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Career Center gets new director

Kristen Durbin | Friday, February 1, 2013

Notre Dame’s well-respected Career Center came under new leadership when Hilary Flanagan assumed her role as director less than three weeks ago.

Former Career Center director Lee Svete, who currently serves as Associate Vice President of Career and Professional Development in the Office of Student Affairs, sought out Flanagan to take over his position based on her six years of experience as director of career services at John Carroll University.

“I was really excited when Lee reached out and asked me to consider the position because it seemed like one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and I didn’t want to pass it by,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan, who also serves as president-elect of the Midwest Association of Colleges and Employers, said her previous professional and general experience will prove valuable in her new position at Notre Dame.

“I think I can bring my experiences, not just in career services but also my life experiences, to help lead this highly successful, well-functioning career services team and hopefully take us into the next chapter of what’s kind of shaping up to be a new world of work and new groups of students with everything new in technology,” she said.

A graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Flanagan said she continually pursues challenging opportunities like taking the helm of Notre Dame’s Career Center.

“Throughout my entire life, I’ve always gravitated toward challenges and the kinds of people who also seek challenges out and really thrive in that kind of environment,” she said.

The University’s academic reputation and high-achieving student body also drew Flanagan to South Bend.

“Certainly working with the students here attracted me because this is a place where excellence is the standard,” she said. “It’s not something you’re striving for, it’s what exists. It’s the students, it’s the faculty, it’s everyone who’s here, so to be at a place where that’s the bar and that most people are going well above that is pretty exciting.”

Flanagan said one of her goals for her work with both undergraduate and graduate students is to change their overall perception of working with the Career Center.

“We want to get people out of the mindset that the Career Center is that place you show up at during second semester senior year to get a job,” she said. “With the way things are now, we would be doing [students] a disservice as an institution if the Career Center was just that old placement model.”

Flanagan said the first step toward altering the Center’s public reputation is exposing students to its services as early as possible, especially through the creation of new career service-oriented courses for first-year students.

“It’s about starting with [students] as freshmen, that self-assessment piece … that whole idea of networking, your social media presence, the way you present yourself professionally, it’s much more about personal brand,” she said. “That’s really what career development is about. It’s well beyond developing a resume.”

Flanagan said Svete’s promotion helped solidify support from the University administration for career services, which in turn will promote “discernment across campus as a concept.”

“There will be lots of new initiatives that won’t be siloed here but will be really collaborative across campus partners, so the Career Center will fit into … that synergy that’s here,” she said.

Flanagan said the University community outside campus, from alumni networking to positive relationships with employers who recruit heavily at Notre Dame, plays a crucial role in career development.

“Notre Dame’s community beyond the students – alumni, people who are natural champions of the University even without tangible ties to it – is a great resource for us,” she said. “The challenge in there is making sure we’re getting students to really think in terms of … using those resources in the best possible way. What’s great is Notre Dame has the community support to make things happen.”

During her adjustment to life at Notre Dame, Flanagan said she has already taken note of the unique community aspect of the University in her interactions with students.

“I met with a freshman before the Career Fair, and afterward he told me about his really successful experience and followed up with a thank-you note the next morning,” she said. “To experience what I thought would be true [about Notre Dame] but have it happen that quickly is pretty amazing. It’s one thing to hear it, but it’s another to experience it.”