By HCC Alumna, Elizabeth Mercado
Five years ago, Anisha Thomas, the Director of Career Services and Internships, started working at Housatonic Community College. She began her career at HCC under a grant, and at that time, there was no career services department. “When I started, I noticed that HCC didn’t have an online job board, there wasn’t much of an employer database...we really didn’t have any kind of software…” To combat these obstacles, Thomas began forming a three year plan to create a career services department, where students could come for help and advice about starting their careers. “We started with the job board, and now, we’ve reached that level where we have all of those services for our students,” said Thomas.
Thomas has been working in the career services and vocational rehabilitation field for almost 20 years. “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” said Thomas. “I love coming to work every day.” She mentioned that one of the highlights of her job is meeting students and helping them find their way in their career. “Because we have such a diverse student body, we really get every type of story,” she said.
Originally from New York, Thomas studied at New York University, and found she had a passion for psychology, and decided to pursue it as her undergraduate major. She went on to get her graduate degree in counseling at George Washington University. Thomas said that she has experience working in both private and public four year colleges, but working in a community college has had a greater impact. “Working at HCC was my first community college experience, and I feel like this is where I belong.”
During her time at HCC, Thomas has also worked to establish the college’s annual career fair. “That came about because we had developed a nice network of employers, through outreach, inviting them here on campus…” Thomas explained the career services department was able to partner with many different businesses, in both the private and non-profit sectors to invite them to job fairs, and work with students to help start their careers.
Because there are still so many students at HCC who are not aware of the resources available in the career service department, Thomas is working hard to ensure that her the department is more visible around campus, and students know where to come find her when they need guidance. “Throughout the year...we have student assistants marketing our services in Beacon Hall and Lafayette Hall, we try and engage new students right away with presentations at orientation…” said Thomas. “We’ve been involved with STEAMfest since its beginning, three years ago and visit FYS classrooms to share the resources the department has to offer.
Thomas explained that she has also been helping the career services department work with advising, and encourages advisors to send their students to see her when they’re not sure if their major or career path is right for them, or if they need help beginning the process of career exploration.
When Thomas is not working hard in the career services department, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening. “I’m very excited spring is here because now I’m out in the garden,” she said.
One piece of advice she leaves for students at HCC is to “put yourself out there and open yourself up to different career experiences. This way you can begin to create a network of individuals in your field...who can serve as mentors and guide you through the process.” She encourages the HCC community to stop by and visit to see all that they offer.