“It’s never too late to follow a dream.”

An interview with Jaz Routon, the Career Center’s 2024 Faculty Career Champion Award Recipient

Jaz Routon, PhD, a lecturer in Human Development and Family Services in the College of Education and Social Services, has been awarded the Career Center’s Career Champion Award for her outstanding dedication to supporting students in their career paths. In our interview, Routon shares their approach to empowering students and some of the best career advice they’ve been given in their career path. “Change is scary, even when you know you are making a good decision,” says Routon. “Do not let the fear of change stop you from making positive moves in your life.”

How does it feel to win the Career Champion Award?

I am honored to be selected for the Career Champion Award but could not have done this work alone. I must credit my teaching assistant, Arima Minard, many guest speakers, and our UVM and community partners who supervised our HDFS interns throughout this academic year.

What is your approach to supporting students in their career path?

My primary approach was demonstrating to the graduating seniors that their career trajectories did not need to be linear. I wanted to ease the stress and anxiety associated with graduating and figuring out the next steps. I invited helping professionals (such as counselors, mental health professionals, social workers, and clinical psychologists) to elaborate on their career paths and the twists and turns leading them to their current roles. I wanted the students to understand that what success looks like is diverse. I wanted the seniors to know there are no wrong turns because each step will give them experience and insight to inform and benefit their next step. It’s never too late to follow a dream.

What motivates you to go above and beyond to support a student’s career development?

In my first year leading the HDFS internship capstone course for our seniors, I realized that students were unsure what to do with Human Development and Family Science after graduation. Although the majors learn about numerous helping professions early in the program, they are not given explicit directions on exploring these options. I also remembered how hopeless I felt at the end of my undergraduate years and how much I could have benefited from this type of guidance. To help them better prepare, I asked what information the students wanted or needed, and I worked to meet those requests. We covered resume building, cover letters, recommendation letters, types of graduate degrees, job readiness, and career exploration, to name a few. I provided the students with various links for career and graduate school exploration. The students even learned about budgeting and received a crash course in Excel.

How do you foster a sense of confidence, courage, and curiosity in students regarding their career goals?

When the students first start at their internship sites, they think they know with certain which population they want to work with in the future and have a good idea of what they may want to do. However, the internship experience can sometimes change their perception altogether. For instance, I’ve had interns who thought they wanted to work with children only to find that they did not enjoy doing so or have the patience needed. Or, I’ve had an intern who was interested in working with the aging population but found they could not deal with the grief and loss when a client passes. When their original perception changes, the interns feel a sense of loss, confusion, and concern about what to do next – especially if they had spent their undergraduate years expecting to go into a specific helping field. However, I reiterate how critical it is to gain this insight and grow from it. I hope this has built courage and curiosity to keep seeking a path that feels right to them. I also teach the students to stand in their privileged social locations to push for change in the helping field. I think this has helped build confidence in their ability to make positive change and impact on individuals, families, and communities.

What’s the best career advice you were ever given?

That change is scary, even when you know you are making a good decision. Do not let the fear of change stop you from making positive moves in your life.

What’s the most important piece(s) of career advice you give to students?

To retrain your brain about “failure” because no matter what, you have gained experience that can serve you.

How can other staff support students in their career pursuits?

Making efforts to engage with campus and community partners deliberately and consciously in a way that does not only serve the University. As a land grant University, faculty and staff must be critical and consider how their teaching techniques and assignments can serve the community. Doing so builds trust and social capital that is highly integral to career development.

Senior Series 2024 | Salary Negotiation: The Worth of Your Work

Negotiating Your Salary: Handshake Image

You did it! You wowed your interviewers with your cover letter, work history, and interview. They want you to join their team. It’s exciting to be paid for your work, but is the pay worth it? Too many people don’t get paid what they’re worth for one simple reason – they don’t ask! 

Salary negotiations are not just common, they’re expected. One survey from Career Builder found 53% of employers are willing to negotiate salary for entry level workers. However, only 42% of workers aged 18-34 negotiate for better pay when offered a job. Additionally, pay inequities persist. According to PayScale’s The State of the Gender Pay Gap 2020 women earn $0.81 for every dollar a man earns. Women of Color, meanwhile, earn $0.75 for every dollar a White man earns. 

So now you know you should negotiate your salary. Let’s look at how to do it. 

