Podcast Transcript – Landon Ellison

Today’s podcast features an interview with UNT alumni Landon Ellison. We asked him a few questions related to his programs and to talk a little bit about his postgraduation career path. We hope you’ll stay tuned.

My name is Landon Ellison. I graduated from UNT and in 2010 with a degree in general studies and again in 2015 with a master’s in Higher Education Student Affairs currently and I am the director of outreach here at UNT, which is a office within the Department of Admissions.

When you started at UNT, what were your plans for after graduation? Have these plans changed, if at all?

So when I first started at UNT, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do long term. I was pretty good at art, so I started off as an art major, thought it might be cool to be an animator for Disney, realized that there was some skill sets I wasn’t particularly strong in, moved around a couple of times. I switched to journalism, but eventually I did general studies. And what that was really great was it gave me a lot of career options because I was able to take classes in journalism, marketing and sociology and really get a holistic education that has served me really well.

And then one, right when I graduated in 2010, I was a resident assistant for the Upward Bound program here on campus. And that’s how I realized I really wanted to work in higher education. What advice do you have for current students as they decide their next steps after graduation? I think my advice is think about your passions, what makes you happy, and try to do some exploring in different careers that you can not only have a great living, but also make sure that you’re happy, whatever you’re doing and feeling fulfilled.

The career center was actually really a great help for me because I felt lost a couple of times on my career path. And while I didn’t come to the discovery of wanting to do, I read talking to a career adviser. Every one of those conversations, the two or three I had an undergrad got me a little bit closer to figuring out what my long term goals were realized. I probably wasn’t going to be happy in a corporate office setting. Maybe nonprofit would have been a good path.

But those different conversations really led to me having the spark to figure out that higher ed would be a great career for me.

How did your program at UNT help you feel prepared for this role? I think for my undergrad, having the general knowledge base in sociology has really helped me be good with helping different students who have different needs here at UNT. I think the marketing focus I did in General Studies has really helped me be able to improve our different marketing techniques in the Office of Outreach Survey and now in previous offices, I worked in journalism as well as really helped my written skills.

Somebody actually told me the other day that I had really great technical writing skills and I think some of that foundation was in the journalism courses I took for higher education. I think what I was really able to do is take those basic foundations I had in my undergrad and really figure out how to apply it to serve students in a higher education setting. Didn’t know I would end up staying at UNT long term, but wherever I went with, I felt comfortable and confident in those skills.

But learning how to help students navigate and figure out what they want to do with their life there in college was a really big thing that I learned in my higher education master’s program and also helping students figure out how to take their strengths and interests and navigate and find a career path pretty similar to what people did for me in the career center as well to. How did you find your current role? So I got into the office of Outreach in two thousand and sixteen, I was working in the Dean of students office at the time, and I just happened to have a conversation with one of my mentors, Rodney Mitchell, who at the time was the associate dean of students.

He’s actually passed away since then. But he was a huge influence on my life and actually a lot of professionals here at UNT that work for the campus. And he mentioned to me that when I was just talking to them on my long term plans were for higher ed. He said, well, you know, you really like outreach work, which is similar to what I did with Upper Bound. He was actually over upward bound the summer I did my internship, residency assistantship, I should actually say.

And just a few days later, a position opened in the Office of Outreach. So it was just like this perfect timing. And I’ve been there for the last four years. I was an assistant director the first year, got promoted to director the second year I was there, and I’ve been doing it ever since and it’s been a great experience.

What was the toughest question you’ve been asked during an interview?

I think that the what is your greatest weakness is still a hard question. I think sometimes, especially when you’re first looking for jobs, you’re kind of told to say something that’s not really a weakness, but it’s something that you are actually kind of good at. But say, oh, it can be a strength or weakness. And I remember when I was interviewing in the College of Engineering, the dean of engineering kind of threw away my fluffy answers and what I really want, a real weakness.

And I had to actually sit there and reflect on something and how to present it in a way that didn’t make it seem like it was going to be a problem on my job, but that it was something I was aware of and was trying to improve on. So I think that’s still a hard question, no matter how long you’ve been in any profession, because your weaknesses will change over time because you’ll eventually try to improve in those weak areas. And that means it’s not necessarily a weakness anymore.

So what are you going to say the next time you go on a job interview? I remember the way I answered that question for this job is that I hadn’t had a lot of opportunities to really research what the best practices were in my field and how to adjust and help students. But now working on my doctoral program, that’s pretty much all I do all the time. So that’s not really a weakness of mine anymore. So whenever I do my next job interview, I’m sure that I’m going to have to really sit back and reflect on that because I’ve had a few years to really improve in that area.

How has the career center helped you? The Career Center has helped me a lot as a student and as an alumni and even as an employee who is also an alumni, I would say I remember when I was an undergrad and my junior year, I was looking for internship opportunities to get experience. And I applied a few different places. And I had gotten to the interview point on a couple of them, some places I didn’t get to interview at all. And I remember going to the career center, they had some lockin hours available.

So I was able to just sit down with a career counselor that just pretty much destroyed my entire resume, took it apart, put it back together, but also asked me about the interview experiences I’d had this far. My internships said, well, did they ask you this? How did you answer? And so was really able to help me not only improve my resume, but also help me figure out how to effectively answer questions to where I wasn’t just giving very short answers.

I was giving a thorough response, if I could, providing an example of a time I’d actually utilized a skill or a task that I was asked about. And I think that that interaction has really helped me long term. That was probably 12 years ago now. And I still use those skills. And actually, when I apply for my master’s and when I applied for my position here at UNT in the doctoral program, I reached out to some of the alumni services and say, hey, I’m going up to this position.

I haven’t had my resume looked at in a couple of years. And some of the folks, some are here now, some no longer are people that I built relationships in the career center actually helped me out in both of those areas. So I still have used it even as recently as two thousand seventeen to get some feedback. I graduated my undergrad in 2010 and my master’s in twenty fifteen. And I think I’ve even recently, about a year ago, just reached out to some general questions career wise and have been getting some feedback as an alumni to so utilize Career Center a whole lot.

I think it’s a great resource. I tell my student employees always to go and talk to a career advisor to get some feedback on their resumé, because a lot of times they don’t know how to articulate the skills they built in their student worker positions. And their resumes are really shallow and they don’t really know how to articulate what they’ve learned. And I think those are the things that the career center has really helped me out in my time here at UNT.