College of Education & Human Sciences

Holly Smith

Career Coach

Pronouns: She/Her

How did you gain experience when you were a student? 
Through successes, failures, moments of accountability and tough choices, undergraduate research, work study jobs, job shadowing and informational interviewing, interning, joining student organizations, being on Orientation Leader, and exploring my academic interest areas. After dropping out of the honors program and finally admitting to myself that a C+ in biology meant I needed to reevaluate my career goals, my advisor recommended a pre-health exploration course. An assignment had us doing multiple job shadows and informational interviews. These were such informative experiences for me, I now recommend it to all students. My work study positions allowed for networking with campus faculty and staff. Joining UCARE was an opportunity to build relationships with faculty, peers and helped push me in an unexpected graduate school direction. Being selected as an orientation leader even ended up being a catalyst for my career path. At the time, I was on my fifth major, paying out of state tuition, and feeling lost. Having a campus leadership position, like being an OL, made me feel a deeper sense of purpose and belonging here, which lead to more motivation and success academically.

How did you become a career development professional?
There’s a career theory called “Planned Happenstance” from John Krumboltz at Stanford University. It focuses less on having specific plans for your future and more about finding opportunities in unplanned events. Actively embracing the up-and-down nature of career development. I had some moments of breakdown near the end of my masters in college student development (breakthroughs as Brene Brown would so lovingly call them). An overwhelming national job search left me exhausted and unsatisfied. Location was my value, but I was misinterpreting it. I moved back to Minnesota to reconnect with my family instead. Through network connections, I was able to supplement my roles in the hospitality industry with a position as a Professor of Leadership Development at the University of Minnesota. After 4 years of hearing over 300 students’ development journeys, I saw a need for assistance in navigating their next steps after college, beyond solely focusing on how the experiences of their past molded who they are now. COVID disrupting both of my fields of work pushed me into making a career move. A friend suggested I move back to Lincoln, and I decided to search for my next position here at UNL. Having my search criteria be UNL and a position in alignment with my values opened my job search to a variety of positions. Career coaching was a perfect fit to build on my current qualifications and where I saw a need in the world moving forward. You could say it was an opportunity in an unplanned event…

Who is someone who impacted your career development?
Dr. Helen Fagan inspired my exploration of leadership development. Celeste Spier helped me graduate in 4 years and find a major I truly enjoyed (the 6th major was the charm!). Pat McBride and UNL Orientation taught me about purpose and belonging and owning my story. Dr. Tracy Davis provided support and reassurance at times when I was on my own timeline and opened my mind to areas not previously explored. David Hellstrom showed me how to be a compassionate, authentic, hopeful teacher (and human). My mother never let up on lecturing me about health insurance. AND it may sound self-centered, but I made a huge impact on my own career development through actively making time for self-reflection, exploration, joy, and understanding of my strengths/values/needs/interests.


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