Do Your Research 

Assess The Market 

The Vermont Department of Labor provides information on salaries across various occupations and locations. You can also use crowd-sourced services like Glassdoor, Payscale, and the Occupational Outlook Handbook to get an idea of the salary range for similar jobs in your location. Research salaries for similar positions in the organization (some institutions even publish salary data).  

Determine Your Cost of Living 

According to, Cost of Living continues to increase across the country, so it’s important to create a monthly budget to determine what salary you will need. The amount of money needed to live comfortably can vary widely from city to city. NerdWallet offers a free salary comparison calculator. You might also consider using UVMConnect to reach out to an alum who lives in that city for a firsthand account of the costs.  

Understand Your Compensation 

The total value of your compensation package is greater than the dollar amount of your salary. Do some research to understand other benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, 401k matching, gym membership, etc. Check out this guide to common benefits. These benefits might also be up for negotiation.  

Set a Range 

Your range will be based on the market, cost of living, total compensation, and your worth. Reflect on your skills and acumen that will meet the needs of the organization and your years of experience. Weigh these against the minimum requirements for the position; the more relevant skills and experience you have the stronger your case is. As this is a negotiation, approach the conversation with a pay range you’re willing to accept instead of a hard number. 

Be ready when the call comes, know your range and be ready to negotiate. 

Salary Negotiation for Women 

As vexing as it is, wage inequity still exists. Our society still has a long way to go in recognizing equal pay for equal work. The truth about salary negotiation for black women offers 5 useful pro tips from

Negotiate the Offer 

Once an offer is made (and if you are indeed interested in the job), be sure to demonstrate enthusiasm. After thanking the employer, ask if there is room for negotiation.  

  • If the answer is yes, you will likely be asked what salary you have in mind. Remember the range you determined. Start the conversation at your high end knowing that they might not meet you there. Use your research to mention the skills and experience that you would bring to the organization as a rationale for the salary you request. You may also want to think about “value added” qualities – do you have experiences and skills that could enhance the role and overall impact to the employer? Be prepared for some back and forth. 
  • If the compensation is firm, make sure you understand the whole benefits package. You might ask about merit-based increases, room for growth in the company, professional development opportunities, schedule flexibility, or the possibility for remote work – these are additional ways that you can negotiate compensation. 
  • If you’re happy with the offer, feel free to accept on the spot! If you’re unsure, thank the employer and ask for some time to consider the offer. They will likely ask for your decision within 3-5 business days. You may find it helpful to talk through the offer with a trusted source (eg. parents, mentor). Remember: it’s ok to say no to an offer that just doesn’t meet your needs. 
  • Getting agreements in writing during a salary negotiation is essential for clarity, legal protection, and accountability. It prevents misunderstandings, serves as a legal record, and establishes clear terms for both parties, fostering transparency and trust.
  • Also: do you have more than one job offer? Check out this article from on Tips for handling multiple job offers
  • Want more? Check out these 37(!) strategies for how to approach negotiations

Final Thoughts 

Like interviewing, negotiating is something we don’t normally do – practicing is always a good idea. And remember, negotiating is always in your best interest. Future raises will probably be based on a percentage of your current pay, so if you start off at a lower number, your salary will grow more slowly. A successful negotiation is a win-win. 

Senior Series 2024 | Confident Interviewing

Preparation and practice are key strategies to increase your confidence for any interview.

