“Your Goals are Achievable”: A Student’s Experience of the Career Center

As an incoming freshman, Dionna Dash was dreading her meetings with the Career Center. The recent Pitt graduate entered the university in 2018 as a Nordenberg Scholar – a role based on leadership that included mandatory meetings with a career consultant twice a semester. 

“I was not interested in attending those meetings at all,” recalls Dash, who triple-majored in communications, linguistics, and French. “I thought everything they could possibly tell me about resumés or LinkedIn, I already knew.” 

Flash forward four years, and Dash is now working at the Career Center this summer, telling the stories of other students who have profited from the Center’s resources. While this current employment may seem ironic, Dash says it is solely because of that push freshman year that she was able to reach a personal level of success. 

“I’ve made some really close connections and learned some important skills about the hiring process that have been paramount in securing my college internships. Looking back, I’m so glad I was required to use the Career Center,” she laughs. 

One of these skills was the STAR method, Dash notes. Taught to her during the Internship Prep Program, this is a method of responding to behavioral-based interview questions like, “Tell us about an example of a goal you failed to meet, and how you handled the situation.” This approach encourages the interviewee to describe the Situation, Task, Action, and Result of the scenario in question. 

“I’m a writer. All of my internships have been about writing in some form. I know writing is my strong suit. Unfortunately, this means that speaking often is not,” Dash explains. “Getting a question like that in an interview and having to speak with no preparation sometimes trips me up, so having a guide for how to answer is a relief.” 

Beyond techniques like this, Dash says that the connections she made with Career Center staff have been the most meaningful, specifically her relationship with Karin Asher, her career consultant and the current Interim Director of the Career Center. During the COVID summer of 2020, Dash struggled with mental health issues. She spoke to Asher about this upon her return to Pitt in the fall, and says it was a turning point in their relationship. 

“I feel like that conversation was when I finally, truly opened up to her. She became more of a confidant than a consultant,” Dash says. “We had a conversation about COVID and school and success and I realized that I needed to do things that made me happy, both in my personal and professional life.” 

Dash notes how important it has been these past few years to have an advisor who has seen her grow throughout her college career. 

“It’s like having a constant supporter, someone who will always have a vote of confidence in you.” 

It was Asher who suggested she take the job at the Career Center this summer, but that is not the only writing position Dash has landed with the Center’s help. Since January 2021, Dash has been writing for the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, a local newspaper. In this position, she has been able to cover stories related to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018 which affected her deeply. 

“I was a freshman during the shooting, and it was horrific,” Dash relates. “I felt powerless. Having the opportunity to interview survivors and report on Pitt and CMU’s joint Collaboratory Against Hate has been a way I’ve been able to start healing and have a voice in my community.” 

Dash also writes creatively, and, taking Asher’s advice to follow her happiness, channeled this passion into a Brackenridge Fellowship the summer after her junior year. She spent the four months writing a collection of short fiction stories based on linguistic discrimination research. One of these stories was recently published in Pitt’s undergraduate journal, Forbes and Fifth. 

“Success to me is about rejecting the idea that everything you do must be traditionally productive in some way,” Dash explains. “Success is pursuing hobbies and interests that serve you in no other way than to make you happy. If you can find a way to translate those interests into your employment, that’s even better.” 

With this idea in mind, Dash says one of her future goals is to write a novel, adding that she has begun crafting a manuscript this summer. 

“It’s just for fun right now, but it’s always something I’ve wanted to do. Even if it never gets published, I’d consider it a huge personal success if I just see it all the way through and have a tangible end product. I’d love to become an author someday.” 

As for advice for the next generation of Pitt students, Dash encourages them to pursue all their interests, big and small, and, of course, to get involved with the Career Center. 

“Start at the Center as soon as possible. I know a common thought is that you won’t need those resources until you’re a senior searching for a job, but if you start young, you’ll have a whole network of supporters and connections by the time you graduate.” 

Dash points out that the Career Center staff are the people who can teach you valuable interview skills and resumé tips, the people who have connections with industry professionals and can be the liaisons between you and your dream internship, job, or career path. 

“Your goals are achievable,” she reminds students, “but you might need some support along the way.” 


By Dionna Dash
Dionna Dash