Spotlight On: Erica Estes, Creating Career Connections at Fulbright College
For more than a decade, Erica Estes has actively helped students find careers and internships as the main liaison to the university’s Career Development Center at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
As director of employer relations for the college, Estes cultivates relationships with potential employers and companies, authors the weekly Career Insider email blast and coordinates on-campus employer visits through information sessions, panels and career fairs. She has been helping U of A students with career guidance and leadership since 2007.
“I did see a career counselor while I was in my undergrad but I remember that the experience was very brief and not very striking. I didn’t really understand how to fully utilize the resource,” Estes said. “My own experience has definitely influenced how I approach students. I recognize just how lost some people can feel. The answers are there, it’s just a matter of uncovering them through supportive coaching, reflection and engaging experiences. So, I do approach students in a more coaching manner.”
Estes actively connects students and graduates to employers who are seeking students with majors in the college’s various departments and fields.
“Erica’s role is two-fold. She is our connection back to campus when we meet with potential employers in the field. Erica proactively creates relationships with potential future employers of our students via emails/calls/visits with companies,” said Blake Rickman, Senior Director of Development and External Relations.
Former art history undergraduate Elizabeth Owen wrote a recommendation for Estes on her LinkedIn profile.
“She goes above and beyond the call of duty as some students in the humanities have specific job interests that are highly competitive,” Owen wrote, in part. “She is extremely good at her job. I will definitely follow her advice because she knows exactly what she is doing.”
Estes also partners with different university organizations and departments to ensure that companies who are visiting campus are able to recruit all students of interest and that students are taking full advantage of these visits.
Karly Byrne, an English undergraduate, said she watches for Estes’ Career Insider emails.
“I really think they are great, they inform students and let us know if there are any job fairs or career events happening,” Byrne said.
By proactively organizing career events for different major-centric employment and internship outreach opportunities, Estes also communicates potential post-graduation possibilities available to students within their degree fields.
“I wish this was something that had been posed to me as an undergraduate. Students should know that there is a plethora of people constantly working to make this campus a better place,” Rickman said. “Every event, every opportunity is attached to a person or people on this campus that have been working tirelessly to make it happen. The faculty and staff of the university are dedicated to making this university a wonderful, engaging place for all students.”
But students should not wait until they’re anxious about the next steps after graduation to get in touch, Estes said.
“Planning your future does not mean that you have it all figured out. Students need to be working towards it in small ways throughout their time at the U of A. Unfortunately, they tend to put it off until the last minute,” Estes said. “This should be more of a fun exploratory exercise that isn’t a scary thing. We are all just figuring out our career paths as we go.”
The 3000-level course will provide a platform to connect students with employers while also giving students the opportunity to look into diverse career communities, Estes said.
Titled ARSC 3013 in the course catalog, the class will incorporate life-design, a concept employed at Stanford University, Estes said.
Estes believes this class will be very interactive and engaging, “By using human-centered design concepts, we can reframe the career development process to one that is continuously being built throughout a student’s lifetime.”
Shane Barker, Fulbright college’s assistant dean for advising, agreed, adding, “Based on my experience running the Fulbright Advising Center, this will be a course that should be a very popular elective for students of all majors. I hope that plenty of students take advantage of it. I know the content and I think it will be a very worthwhile experience for students.”
The class will include lectures on career communities as well as have an online component where students can cultivate e-portfolios. “We want to plug students into something we’ve been growing for years,” Estes said.
The U of A also offers a one-hour Career Exploration Course (UNIV 1401). It allows students to graduate from the nationally-recognized Career Track Razorbacks program that is offered by the Career Development Center. The class is an eight-week session. Coursework includes self-awareness, career exploration, experience, job search strategies, resume/cover letter writing, interview skills and professional networking.
For more information about the college’s focus on career connections and employer relations, visit Fulbright College Employer Relations online.
A version of this this story also appeared in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media’s Lemke Digital Media Lab’s Razorback Reporter publication.