Senior Series 2022 Image Interviewing with confidence
  • Research the organization. Check out their website, social media pages, and do a quick Google search. Learning about them will help you tailor your answers to their mission and help you predict what they might want to ask about. Employee reviews on sites like Indeed or Glassdoor can also lend key insights. If you know who is interviewing you, you could also look them up on LinkedIn to learn a bit about where they are coming from.
  • Ask about what to expect. Ask who you’ll be meeting with (could be one person, may be several) and if there is anything you should prepare. There are several kinds of interviews – check out these articles from LinkedIn to learn about Four Common Types of Interview Questions.
  • Prepare your questions.  The job description can be a useful tool for anticipating the kinds of questions or themes you may be asked about, or to help you develop question for the hiring committee. Every interview goes both ways, you are interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. Think about what you’d want to know about the position, the organization, the culture, measures of success, potential challenges, etc. Thoughtful questions will not only aide you in making an informed decision but can also effectively demonstrate your understanding of the position. Here are a few sample questions.
  • Plan your outfit: You’ll want to dress to impress, but that does not mean the same thing in all fields, nor is it required that you conform to outdated gender roles. Do some research about what is appropriate, and then focus on a polished and thoughtful ensemble that makes your feel confident and comfortable. If in doubt seek advice from a trusted source, like your career center 😉
  • Know where you are going.
    • In Person: Consider visiting the building ahead of your interview so that you know where to park and how long it takes to get there. You may also want to ask for a phone number you can call the day off the interview, in case you encounter issues.
    • VirtualMake sure your technology is up-to-date and you know how to use the platform required. Do a practice call with a friend to familiarize yourself with the layout.  Seek out a quiet space with minimal distractions (don’t forget to tell others in your house about your interview).  And declutter your background. There is nothing more distracting than an unmade bed. Tidy up, adjust what can be seen in frame and consider a blurred background.  Pro Tip: lighting should come from in front of you, not behind.
      • If your interviewer is a few minutes late, just wait: They may be wrapping things up with someone else. After 5 minutes, chat, email or call them.

Check out our video guide to job interviews. This video details strategies before, during and after a job interview. Common questions and how to answer them are also covered.

Remember that you’re interviewing because they saw promise in you.

While it’s normal to feel nervous, we hope these steps can help you feel calm, confident, and curious during your interview. Remember that these future coworkers want to get to know you as a human so don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat a question, elaborate on the question, or, after you answer, ask “Did I answer your question completely?” 

Go in with 3 key things you want to be sure to convey

Consider your strengths (and areas for growth – you’ll probably be asked about that) and look for opportunities to highlight these skills. The NACE Competencies can help you focus on strengths sought by employers in all industries.

Tell concise stories

Prepare a couple good stories using the STAR method to answer questions in a concise, thoughtful and memorable way. Don’t assume that everyone has read your resume – in fact you may want to bring copies – so do make sure you are explaining your relevant experience as you answer questions. The goal is tell the story of who you are and how you’ve developed skills/experiences that prepare you for the position.

The video below lays out guidelines for a successful interview. The sessions ends with student questions at 1:00:27.

Send Thank You notes

Always. For real. To everyone who interviewed you. A short thank you note (often via email) is a demonstration of your interest, appreciation, and professionalism. Don’t wait, send it out 24-36 hours after your interview. It’s a great opportunity to mention anything that you forgot to mention in the interview or highlight a topic from the interview discussion you considered noteworthy. Check out some example thank you emails.

Take Care

Whew, you made it! Take a few more deep breaths (hopefully you’ve been breathing throughout!) and, if your interviewer asked for references as a next step, be sure let them know to expect a call. 

Now you get to practice self-care and patience. Decisions can take longer than you think. That said, if the time frame the employer gave you for a decision has passed, it is perfectly fine to reach out to them with short, courteous email to continue the conversation. Example: “I’m writing to follow up on the timeline for (job title). I wanted to inquire about updates on the process and restate my interest in the position. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any additional information.”

Senior Series 2024 | You Are Your Own Brand: Application Materials

Graduation is just around the corner!

In our previous blog post, we discussed getting started from scratch with the job search – what to think about, resources available to Catamounts, and how to search for the job that suits you best. In this week’s installment, we’ll discuss tips on: 

  • Resumes & Cover Letters
  • Crafting Your Online Profile


Your resume and cover letter should be tailored to each position you apply to. The job description is your cheat code. Use it as a checklist to make sure you are addressing as many requirements as possible.  Consult our Guide to Resumes webpage and for tips and examples.

The video below will cover everything from resume basics to writing bullet points that will make your experience stand out. Learn how to tailor your skills to match a job description. Start writing your resume in the workshop and get immediate feedback.

Cover Letters

Your cover letter is your chance to showcase your personality, goals and passions that might not be obvious from your resume. In addition, you can elaborate on how your experiences have made you the person you are. Your resume answers who, what, when, and where. The cover letter fills in the why. See our Guide to Cover Letters for more tips and examples.

Crafting Your Online Profile Having a LinkedIn profile is highly recommended – think of it like an extension of your resume. (And include your personalized LinkedIn URL on your resume) You do not have to be very active, but establishing an online presence allows you to present the professional “you” to potential employers. 

