Career Moves: Open to ideas, Elon senior finds a career path

Elon University senior Tracy Schell wanted to stay on campus last summer to prepare for her final year of study, but she needed a paid internship to do so. That’s when she visited Career Services. Now, with her own Commencement just weeks away, Schell not only has work experience on her resume because of the visit - she has a job lined up with one of the region’s largest employers.

Elon University senior Tracy Schell

Schell is the latest person to be featured this year in a series of E-net profiles on the recent experiences of students and alumni who use the Career Center to not only find job and internship openings, but to prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from Career Services staff.

The international studies major from Conover, N.C., has accepted an offer to join the international sales and marketing team for Glen Raven, Inc., an international textile firm known for its Sunbrella line of outdoor fabrics used for awnings, patio furniture and more.

Schell’s future with Glen Raven has its roots with the New Leaf Society, a Burlington nonprofit dedicated to city beautification. The New Leaf Society needed a marketing intern last summer, and though it didn’t involve a paycheck, the role piqued Schell’s interest since her role would be to help organize a gala and assist with social media communications.

The New Leaf Society has something else that helped Schell – it’s founder, Allen E. Gant Jr., is CEO of Glen Raven, and for that reason the nonprofit is housed in the company’s headquarters just a few miles from campus. Gant serves on the Elon University Board of Trustees.

As Schell discovered through New Leaf, Glen Raven also sought a part-time intern to assist with a digital benefits program that company was in the process of installing. The best part? It paid a full salary, which allowed the Elon student to split her time between the business and the nonprofit.

A stellar performance convinced Glen Raven to keep Schell part-time through the year, and her work for the company continues to impress its leaders. Schell can speak Spanish with prospective customers in Latin America. She’s learning Portuguese, too, which would benefit Glen Raven as it expands into Brazil.

“What has impressed me most about the last several interns we have had from Elon, and especially about Tracy, is their ability to think through tasks systematically,” said Chan Chandler, vice president for human resource at Glen Raven. “We very often can only tell a student the result we want, not a way to accomplish it. Elon students, and Tracy in particular, have demonstrated good problem-solving skills.”

It was Schell’s initial spring 2010 visit with career counselor Rene Jackson that led to the New Leaf internship, followed by the Glen Raven position and, ultimately, the full-time job offer that awaits her starting June 1.

“She showed me the Elon Job Network,” Schell said of her meeting with Jackson. “It’s really hard to do by yourself, because you need to know how to navigate it. You get the most out of it by going to the Career Center and having a career adviser do it with you together.”

The Elon Job Network is a database of internship and job openings accessible to students, employers and faculty. Students can also use the Elon Job Network to RSVP to the multiple career events hosted by Career Services each year.

Jackson is quick to credit Schell’s openness to various opportunities for the Glen Raven job she now has in hand.

“Sometimes students come in and they’re so focused. They think they know exactly what they want to do, and we tell them the need to look a little more broadly and not have tunnel vision with goals and ambitions,” Jackson said. “Tracy went for something that wasn’t what she originally thought she wanted to do. She was open minded and open to this possibility.

What job and internship advice does Schell – a resident area coordinator and an active member of Catholic Campus Ministry – offer current students? Most importantly, don’t think of Career Services as a one-dimensional resources.

“Career Services is so helpful. People have a narrow view of them, thinking that, ‘oh, if I want a job, I should go there,’” she said. “They offer so much more – resume building, talking about your major, a couple of friends have gone to them to talk about careers. … Even grad school searches and GRE prep, they do a lot of different stuff.”

Students and alumni looking for more information on internship and career opportunities, plus services that university staff can provide for a job hunt, can visit Elon Career Services on the first floor of the Duke Building or by exploring the office’s website at