategize on how we can get them in front of a representative from those companies. Who do we, or they, know with a connection to that company? It is important to know and follow standard hiring procedures, but I always encourage my students to investigate other opportunities for getting in front of a hiring manager.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I’ve lived in many different places, but definitely the most interesting is Chengdu, China. I took a year to help students at one of China’s top tech schools polish up their English. The region Chengdu is in is hot, humid, and quite laid back. I often thought of it as the Texas of China. I absolutely loved it!
Pastime or Hobbies
It definitely has to be hiking. That’s one of the things I love about living here. There are a lot of options to get outdoors. I was recently in Death Valley. Did you know it is the largest national park outside of Alaska? And it is literally only two-and-a-half hours away. I don’t think that many people in Las Vegas are aware of that. As I’m here longer I’m looking forward to exploring Utah and Arizona as well.
Tell us about an object in your office that has significance for you.
It has to be my blue porcelain teapot. It reminds me to pause every now and then to reflect on what I’m doing and to keep my life in balance. I do that best with a cup of tea in my hand.