This video will walk through best practices of setting up your LinkedIn profile to stand out to employers. Whether you already have a profile that needs to be updated or are starting from scratch, you can follow along with this step-by-step workshop to build a strong profile.

Remember: Your email won’t last forever so be sure to:

  • Add your personal email to Handshake to maintain access to all the opportunities there (Learn how).
  • Create or update your UVMConnect account with a personal email to engage with a robust network of alums. 

Your career journey requires a lot of independent work and initiative but know that you’re not alone. Collaborate with Career Center staff, employers, alums and fellow graduates in this week-long series of workshops. 

Senior Series 2024 | You Have Options!

Chalk Drawing What's Next Image

What’s next? That’s the question many seniors are asking themselves as their undergraduate education is winding down. Remember, you have many options when it comes to approaching life after college, such as:

Work Immediately

If you are looking to work immediately after graduation, Handshake is a great place to find jobs available right now. If you need help crafting your resume and cover letter, check out our Career Resources (General) Brightspace modules to get you started.

  • Start your Own Business – Have a great idea? A passion you want to turn into a company? Consider starting your own business. Venture for America is one organization that can help you get started. This 12-step guide is a good way to start thinking about it.

Grad School

Graduate or Professional School might make sense for your degree and career path, or it may be unnecessary. To help make the decision and learn more about the process of applying, check out the Graduate and Professional School page.

  • Be a Research Assistant – Reach out to professors you know or check UVM job listings to explore possibilities. You might be surprised by the various fields that offer research possibilities.

Service Possibilities

Volunteering your time and effort is a perfect way to make a lasting impact on the world around you. As an added benefit, many employers value public service and volunteer experience from candidates in a job search.

  • Peace Corps – Peace Corps volunteers engage in hands-on service projects all around the world. You will immerse yourself within a community working alongside community members to tackle some of the greatest problems facing the world. 
  • AmeriCorps – members receive a stipend while volunteering to serve directly with nonprofit organizations across America to tackle our nation’s most pressing challenges. There are a wide variety of programs to choose from, including City Year & Teach for America.
  • Search online for additional national and international service opportunities.

Work Abroad

Interested in working outside the US? UVM Students have access to GoinGlobal – a robust resource filled with insider tips from local experts and career guides with up-to-date career and employment information for 120+ locations worldwide – log in through Handshake.

  • Teach English as a Second Language (ESL): Many countries offer opportunities for native-English speakers with little or no teaching experience to teach abroad (like Japan’s JET program), here’s a good starter list of Popular job boards as well as board to avoid.  

Take a Growth Year

You may be more familiar with the term “Gap Year,” but we’re not big fans of this term. It sounds like something is missing or absent during this chapter, when this relatively short period can lead to some of the most valuable experiences in your lifetime. Choosing a growth year can be an incredibly rewarding experience in which you…well, grow.

You might choose to: 

  • Travel – If you can, consider taking advantage of being untethered and take in the world’s incredible splendor. Become that annoying person at parties who constantly talks about backpacking all over the world (the writer of this blog is aware that he is one such annoying person). 
  • WWOOF – Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a worldwide movement to link visitors with organic farmers, promote a cultural and educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming and sustainability practices
  • Pursue a Professional Certification – Whether you are a Psychology major who wants to learn to code or a business major who wants to become a certified yoga instructor, pursuing your interest can benefit you both personally and professionally. 
  • Any number of things that don’t fit neatly into the above categories – For example, you might try creating art, writing software, starting a podcast, launching a local campaign advocating for a special cause, etc. Taking the initiative to be a self-starter is a desirable quality for any future job candidate. 

Whatever you choose for your growth year, remember that these experiences have value – both for you, and for your next employer. Don’t be afraid to list these experiences on a resume or talk about them in a job interview.

The bottom line is that you have options. Like, a lot of them. This is exciting but choosing one (or several!) is not always easy. This cute video lays out a simple step-by-step process you can use when making decisions. And as always, consult your loved ones and mentors for different perspectives. 

Remember: Your email won’t last forever so be sure to:

  • Add your personal email to Handshake to maintain access to all the opportunities there (Learn how).
  • Create or update your UVMConnect account with a personal email to engage with a robust network of alums. 

Next: Confident Interviewing (in person & virtual)

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