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Solving Career Dilemmas  The “Dilemmas” podcast, hosted by two W&L seniors, connects students to the university’s Office of Career and Professional Development. 

DilemmasPodcast03-1140x760 Solving Career Dilemmas Emma Mansfield ’24 and Emma Shaughnessy ’24 brainstorm a new podcast episode in Elrod Commons.

Emma Mansfield ’24 and Emma Shaughnessy ’24 recall the genesis of their podcasting career as an intended pun. The co-hosts of the “Dilemmas” podcast, produced by Washington and Lee University’s Office of Career and Professional Development (CPD), realized that in their role as Career Fellows for CPD, they had the opportunity to help W&L students solve their professional “dilemmas” on a larger scale, and a podcast was born.

Mansfield, a journalism and business double major from Washington D.C., and Shaughnessy, a business major and mass communications minor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, both connected with CPD during their freshman year and soon found themselves drawn into the orbit of the Career Fellow Program, which trains students to become peer career advisers for CPD. Career Fellows introduce fellow students to Career and Professional Development resources, assist with resumes and cover letters, and provide tips for navigating job and internship searches.

The genesis of the “Dilemmas” podcast can be traced back to a casual brainstorming session during their Career Fellows office hours, where the duo stumbled upon the idea while toying with puns involving their names. They envisioned a platform that disseminated invaluable career insights and served as a conduit between undergraduate students and CPD resources. They presented the idea to Kelley Melvin, whose role in Career and Professional Development at that time included advising students in marketing and communications as a focus area; Melvin is now director of constituent strategy in W&L’s office of alumni engagement. Melvin then connected the students to Molly Steele, dean of career and professional development. The team met initially to discuss the overall arc of content across three to four episodes per semester. Melvin worked with the team until transitioning into her current role. Taylor Meeker, assistant director of alumni and career services marketing, has since worked with the students and Steele to help shape the podcast’s content and episode scripts. The podcast launched in Spring Term 2022 and recently produced its thirteenth episode.

DilemmasPodcast02-1140x760 Solving Career Dilemmas Emma Mansfield ’24 and Emma Shaughnessy ’24

“Emma and Emma came prepared to speak to topical content and goals for each episode,” Steele said. “Taylor and I helped them refine the topics, add detail and think about ways to highlight their own experiences to add a personal touch to each recording.”

Shaughnessy said it has been gratifying to grow the podcast into a useful resource for the CPD office.

“Every year, the CPD office works to bring more students in for appointments who haven’t come previously,” Shaughnessy said, “so we thought this medium would be a good way to connect with people who aren’t aware of the resources available.”

Their favorite episodes, ranging from discussions on artificial intelligence’s influence on the hiring process to insightful industry explorations, underscore the podcast’s dynamic nature. Mansfield said one of her favorite experiences was an episode where other W&L students joined for what Mansfield describes as a “crash course” in five industries that students might want to know more about.

“Our guest contributors were able to provide some really meaningful insights into industries that Emma and I were not as familiar with,” Mansfield said, “so we got to connect with a lot of different students we may not have gotten to know that well.”

Steele said the two Emmas have a gift for creativity, ideation and adapting the voice of the podcast as the project evolved.

“They were excellent in determining how messages would translate well on air and had ease in their conversational style,” Steele said. “They tried many formats including interviews, personal stories, and conversational banter. They were not afraid to try to new things, and the podcast just kept getting better.”

Mansfield and Shaughnessy said questions generated in Career Fellows advising appointments, along with conversations with friends and classmates have helped shape some of the topics covered. Mansfield said she was most gratified to have students approach her on campus to discuss podcast episodes or ask follow-up questions, and that the project has provided them both with invaluable professional experience in terms of the planning, writing and editing process.

“In addition to newfound technical skills from the recording sessions, I think they have really been able to see how all the different pieces of professional development fit together,” Steele said. “Explaining the process and importance of concepts like professional documents, networking and storytelling has made them even more prepared in their own career journeys. Plus, this is a great experience for them to share with potential employers as it shows initiative, as well as a significant and consistent commitment to the Career Fellow Program.”

As graduation looms, the two hope their podcasting legacy has helped shed light on what CPD has to offer students as they traverse their W&L experience.

“We’ve enjoyed being able to help students while promoting the many resources that CPD provides,” Shaughnessy said.

“This is the first podcast to come from CPD and has proven a brand new way for us to reach students,” Steele said. “Because Career Fellows orchestrate it, the student voice has added approachability to concepts that can feel new and intimidating to students.”

All episodes of “Dilemmas” can be found here.

DilemmasPodcast01-1140x760 Solving Career Dilemmas Emma Mansfield ’24 and Emma Shaughnessy ’24 in WLUR’s recording studio.