Carmen Williams followed her passions when selecting a major. “My first interests in early high school,” she says, “leaned toward becoming a health and physical education teacher. I had some misgivings about pursuing that career, and was pleased when a student teacher…suggested the field of recreation and parks.” Seeking the correct path led Carmen not only to her major but also to her college. “I then talked with a member of my church,” she continues, “who was the athletic director at Eastern Mennonite University, who recommended Messiah College. Professor Layton Shoemaker, my adviser at Messiah, recommended a minor in business to complement the recreation major, which I have found to be excellent advice.”
Carmen naturally gravitated towards activities that complemented her recreation major experience. She spent much of her time outdoors participating in intramural sports and track and field, as well getting involved in activities as a member of the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation club. She also did a twelve-credit internship, helped teach a Messiah College lifeguard training course, attended a Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society Conference, and spent a great semester at the Philadelphia campus
“Primarily, the Career Center helped me prepare my resume and cover letters,” Carmen says. “I still remember going to the college print shop to pick up my…copies. As the printer handed me my finished print job, [the worker] pulled one off the top of the stack and tacked it to the bulletin board, saying, ‘Now that’s a resume.’ Obviously, it was a proud moment for me that was a direct result of assistance received from the Career Center. The Career Center also posted job announcements that I reviewed once a week or so during my last semester. And years after graduation, I took advantage of one of the services the Career Center offers alumni by taking a Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator test.”
Carmen applies what she learned in her major, both specific skills and general knowledge, in the workplace every day. “I put some [of my knowledge] to immediate use in the workplace,” Carmen says, “when I did a lot of program coordination, such as how to create tournament brackets, lead a group activity, or implement safety procedures. Other [classes] laid a foundation that has been a beneficial resource and guide for serving the community. I most definitely have applied information learned in my business courses of accounting, marketing and behavioral Science in administration in my current position.”
• "Build on strengths, rather than focusing on correcting weaknesses."
• "Visit the Career Center for a personality or aptitude test if you’re not sure of your strengths."
• "Work in your field during the summer, whether through an internship or volunteering. This will help give you a picture of what the work is like and will provide valuable contacts."
• "Make the initial contact. People who like their jobs are usually very open to promoting their field and assisting newcomers."
“My internship experience,” Carmen reveals, “guided by Professor James Gustafson, placed me squarely in the job I am in today. Because he was and remains active in the Central Pennsylvania community of park and recreation professionals, he knew exactly where I would gain the best training for the type of work I wanted to pursue. My internship supervisor also encouraged me to meet quite a few of the recreation and park professionals in the Harrisburg area by requiring at least five visitations to neighboring recreation and park departments as part of my internship. I later had interviews for entry-level jobs with two of them.”
Confident of her qualifications after her internship experience, Carmen plunged into her vocational pursuit after college, establishing connections with a variety of sources in her field. She describes, “After deciding against graduate school, I began sending out resumes to recreation and park departments in my home state of Virginia. I joined the National Recreation and Park Association to subscribe to its monthly job bulletin. I continued to work a seasonal job that was in the recreation field."
While connecting with resources in recreation and park services, Carmen kept in touch with networking contacts she had established in college, a decision that paid off in her job search: "I also maintained contact with my internship supervisor, who eventually informed me of the opening for my first full-time position.” Carmen served as "Recreational Director for Dauphin County Parks and Recreation Department ( Harrisburg) for a little over three years. During this time I also worked part-time as a lifeguard for the Harrisburg Marriott.”
“I am in my nineteenth year as Director of West Shore Recreation Commission,” Carmen says, “a small agency that is a joint venture of local government. West Shore Rec Commission provides community recreation services for a population of 55,000 that resides in seven municipalities within a school district. I report to a policy-making board of representatives from each municipality. I guide a staff of three full-time recreation and park professionals and around 150 seasonal instructors and supervisors. My main role is to make sure our organization stays true to its mission and operates in the most effective and efficient way possible. One of the positive aspects about my job is the variety of responsibilities. No two days are exactly the same. Most of my responsibilities fall under the categories of financial and personnel management, marketing, technology and program development.”
“One’s faith can be communicated indirectly by example or when an opening presents itself. Co-workers, colleagues, and customers will notice honesty, integrity, peace, and joy. I would also say that I serve God and others by promoting wholesome leisure-time pursuits, good health, and wellness.”
Carmen aspires to utilize her skills and gifts to advance her field. She notes, “My current goal is to continually improve the organization where I work through continuing education and involvement on the state and national level." She also understands that she should never stop learning. "I am open to broadening my experience by working in another agency where I would have the opportunity to learn new skills from professionals who practice excellence. My goal is to work closer to home so that I may better balance work and home life.”
Profile by Angela Kriebel, 2005