Who’s that ‘Career Guy’? Getting to know Trent Payne, Part 2

Posted on March 10, 2016

Trent's coffee posterErskine’s Coordinator for Student Transitions Trent Payne, using his “Career Guy” moniker, issues frequent invitations for students to join him in Java City to talk about their careers, their majors, or graduate school. Free coffee is often part of the invitation. A graduate of Wheaton College and Wheaton College Graduate School and the parent of an Erskine graduate, Trent lives with his wife Lisa in Pressly Hall.

In Part 2 of our interview, Trent talks about his vision for Career Services at Erskine and describes his approach to working with students.


You seem to be making an effort to revitalize what used to be called Career Services at Erskine. What do you call it now, or how do you envision it?

It is still called Career Services today, but this may change in the future as the office progresses. My vision is fairly simple. I am creating and overseeing programs and services designed to help our students effectively transition through the college experience to the start of a successful career (defined broadly), guiding students toward the integration of their academic interests, strengths, values, passions, and career goals.


What is your general approach to Career Services?

My approach is a personal one. A primary strength of Erskine’s is its smallness, which lends itself to a personal approach in interacting with students. I want to meet face-to-face with as many of our students as possible. I do this in one-on-one meetings, classroom settings, and educational sessions and workshops. Currently, I’m on track to do this with more than 40 percent of our students, which is good. My aspiration is for this to increase to more than 50 percent of our students in the coming years.


As a guide along the career or vocational path for students, what do you bring to the task?

There are a couple of things I bring to the task. First, I try to simplify the process because to many of us, as we look ahead to our career, it is a large and vague unknown mixed with hopeful excitement. I think of the two Marys the morning of Jesus’ resurrection. They experienced fear and great joy simultaneously; a strange emotional combination. It’s kind of similar with our careers. It is both exciting and scary as we dream of life after college.


So how do you simplify the process?

I like to simplify the process by encouraging our students to explore two streams of knowledge.

First, know yourself. During their time here at Erskine we will work with students to discover their passions, strengths, and skills, which uniquely make them who they are. I encourage them to explore two questions: What are you passionate about doing? and What are you good at doing?

Second, know the market. It is not enough for our students to just know who they are, and how God has designed and gifted them. They also need to research and discover the markets that interest them. Again, I encourage them to ask two questions: Can you make a living doing the job you are interested in? and Is it a legitimate industry that fits your values?


What else to you bring to the task of being a career or vocational guide?

The second thing I bring to the task is support. I am someone joining the student along the path. Not just me, but all of the faculty and staff of Erskine bring this. This career journey is a partnership which includes faculty, staff, and employers, as well as family and friends. We don’t walk it alone, but rather together. I may not walk it all the way with the student, but I’m here for part of the journey. Others will pick up where I leave off.


When should students ‘check in’ with you? Do you recommend that they talk with you during freshman year, or when they are deciding on a major, or what?

I understand that freshmen are busy with adjusting to the academic rigors of college life, as well as navigating the social scene trying to find their place on campus. I don’t expect freshmen to spend a great deal of time thinking about their career, but it is wise to spend a little time periodically exploring these questions:

-What are you passionate about doing?

-What are you good at doing?

-Can you make a living doing the job you are interested in?

-Is it a legitimate industry that fits your values?

Start the process of getting to know yourself and the markets you are interested in. I can meet with a freshman for 30 minutes and get this process started. Then, with a fairly small time commitment, a student can set the wheels in motion toward a more successful career start.


But what if freshman year has gone by, and a student still wants to start the process?

It is never too late to start this process. The earlier the better, but even a graduating senior in his or her final semester should meet with me to talk about these questions and develop a plan.


aaaaapayne cropTrent Payne tells more about his life and work in Parts 1 and 3 of our interview.