Like many of the faculty and staff who work at Mason, Philip Wilkerson, MEd Counseling and Development ’12, started out as a student, first coming to the university to pursue his master’s degree. But his time as a student quickly segued into full-time employment as he found himself growing more and more involved with the Mason community. In his position at University Career Services, he specializes in advising students who are hoping to pursue employment in creative fields, from the performing or visual arts to events management and tourism.
An Average Day: “An average day is one-on-one appointments with students going over job search strategies, meetings with my colleagues, and sometimes [doing] classroom presentations explaining to the gathered Mason community what we offer at Career Services. I also connect with employers to support their recruitment efforts by developing unique programming to attract Mason talent.”
Advising Students during a Pandemic: Many of the industries where Wilkerson’s students are seeking employment were brought to a standstill because of the pandemic. “It's a matter of adjusting to the times,” he says of his subsequent advising conversations. “I try to emphasize to these students [that] your major has given you transferrable skills in other areas. It's about sticking it through and being optimistic for the future. I have been surprised by how creative students have been during this time and [how they] learned technology so fast. I am also inspired by the resiliency of my students.”
Favorite Student Success Stories: “I have too many success stories to call one my favorite,” Wilkerson says. “I keep all my positive emails and notes in a folder. I call it my ‘Good News Folder.’ I also have thank-you notes behind my desk at work that I can look at to help motivate me throughout the day.”
A Sense of Belonging at Mason: “I credit my [master’s] program for launching my career in higher education and giving me a sense of career purpose. My favorite part about working at Mason is that I grew up in this area, and I feel like I am giving back to the community. I love when I meet students who went to local high schools. It makes me feel like I am helping a younger version of myself. I think everyone wants to have an impact and feel like they belong in a community. I found that sense of belonging and community here at Mason both as a student and as an employee.”
Broadcasting Positivity: Wilkerson additionally hosts a podcast, Positive Philter, that he started prior to coming to Mason. “I just wanted an outlet to share positive and uplifting stories…. It's basically a learning tool for me. I get to connect with others and learn new things by hosting the show,” he says. It also turns out to be a way to practice what he preaches to his students: “It's a great way to network with others. I’ve made a lot of new friends through podcasting.”