AEA Offers Career Coaching Program
By Paige P. Parvin 96G

As a public relations professional, Shira Miller 88C is an expert at bringing out the best in her clients and making them shine. But when she decided to start her own agency, Shira Miller Communications, five years ago, she found it harder to define her vision and promote herself with the same confidence she brings to her clients.

So Miller began working with Jodie Charlop 82Ox 85C, a professional career coach who serves Emory graduates through the Association of Emory Alumni’s Career Services Program. Charlop’s coaching, Miller says, has helped her shape her goals, grow her business, and broaden her future possibilities in ways she never imagined.

“I knew I needed help to figure everything out, and Jodie has been incredible,” Miller says. “She helped me gain clarity of vision and elevate my strategic thinking in a way I could never have done on my own. I know sometimes people turn to career coaching only when they are in a crisis, but the coaching process really helped me grow.”

The Career Coaching Program is available to all alumni and, as Miller proves, is not just for job-seekers. Anyone looking to advance in his or her career, increase business, change companies, switch industries, or simply define professional goals is eligible for a free consultation session with Charlop or, for those who graduated fewer than five years ago, with Roger Presswood, a counselor in Emory’s Career Center. Alumni within two years of graduation can access career counseling free of charge; after two years, they may receive one complimentary session and then continue for eight additional sessions at a special Emory alumni rate. The program was formalized in the last year as a service to alumni and a natural continuation of career services offered to students.

“The program is designed to offer job-seekers and working professionals a resource for continuing to enhance and navigate career decisions, regardless of professional status or career stage, as we realize that career support was something that our alumni across the board were interested in,” says Adrian Tonge 02C , director of volunteer programs and services for the AEA, who heads the initiative and was responsible for implementing the program. “The idea is to work with professionals over their life span, which enhances our long-term value and relationship with our alumni.”

The Coaching Program is one of the offerings of the Emory Career Network (ECN). All alumni have access to Emory’s online alumni database for the purpose of connecting with others. “This all supports the mission of the ECN to offer alumni continuous value through programs geared toward professional development and career support, whether it be through networking programs, corporate outreach programs, or simply connecting students and alumni for mentoring opportunities,” Tonge says.

In working with younger alumni, Presswood finds many of them are adjusting to having a full-time job and trying to identify their career niche.

“That first position, you are really exploring, getting used to the corporate arena,” he says. “Then a lot of them realize they are not using the skills they really enjoy. Once they have been working, they realize this is such a large part of life, they need to find what it is that really motivates them.”

As their careers progress, alumni can benefit from a high level of sophistication and customized counseling. With more than eighteen years’ experience in corporate communications, Charlop is a professional career coach with her own consulting company, Potential Matters. Since she began working with Emory alumni, she has received some 180 inquiries and offered more than 120 complimentary coaching sessions, evenly divided between in-person and telephone sessions for those who live outside Atlanta and the U.S. About 70 percent who seek counseling are currently employed; Charlop says she has had inquiries from alumni at all stages of their careers.

“I work with alums on very complex issues, such as a traumatic firing or being off the job market for several years due to accident or illness, as well as folks saying they just don’t enjoy work and need to make a transition,” Charlop says. “Much of what I do is helping professionals get clear in terms of their goals. It’s about managing your career in line with what your life goals are.”

When Bryan Cooke 02EMBA found himself being pushed into an unwelcome transition at his software consulting company, he was tempted to change industries altogether. But after talking with Charlop, he realized he still liked the field, just not his current position.

“We assessed where I was, who I was, what I liked and what I didn’t like,” Cooke says. “As we worked through that analysis, we started targeting smaller software technology firms that have consulting organizations.”

Four months into his new job--which Charlop helped him negotiate--Cooke is still working with her about once a month. He plans to start his own consulting business one day.

“Jodie has been really helpful with all sorts of work-life balance issues and aligning personal and professional goals,” Cooke says.

Bianca Chung 02MPH worked with Charlop both when she was looking for a job and then as she positioned herself within her company, Deloitte Consulting. Like many of Charlop’s clients, she has maintained the relationship as her career progressed.

“We have talked through different issues that come up at work in the corporate culture--tight deadlines, managing your supervisor, leading a team,” Chung says. “When you isolate a goal you’re trying to achieve, it’s helpful to work with a coach to get your there. I consider Jodie a great friend and very gifted at what she does.”

Chung’s confidence in Charlop was such that she even brought Charlop in for a half-day seminar at Deloitte on branding oneself--a challenge for many professionals that Charlop is particularly adept at helping them master.

“She is excellent at helping you learn how to craft a message and saying what you need to say in the most strategic way possible, whether it’s to your managers, your team, or a client,” Chung says. “If you come from an industry like health care, it’s not really ingrained in your head that you have to brand yourself, but it’s very important when you’re working in a consulting firm.”

A person’s “brand,” says Charlop, is the core of his or her professional story.

“I’ve learned with alumni to take a really customized approach and collaborate on a plan that makes sense for them,” Charlop says. “At the heart of it is defining their story--what they want, what they have and want to contribute, how they take that out to the marketplace, and how they tell it in way that helps them connect and get the result they want.”

For more information about the AEA Career Coaching Program, please visit or or call (404) 727-2128.



© 2006 Emory University