Interview with the President; Alison Kennedy (Millenial)

We are featuring, for the next 5 months, one MCDA member from each of the 5 generations in the workplace – Traditonalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millenials, and Gen Z

This month I interviewed Millenial, Alison Kennedy, Public Interest and Judicial Clerkship Adviser for the University of Minnesota Law School Career Center.

She is currently studying at the University of Minnesota for a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership, Policy & Development – Higher Education.

Alison Kennedy

Career Path

Like many Career Counselors, Alison’s career path has gone in many different directions before finally finding a home.  She started with an undergraduate degree in Family Social Sciences at the U of MN.  Her goal was to become a behavioral therapist, counseling families impacted by the Autism Spectrum Disorder. She discovered that she was ‘just not cut out for it’, yet knew that she had to satisfy her passion to include behavioral science in her work.

After graduating, Alison worked for an architectural firm in an administrative role.  She knew this would not satisfy her career goals, but she needed a job.  She began to think about what she would do next, and turned her focus to a career in higher education.

She applied for a job in Admissions at the U of MN, but did not get the job.  She was 23 years old, had no money, and had to work a lot of ‘side gigs’.  She started telling everyone she knew that she had an interest in higher ed, but could not be specific.

One of her side jobs was babysitting, and in true form, Alison told one of the moms about her quest to find a job in higher education.  She had no idea where this mom worked or what she did.  She asked Alison about her interests.  And when Alison told her, ‘systems, policy and counseling’, she said, “I have just the job for you!”  Allison discovered that this mom worked as a staff member at the U of MN Law School Career Center, and encouraged her to apply to be the Public Sector Coordinator.  She got the job, and her career was launched!

Alison’s initial work at the Career Center included supporting student events, advising students about legal aid, government organizations, supporting the Director of Public Interest and coordinating judicial clerkships.  In her first year, she was tasked with a variety of jobs that she could do, but saw room for growth.  What she really wanted to do was to counsel students – working from a systems approach – and focusing on relationships. “It’s what I went to school for!” Alison said.

After a year on the job, Alison recognized that the students were approaching their Judicial Clerkship applications in a way that was not beneficial. They were using the same process as applying for a job in the private sector.  She found she was ‘doing a lot of recon’ with them.

She decided that her training in behavioral sciences could be helpful to students if they tried a more relational approach, with a clearer understanding of the courtroom and judges’ hiring processes. Her supervisor agreed that she could try her new approach with second year students, and it was eventually written into her job description.  She has since added an advising role as well.


Alison’s strengths are evident in her communications, in her relational skills and in her desire to learn.  She looks at problems creatively and asks, ‘What can I learn from this?’ Her strengths and her resume got her the job at the law school.  Yet, since she didn’t know much about the legal field, she went to a lot of events, read articles, and did her research to grow her knowledge.  She also has a natural positivity and warmth that helps her relate to her students as she teaches them to advocate for themselves.  Alison’s motto: ‘Prove that you can do it, before you get the recognition!”

What attracted Alison to MCDA?

Alison joined MCDA in March 2019.  Wendy Griak, Alison’s colleague, and current Secretary for MCDA, and others encouraged her to step outside of law and legal outplacement to get a broader view of the field of Career Development.  She loves the community aspect of belonging to MCDA.

MCDA Membership: What works? What doesn’t work for Alison?

Alison’s current schedule limits her involvement in MCDA, but she has enjoyed reading the articles on the MCDA website, the webinars, and the roundtable that featured bullet journaling. After her graduation in August, she hopes to become more involved.

To attract new members, Alison suggests having options for conversation such as a Town Hall to focus on career development in our ‘new normal’.

MCDA is fortunate to have Alison as a member.  We look forward to hearing more from her as her schedule allows, and wish her the best as she completes her graduate degree!

Donna Bennett

President, MCDA 2019-2020

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *