Written by: Kerry Lay, O’Neill Career Services Advisor
I wanted to be a second grade teacher for nearly my entire life. When I headed off to Colorado State University, I was convinced elementary education was my path. If someone had told my 18-year-old self that was not the career path I would take, I am certain a meltdown would have ensued.
However, when I realized teaching children wasn’t for me, I felt alone and stressed. I could not imagine how I would figure out my life at that point. Then, my academic advisor swooped in and let me know a few things.
First, they told me that changing plans is normal and many of my peers faced the same situation. Next, they helped me see there were resources available—namely, my career advisor—to help me figure out my next steps.
Did I take the advice to go visit my career advisor? Nope. But I desperately wish I had. It would have spared me many tears and time spent worrying so much about my future. Plus, I could have saved myself from enduring business classes I dreaded.
It was at this crossroads that I learned about a peer advising position open in my university’s advising office and thought it sounded fun to tell other students about my major. That opportunity opened the door I had been searching for.
Peer advising helped me realize several things that would shift my career plans. I love to work with college students—they have big dreams and want to work to make them happen. I enjoyed organizing and creating four-year plans with students. And, most importantly, I wanted to make a difference for someone who felt the way I had felt when my perfect plan turned out not to be perfect for me.
This shift led me to IUPUI, where I worked as a career consultant in IUPUI’s University College, helping first- and second-year students with career exploration. In 2020, I accepted a full-time position with O’Neill as a Career Advisor.
I’m passionate about my job as a career advisor because students arrive at college with so much potential and excitement for the future. My entire role is supporting them—whether it’s being a listening ear, a sounding board, connecting them to resources, or helping students make a career-altering decision.
Sometimes things get stressful and you need someone to help you navigate a path that feels foggy and unclear. I love the parts of my job where I get to just learn about a student’s journey, their goals, and teach them about what IUPUI offers that can help them make their dreams a reality. Most of the time, you don’t know what you don’t know, and when you learn about the thing you don’t know, it is absolutely magical how new doors open for you.
Whether you’re still figuring out your major or deciding on the right job offer, there’s an O’Neill advisor who wants to support you and hold the map while you’re driving. My advisor helped me see that changing course isn’t the end of a journey, but a necessary part of it. Now I have the opportunity to be that person for our O’Neill students—and I’m honored to do so.