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Adry Clark's path to WOU was not a linear journey; the native of Iceland studied hospitality management and worked as a graphic designer before earning degrees in career counseling.
August 07, 2012
MONMOUTH -- When Adry Clark advises students on finding career paths, she's careful to stress it won't be a linear journey.
Take her own experience for example. Clark came to the United States from Iceland to work as a nanny, studied hotel and restaurant management, and wound up a graphic designer and marketing specialist. Since the early 2000s, she's been helping dispense job advice on college campuses.
Maybe it's empathy that makes Clark a strong fit as Western Oregon University's new director of the center for service learning and career development (SLCD).
"One of the reasons I'm in this field is because I was so unsure about things when I got out of school and started working," she said.
"I always tell people to figure out who you are, what's important to you first ... sometimes your major and career aspirations aren't always connected."
SLCD aids students with career exploration and employment opportunities. And it's become a vital resource during a tough economy. In 2011-12, the center scheduled 474 appointments and accepted 1,400 drop-ins; those totals were 294 and 803, respectively, in 2008-09.
"Companies aren't hiring brand new students and giving them a learning period, they want people who can hit the ground running," Clark said. "Students have to develop those professional skills while they're in college ... that's why offices like ours are encouraging volunteering, service learning and internships."
For Clark, it was trial by error. She was born and raised in Reykjavik, Iceland's capitol, where her dad drove a cab and her mom was a grocery store checkout clerk.
"You had a job and you put food on the table," Clark said. "The idea that you actually reflect on what you like and what's important to you as far as working, that was all new to me."
Clark came to Southern California in the 1980s and had a brief career in hospitality management and realized it wasn't for her. She put her artistic skills to work to land graphic design positions.
Clark said a newspaper article on a program that helped disadvantaged women find careers prompted her to change her own. She earned degrees in career counseling, and for the past four years has been assistant director of Oregon State University's career services department.
Clark said half of college graduates will change jobs at least three times in the first five years. She said she's emphasized finding out what you enjoy through work experiences and developing those skills through education instead of "going to school to learn to become something."
Clark said a trend she's noticed is students holding off diving into the job market post-graduation to enroll in Americorp or volunteer with nonprofits to gather experience.
"If you're good in accounting, you might have a defined path," she said. "If you say, `I want to work for an environmental consulting company,' you're probably not going to walk right into that job ... you have to carve a path."