Career Moves: SPDC resources help alum land job with Ronald McDonald House
Emily Delaplane ’14 turned to the Student Professional Development Center last spring for advice and feedback when applying for a position in Delaware helping the families of hospitalized children.
It was the perfect opportunity: A full-time job, starting the Monday after graduation, using skills and philosophies learned as a human service studies and public health studies double major. For Emily Delaplane ’14, serving as a resident manager at the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware made perfect sense.
Never having written a cover letter, and knowing she’d need to interview by Skype, Delaplane turned last spring to staff members and online resources in Elon University’s Student Professional Development Center to prepare for the application process and to look ahead to graduate school.
Her efforts paid off. Delaplane now helps manage a facility with 50 guest rooms for families whose sons and daughters are receiving treatment at one of the nation’s top hospitals for children.
Delaplane is the latest person to be featured during the 2014-15 academic year in a series of E-net profiles on the successes of students and alumni who have used the Student Professional Development Center to find job and internship openings, help with graduate school placements, or prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from staff.
The native Delawarean answered questions recently from the SPDC about her experience.
Tell me about the Ronald McDonald House and your role as an employee.
The Ronald McDonald House of Delaware is a part of a national charity that provides a place to stay for families whose children are being treated at local children's hospitals. Mine primarily services families of children being treated at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. Our facility has 50 guest rooms ranging in size, a fully functioning commercial kitchen, two fully equipped family kitchens, multiple play rooms, an exercise room and a movie theatre. We try to make the house feel as much like a home as possible.
As the resident manager, I live on site and work Sunday through Thursday from 4 p.m. until 8:30 the next morning. I do have an apartment where I can sleep! During the times that I am in the office, I have a number of clerical duties, but I also attend to house maintenance issues as they arise, help families in crisis if necessary, and work closely with our guest services assistants and volunteers to ensure that our families are reaping all the benefits the house has to offer.
I host monthly families meetings and act, in collaboration with the social worker, as an advocate between the staff and the families. There is no routine to my position, and that is one of the things that I like the most. I have to constantly stay on my toes and manage any issue that comes up.
One of the major benefits of this job is that it allows me the opportunity to continue my education and participate in a full-time Master of Social Work program.
How did your interest in position or profession develop?
I became interested in the Ronald McDonald House charities during my junior year. I wanted to find an organization that would allow me to utilize both my human services major and public health major. I researched the organization and began emailing Ronald McDonald Houses across the East Coast asking for the opportunity to intern. My parents have long been involved with the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware and having heard that the social worker there was an Elon graduate, they connected me with her. I soon accepted the position as social work intern for Summer 2013. I loved the work I was doing as and intern and wanted so much to continue to be a part of the organization. I became trained as a part-time relief manager and worked various weekends, New Year’s Eve, and a snow day. When the resident manager position opened in April right before I graduated, I knew this was my chance. Although it was a little hectic beginning this job on the Monday after graduation, I could not have been happier.
What have you learned from the experience?
Through the hiring experience, I learned the importance of having connections and networking. I was able to immediately form a connection with the social worker at the house through our mutual love of Elon. I have never asked her whether or not this is true, but I think as a fellow Elon human service studies graduate, she understood the caliber of student and professional that I could be simply because I came from Elon. I also learned the importance of hard work even when you are an intern. Sometimes during internships students are given mundane tasks, but if you are positive, hardworking, and advocate for yourself, the company will definitely take notice.
Finally, in this new position I am the hirer. I have learned the importance of a well-organized, purposeful resume and cover letter. It seems silly to say, but this is the first impression the company has of you and it absolutely does matter.
Who did you work with in Student Professional Development Center to prepare for your career and what help did you receive?
I utilized the resume and cover letter examples available on the SPDC website. Having entered my senior year at Elon and never having written a cover letter, when I heard that I had to write one I was terrified. I was on spring break when I heard about the job and wanted to get my information in as soon as possible. I went to the SPDC website and looked at all the templates and examples. They were immensely helpful! I also utilized the SPDC interview rooms for a Skype and phone interview! It was great having a quiet place on campus to talk to these future employers. For graduate school, I worked closely with Rene Jackson, who read every personal statement of mine and gave me valuable feedback.
What recommendations would you share with other students about the Student Professional Development Center?
Use it! Sometimes students in the arts & sciences can be pretty down on the SPDC. I was one of them! The work that the staff does at the SPDC goes well beyond finding jobs. Use the online resources, have them look over your resume, cover letter, or personal statement objectively, and I guarantee it will benefit you in the future. I have never had a negative experience with an SPDC staff member and they know a lot more about hiring than we give them credit for. Also, put yourself out there and go to the events. Even if you are not sure whether you like any of the graduate schools or employers at the expos, get your name out there. If nothing else, it is great practice for future opportunities that you may really want.
Which faculty members did you work with to prepare for your career and what help did you receive?
The entire Department of Human Service Studies was incredibly supportive of my decision to work at the Ronald McDonald House while still pursing my master's degree full time. Although I know they all think I am crazy, they were more than happy to provide references for me, discuss potentially difficult situations, and ultimately be a group of individuals that I could count on no matter what. My advisor, Cindy Fair, was incredibly helpful and supportive throughout the experience whether it was writing recommendations or listening to me stress out about something.
The curriculum prepared me so well for jumping immediately into the field because of my previous field experience as well as the hands-on, real-life learning. My resume would not be as strong as it is with out the assistance of Phil Miller, who placed me in three different locations while at Elon, each uniquely different and pushed me to try new things.