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Dylan Houle: Expert Insights to Unleash Your Career Potential

Dylan Houle assumed the role of Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at SCU in the summer of 2022. Dylan began his professional journey as an English teacher in New York City before transitioning to the field of career services. From assistant director roles at Pace University and USF, to his recent position at Menlo College as the Executive Director of Internships and Career services, Dylan consistently sets a high standard for what it means to lead a career center.

To continue learning about Dylan and his work, be sure to check the 'Career Services Leadership in Higher Educationpodcast which Dylan hosts, and don't forget to read up on the NACE Career Readiness Competencies we hear about in this conversation.

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Selected Interview Highlights

Arturo: Let's start off with the early chapter of your life. Are there any events from your childhood or student years that stick out in shaping who you are today?

Dylan Houle: Yes, there's a couple of events, the first one, when I was six and a half years old, my dad and I drove to the hospital, where I met my new baby brother, Dustin. That's a formative memory for me, because that's when I became an older brother and being an older brother is a big part of my identity.

From my student years, I remember the feeling of driving up to SF State and seeing all of the students and parents moving into the dorms and being overwhelmed by… I would articulate it as a sense of possibility. Seeing all of these new people, hundreds, if not 1000s on move-in day and just seeing my world expand so much from being from a midsize town Vacaville, California to going into the big city of San Francisco. Having all my senses awakened to what the next four years were going to be like, and the possibilities and the opportunities. It was really exciting.

Armando: On the SCU website it mentions that your career path has not been a straight line, can you elaborate on highs and lows, and how you've gotten through them over time.?

DH: Great question. To tell you a little bit about my career path, in senior year of high school I was given Most Likely to become a teacher and I went to SF State, got a bachelor's degree in English. And then went to New York City and got a master's degree in teaching through a program called the New York City Teaching Fellows.

 

I taught one year in Manhattan High school and one year in Brooklyn Middle School. And I realized after two years of teaching in New York City, I did not want to be a teacher. That was my first introduction to what I had laid out as a career plan not actually working. I remember leaving teaching on good terms and taking six months off to really engage in self exploration. I did informational interviews, talked with friends and also reflected on what it was I liked and didn't like about teaching.

 

Long story short, I liked the reading and writing and didn't like classroom management, so I leaned into some writing jobs and became a certified professional resume writer with a company called The Ladders. I wrote thousands of resumes over the course of that year for everyone, from CEOs to former football players, to college graduates. I would ask, “What are your goals? How do all of these positions relate to one another? How do they build on one another? Where do you want to go next?". Of course, you start asking them of yourself so I was thinking, “What am I going to do as a professional resume writer? Instead of ignoring my Master's, how can I find the relationship between these two”. So it dawned on me, “I can teach people how to write resumes. Who does that? Where and who would pay me to do that”. Through research and reflection, it dawned on me again, “Higher-ed, Career Centers and Career Services offices! They teach students how to write resumes”.

 

After informational interviews which is you asking questions about the line of work, Pace University gave me an interview for an Assistant Director Position. That's how I got into higher-ed and the nonlinear path was, thinking I was going to be a high school English teacher, realizing it's not what I wanted to do, then pivoting, but trying to find the through line between those two experiences. That's advice I give to anyone, always try to connect your different experiences. How does one experience lead to the next? How do they relate to one another, don't have your resume be a collection of individual random experiences, have a narrative for how all of these things have built or stacked upon one another. So that's a little bit about my career path.

Arturo: I was wondering if you have any tips or comments on networking? Is there a right time to start? I know my first year self had a very difficult time. I thought it was too early.

DH: Yeah, absolutely. And I'll return to that feeling of awe that I had when I moved into SF State with all the people that I knew I was going to meet. That was the start of a networking journey. I want to reframe networking as not just you to professionals or people that are more advanced in their career. The minute you move into your dorm, the minute you go to your first class, your networking. All of those people, all of those classmates are people that yes, you're befriending, but you're also networking with. And the way I'll kind of zoom out on that is - You're here for four or five years, maybe two, if you're a transfer student. And you're paying for your degree. I would say what you're really paying for when you come to Santa Clara University is a lifetime access to an extremely powerful and global alumni network. And so don't just think about networking within the context of the four years. This is a network you have lifetime access to even after you graduate. You can network both up and down to people younger and older than you, that's why we asked alumni to come back and do mentorship, volunteering, and guest lectures.

 

For some tips, there is a right time to start and that's when you introduce yourself in class, to your professor and to your fellow classmates. But of course, what you're asking about is How do I Network with Professionals. And we offer Bronco exchange, as you know, and that's kind of a LinkedIn network exclusively for people within the Santa Clara University ecosystem. But we also have LinkedIn, there's something called the LinkedIn Alumni Tool where you can filter. There's almost 89,000 alumni on LinkedIn. You can filter by geographic region, what they majored in, what company they work for, ect. and start reaching out to them and connecting with them. Alumni are more likely to accept your request than non alumni. So those are some ways you can network. Another, I was just talking with a student last week, connect with all of your professors on LinkedIn, connect with me on LinkedIn if we've met, and then go through my network and identify five people you want me to introduce you to. So leverage your close connection, your professor to get an introduction to a second degree connection.

Armando: I think sometimes the resume can be a little daunting and a little intimidating. For the student who maybe doesn't have a lot on the resume just yet, what are the specific character traits, maybe the soft skills that you would recommend them to have or to develop prior to going into the workforce?

DH: I mentioned the National Association of Colleges and Employers NACE for short. They have eight career readiness competencies. And these competencies include leadership, teamwork, communication, equity, inclusion, and four others that I can't remember off the top of my head. But one of the things of those I just referenced, is they're not technical skills. They're not Excel, Marketo, or any type of software, their attributes, their character, characteristics of a student, soft skills, if you will. So I'll say to students, for one, remember that the most important thing to employers is not your technical skills. It's these competencies of teamwork, leadership, communication, and understanding of Equity and Inclusion, being respectful of other people's opinions, etc. And the employer can teach you the rest. Of course, you're here to learn at Santa Clara. So we're going to teach you as well, but employers are most concerned and value those characteristics.

 

So we have on our website, those NACE competencies, and maybe we can link to it wherever we published this podcast. But look at those competencies. And then And then ask yourself, How can I develop those competencies? So for example, leadership, can you join a student organization? Can you volunteer volunteering provides a lot of opportunities for leadership. So if you're early in your, in your journey, here at Santa Clara University, you're a first year student. Three, three things come to mind very quickly. join a student organization, find an organization to volunteer with here in the local community. There are tons of partner organizations that we have through our ELS J classes, which I know students have to enroll in, and then explore on campus jobs. These are all great ways to meet a lot of people and develop some of those competencies early on and start building your resume.

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