Reserved college student Erin Fort grew into a leader while coaching fellow students to professional success. As a peer career coach, the senior actuarial science and finance major from Delray Beach, Florida, found her passion for encouraging and coaching others in the College of Business at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Fort’s peer career coach, Allison Norton, ’20, at the Business Career Center recognized her effort and abilities to apply new professional skills quickly during the college’s Professional Enhancement Program classes so encouraged Fort to apply to be a peer career coach after her sophomore year. Fort now trains other peer career coaches and assists staff on projects while helping more than 60 undergraduate students prepare to find and pursue the right internships and career for themselves.
“I always thought of myself as timid, but I realized, once I am talking about a topic I enjoy and helping someone gain this knowledge, that’s when I’m happiest. I could see how focused the Business Career Center team is on student success and professional development. I wanted to be a part of a team that would help Huskers in all different walks of life achieve their dreams,” she said.
Paula Caldwell, associate director of career and professional development of the business career center, stated how peer career coaches must communicate effectively, take initiative and work independently to solve problems to be successful in the role. She added how Fort developed these characteristics while also serving on the Student of the Month Committee of the College of Business Student Advisory Board and in Gamma Iota Sigma professional business fraternity.
“When Erin initially came to the Business Career Center, she was reserved. Since joining the peer career coach team, she has grown immensely, finding confidence to voice her ideas for innovation and sharing her expertise with others,” said Caldwell.
Students in Career Development and Planning (BSAD 222) create a résumé, identify career goals and receive one-on-one career coaching. Several shared on post-class surveys how Fort was helpful and motivating as a coach, especially for students who didn’t know where to begin. Junior management and pre-law major Sadie Richards of Papillion, Nebraska, was one of the first students Fort connected with an internship.
“BSAD 222 offered me incredible one-on-one feedback on my résumé, but more importantly to me, it helped me land my internship. My peer career coach, Erin, remembered I was interested in the legal field and she connected me with a professor she knew who needed a legal intern. The value of working with a mentor exceeds polishing up your professional materials, it can also create connections,” Richards said.
For the Business Career Center, Fort also researched special student populations attending the College of Business to help the center address their varied needs. She shared with fellow coaches how to adapt coaching strategies for each individual, as the job search process and requirements differ when working with international students.
“Erin inspires and motivates those around her to be better every day. She shows up with purpose and anticipates the needs of those around her,” Caldwell added.
Helping students navigate the internship and job search process with confidence, ensuring they feel equipped to take action on their goals for the future, makes the role especially meaningful for Fort.
“I love seeing students have their ‘a-ha’ moment after we break down different career-related concepts. I also love that I get to be a point of knowledge for how to navigate the ever-changing world of recruiting and job-hunting. Getting to see Huskers move towards success at all these different points in their lives is so rewarding and encouraging,” she said.
After graduation, she plans to continue to grow her skills working as a financial analyst for Cisco’s Leaders in Finance and Technology program in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
Learn more about the Business Career Center and Professional Enhancement Program: https://business.unl.edu/careers.
Current students can apply to be a Peer Career Coach for the next academic year. Applications open March 21 on Handshake. Learn more about the role at https://go.unl.edu/bj8p