By Olivia Crouse/Purdue Today
As an undergraduate student, Natalie Connors foresaw a career in anthropology, so she completed a degree in cultural anthropology from Ball State University in 1997. Life had other plans. She landed her first professional job after graduation at a company called DataBank, IMX and began to discover her interest in the business world. After spending nearly 10 years working in human resource management, Connors now works as the director of the Career Center at Purdue University Northwest.
What are your responsibilities as director of the Career Center at Purdue University Northwest?
As director, I am responsible for providing strategic and innovative leadership for career-related services to students and alumni of Purdue University Northwest. The evolution of Purdue Northwest from two separate Purdue regional campuses has required the Career Center to look very carefully at how we deliver our services to our clients, and it has been vital for us to get creative in our approach. This includes maximizing technology, collaborating with other university leaders and expanding our external relations to increase engagement with employers throughout the United States. Prior to unification, both of the regional campus career service operations were focused solely on Northwest Indiana.
In what ways is the Career Center at Purdue University Northwest working to improve?
One of the smartest moves that we have made is our decision to partner with the university’s Counseling Center. We are currently working on a three-year plan to move all counseling services to the Career Center. The career counseling model that we have developed with the assistance of Kenneth Jackson, who holds a doctorate in counseling psychology, and his team will expand our ability to assist students and alumni. We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we are on the right track and I believe that we will be better positioned to successfully support Purdue Northwest with enrollment and retention efforts.
Can you explain what the Handshake Network is?
In 2016, Purdue Northwest made the strategic decision to move to a new career services management system, or CSMS, called Handshake. There are very few CSMS in the marketplace, and Handshake is one that was developed by university students for career services. The system that we used before Handshake was dated and limited us in terms of leveraging our ability to reach employers outside of Northwest Indiana. Handshake has been overwhelmingly praised by our students and alumni. The capabilities are amazing, and the Handshake team does a great job of communicating with us about new developments and features. Handshake has really expanded our job and internship offerings from local and regional companies to nationwide opportunities.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The best part of my job is getting to work with students who are making important life decisions regarding their career choice. I get to see students prosper through their education and succeed as professionals. What is even more rewarding is when those same students contact the Career Center as alumni and want to recruit for their own companies at Purdue Northwest.
What do you like to do outside of your time at Purdue?
I enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I have a 10-year-old son who is very active and involved in sports, and a husband who coaches. This means that my weekends are typically dedicated to going to some kind of sporting event. I have a small group of friends whom I have been close with since my college days, and we still get together every few months. We love to go see live music shows. As long as the great ones are still touring, I want to see them play when I can.