Empowered — RV’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women — strives to foster a community that inspires, supports, empowers, and educates all women-identifying folks and allies of all gender identities. And one of our favorite ways to inspire and empower our community is simply by sharing the wisdom of the amazing RV women we get to work with every day.
On this month’s Empowered leaders feature, we hear from Road to Hire Student Career Coach Ana Ramirez. We discuss the pivotal moments in her own journey and what it means to teach students career empowerment and self-advocacy from Day 1. Check out her conversation with Content Designer Jessa Hanley below.
Jessa Hanley: For a bit of background, what does a typical workday look like for a Road to Hire Student Career Coach?
Ana Ramirez: Each morning, I catch up on Slacks from my team and students. Slack is the main way that I communicate with students outside of class. As I develop closer relationships with students, the more Slacks I get about one-on-one meetings or questions regarding their college or career plans.
I use my mornings to develop my “plan” to tackle the day and the week. In particular, I note students who are struggling or require more one-on-one support to maximize my time in class. I go to Harding University High School every day for the fourth block, where I work with students and a Professional Development Instructor (PDI). This is the first semester that my team is working inside the classroom because we were fully virtual on Zoom last year.
I’m lucky to work with a wonderful PDI who values my one-on-one meetings with students. Together, we facilitate a productive learning environment for students to work on college and career goals and meet with them individually.
After my time at Harding, I co-facilitate a 5th block class with my PDI, where we do similar college and career readiness activities over Zoom. It’s a lot of student engagement and support, and I also carve time out each week for my own professional development goals.
JH: Tell us a bit about the path that led you to Road to Hire. Did you always have a passion for mentoring?
AR: I’ve always loved mentoring! Even at a young age, I loved supporting other students and peers. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know students on a personal level and help them help themselves in achieving their goals.
Each student is different, so it’s such a privilege to hear about their different life experiences and support them in unique ways. I’ve had the opportunity to mentor elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as undergraduate and doctoral students. This array of experiences has led me to conclude that all students, no matter their age or grade level, need someone to openly share their dreams, concerns, or questions with and guide them through their life and career goals.
JH: Did you have a mentor that played a significant role in your career journey? If so, what did you learn from them that inspires you to advocate on behalf of the students you work with?
AR: Most definitely! A few mentors that come to mind, and they all modeled how to effectively and kindly work with students on an individual and group basis. It also helps that I’ve learned how to be an advocate in different roles in my life, such as a teacher, interpreter, community organizer, researcher, and mentor.
Advocating on behalf and with others has led me to become more politically and socially aware of the situations students and communities face, practice more active listening skills, and learn more about trauma-informed methods in my own communication style. Seeing my mentors be vocal about systemic injustices while also holding space for individual students with whom they work has inspired me to follow in their footsteps.
JH: What do you teach R2H students who are embarking on new careers about self-advocacy and taking an active role in charting their careers?
AR: I remind my students not to forget about themselves. Often, students come to me feeling so overwhelmed by the advice and messages they get from other people in their lives that they often forget about their own interests. It’s easy for young people, especially young women, to get caught up in trying to please others or make other people proud in their lives without first asking if that pathway will lead to their own contentment as well.
In my one-on-ones, I provide space for my students to explore their goals through conversation — to dream out loud — and then we have a conversation on feasibility. I’ve had different “role models” in my life who told me something was not possible (such as getting into my dream school, which I ended up attending) or tried to impose their dreams onto me. The students I work with are on the verge of embarking on the next steps in their education and/or careers, so their voices and ideas should be central in their decision-making process.
JH: A lot of your job requires you to advocate for the students you work with. In what ways do you set boundaries and make time to ensure your own learning and growth?
AR: It’s easy to get carried away with this work and get used to the feeling of being needed. However, I try to remind myself that the goals are to help my students become their own best advocates and plug them into other support systems, too.
Doing this work makes it easier for me to create and follow through with my boundaries. This switch in my mindset allows me to not feel the urgency to respond to students right then and there, even on weekends. Additionally, it allows me to work on my own professional development goals, which include becoming more trauma-informed and creating college and career readiness information that’s easier to share with more students.
JH: In short, what does being “empowered in the workplace” mean to you?
AR: To me, being “empowered in the workplace” means feeling respected, valued, and challenged at work. I value both teamwork and a sense of autonomy in my work, so I appreciate professional environments that help foster that type of dynamic. Additionally, I bring a plethora of diverse experiences with me, so I appreciate it when my employers recognize and value that as an asset. I also love the opportunities to grow and further develop professionally.
JH: Now, for a few fast fun facts — fall edition:
- Favorite Thanksgiving food: Creamy mac and cheese
- Favorite fall activity: Hiking in western NC to see the beautiful fall leaves!
- Favorite fall-themed movie: The first Harry Potter movie! It’s a movie that I can rewatch over and over again. It also reminds me of being a kid and waiting to receive my Hogwarts letter in the fall. (Which I’m still waiting for!)
- Must-have fall drink: It’s called the “Beetle Juice Punch.” It’s spiced cider and ginger ale over ice topped with cinnamon.
- What’s your go-to wardrobe item when it gets cold? My beanie, which is made from 100% alpaca wool. It’s super cozy, and it keeps my ears warm 🙂
Did you catch last month’s Empowered Feature with CNET Senior Vice President of Content Connie Guglielmo and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central Faye McCray? No?? Well what are you waiting for?! Check it out here.