O’Neill IUPUI’s Director of Career Services Kristine Schuster has a piece of advice for O’Neill students.
“You have to listen to yourself,” she says. “I want our students to know this is their life and they get to pick their priorities.”
That’s the message she tries to instill in students during their meetings about their future careers. Schuster joined O’Neill IUPUI in 2016 as a career advisor. Two years later, she was promoted and now runs the school’s careers services department.
Her commitment to students doesn’t end at advising. She works with IUPUI’s Career Services Council and other university committees to address career challenges women face—such as salary negotiation and the gender pay gap—as well as broadening access for study abroad programs. She also leads O’Neill IUPUI’s Washington Leadership Program, our study abroad programs, and the school’s internships.
“It’s also a lot of connecting with local employers and making sure they know what O’Neill and our students have to offer,” she explains. “I want to make sure there are opportunities for our students and that our students are ready for those opportunities.”
So, she helps students with their professional development preparation—resumes, cover letters, interview prep, but also just general career exploration talks.
Her goal? To support students as they work to find a good career fit for them. Like many people, Schuster’s own career path wasn’t a straight line.
“It took me a little while to figure out where I wanted to go in my career,” she admits.
She began working as a case manager with the Department of Child Services and juvenile probation.
“I loved the juvenile probation side but really struggled on the DCS side,” she says. “But I started seeing things that I liked doing—I liked knowing that I was helping others and could help them shift their perspectives—but it was very hard emotionally.”
When she was at a career crossroads, an opportunity presented itself at a local gym. She encouraged clients in what they were doing and helped them not be so hard on themselves. But one day she started to fill an unexpected gap.
“People started telling me about positions they needed filled in their companies. I also started hearing from people who needed jobs and I thought I could help with that.”
She said it hit her one day that she could bridge that gap—and she could make a career out of doing it.
“I remember what I felt like when I was in college and felt really lost,” she recalls. “My career advisor didn’t give me some magical plan—that’s not what we do—but he helped me feel motivated to do what I needed to do to figure it out.”
She says it felt good to have someone in her corner when she was frustrated.
“I want to be that for somebody else,” she says. “I hope that someone else who feels really stuck or lost can look to me and know I’m in their corner and here to help them.”
In her career, she knows she’s making a difference.
“There are so many memories of people doing things they never thought they could do,” she says. “Some students come in thinking our meeting will be negative. Then, as we start to talk, they start to breathe. Their shoulders start to drop. I make sure they’re okay. I tell them they don’t have to have the big answer today, but we need to work toward finding it.”
Those student interactions remind her why she does this work and why she’s so committed to it. She’s working through a stack of books on career advising in between professional development webinars and working with students and employers.
“I am perpetually trying to learn so I can serve our students better,” she says. “The world of work is ever-evolving, and I want to give the absolute best advice possible to our students. I don’t have all the answers but I’m happy to be a partner with them to find the answers.”
But she stresses that one of those answers can only come from the students themselves.
“Explore what makes sense for you and know that you’re not trapped,” she says. “You can always change your mind and your direction. Doing so does not mean you’ve made a mistake or wasted time. All of your life experiences add up and add value to your future.”