This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Ellen C. Reilly. Ellen is the Job Placement Director in the Office of Career Services at Monmouth University in West Long Branch. In her role she strategically fosters mutually beneficial relationships with local, regional and global organization to increase opportunities for students and graduates. She counsels students and alumni regarding career development to ensure success for life during and after Monmouth. In addition, Ellen is the advisor for the Human Resources Club on campus.
Ellen possesses over fifteen years of corporate management and consulting in the field of human resources and has in depth experience in executive search and talent management. She was a Director with New York based JLA Partners and was responsible for key learning and development initiatives for the firm and its clients. Ellen was also a management consultant with Ferrari & Associates, Inc. where she provided staffing solutions for clients through assessment, competitive research analysis and targeted recruiting. Her corporate experience includes the role of Manager of Human Resources for Chemical Bank New Jersey’s Consumer Banking Division, which included over 100 branches. In addition to her focus on staffing, she was responsible for the redesign and management of the Consumer Bank Management Training Program. Ellen also worked for Dow Jones and CIT.
Ellen C. Reilly, Job Placement Director, Monmouth University Ellen resides with her husband Tom and three children in Brielle and is the Chair of the Wall High School Business and Finance Academy. She is also a Board member of The Monmouth County Chamber of Commerce and has extensive volunteer experience with several school systems in New Jersey and Arizona, in addition to being a volunteer with 180 Turning Lives Around, specifically the 2nd Floor Youth Helpline. Ellen holds a B.S. in Industrial Relations from the W. Paul Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University where she also actively volunteers.
1. Ellen, I know our readers would love to know, in your own words, what drew you to working as the Job Placement Director/Career Services at Monmouth University?
This is a great opening question. My initial interest in Monmouth came after some soul searching and being encouraged by a dear friend and mentor, Jo Singel, to pursue an opportunity in higher education, specifically career services. I initially called on my current boss five years ago when I was in transition and exploring opportunities in career services. At the time I had just returned to consulting in the human resources field after being home with our children and actively volunteering for several years. I realized consulting wasn’t what I wanted to do and that I had to create my own opportunity. The call to my boss did not immediately result in my job, but resulted in a face to face meeting, and initiated my relationship with the University. Shortly after, I landed a position with a local school as Director of Career Services, and three years into that role, my relationship was continuing at Monmouth, and so was my interest. When my current position opened up, I knew it was the position I wanted. It was the toughest interview process I have ever been through and I worked hard to get to this position.
2. Can you please describe what your role as the Job Placement Director/Career Services for Monmouth University embodies…What are your main responsibilities and duties?
My main focus is to create opportunities for our students and graduates to develop their career skills and interests, and ultimately land professional roles as they begin their life after Monmouth. This requires establishing relationships with employers, working one-on-one with students and graduates, and partnering with faculty and community organizations. My background in human resources has been the foundation for me being able to deliver these services.
3. Was it hard being a woman and climbing your way to achieve your current position? If so, how did you overcome the challenges i.e. support from fellow co-workers, strong desire to succeed…? If not, have there been other women who have held your current position?
In my initial career in human resources, I was fortunate enough to have some wonderful mentors and colleagues. Most of them were women, but there were a few men who were very supportive, including my husband. The key to me is to become an expert of your job, and be a continuous learner of the industry or work you are doing. These traits and hard work can help gain you respect in your role. My current position was somewhat newly created at Monmouth, but there are many women in similar roles at other colleges and universities. I have found if there were any barriers at all during my career, it was up to me to make them come down. During a period back in the 90’s when I was recruiting for equipment leasing professionals; the industry was very male dominated. There were a few times I remember being challenged by candidates as to my knowledge, but once I quickly demonstrated my competence, they were interested.
4. Have you mentored women throughout your career? If so, what are your three best tips for success?
I have mentored women, and believe it is very important in general to support others. My three best tips for success are: to have a strong support system, educate yourself and most importantly, believe in your work. You cannot be happy doing something that you do not believe in.
5. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received for your career?
Work hard. Believe in, and enjoy what you do. Be open to opportunities and be patient. This combination may sound simple, or obvious, but when you begin a career, especially right out of college, I think the expectations people place on themselves, and sometimes have, can be unrealistic.
6. What career advice do you give younger women who are climbing the ladder of success and trying to manage life/work/balance?
To find a balance that works for you, and most importantly, to create opportunities. By opportunities, I don’t necessarily mean those that are strictly related to your career. Possibly join an organization that blends a passion and will help you develop a new skill. Learn about new areas of your profession and find a mentor. I can’t stress how important having a key support person or system is. I am fortunate to have a supportive husband, core group of friends and colleagues, including two sisters, who I can count on for anything. Everyone needs help at some point with something in life.
7. What were some moments when you felt treated differently because you’re a woman?
In the late 80’s, I worked as a human resource generalist for one of the world’s most well-known business and financial publishing firms. One of my client groups was composed of mainly men, many of whom were with the company 20 plus years. During my first meeting with head of the department and his top managers, he asked why I thought I would be able to provide any help to them. While it wasn’t the welcome I was looking for, it allowed me to remind myself why I was hired for the job, and with confidence, answer his question. I am fairly certain that if I was a male, I wouldn’t have been asked that question. What struck me most is that the products the company delivered were leading edge and some of the most respected in the industry, yet the department I was servicing seemed stuck in a time warp.
8. What are important lessons around the topic of women and leadership for you?
This is an interesting question, as leadership can mean different things to different people. I would have to say as a woman, I believe it is important to support women in general. The leadership piece may simply be to set a good example, be a good listener, share your experiences and knowledge, or provide honest feedback. I guess these are not lessons but what comes to mind when I think of leadership in general. I have two young adult daughters and work with women daily. To that point, I am constantly aware of my role and how my interactions and influence can impact those around me.
9. What’s unusual about the culture of Monmouth University?
Having been in higher education for just less than two years, I am not sure I can say it is unusual only at Monmouth, but loyalty and tenure at the University seem to be prevalent.
10. If you were to receive an award for, “Best At ____”. How would you fill in the blank and why?
Probably for diplomacy and helping others. It is how I was raised!
11. Do you think social media plays a role in getting a student/individual placed in a career?
Absolutely. 70%-80% of people land jobs through their network, and the networks today are heavily developed and maintained through social media. In addition, social media is what drives recruiters and companies to engage with candidates.
12. What was the “Aha” moment or turning point in your life that had a direct impact on your career and leadership?
I was given a lot of responsibility early on in my human resources career, and there were definitely learning gaps that I needed to fill. Sometimes I would make mistakes and think that would translate to failure, when I realized that was not the case at all. The same people that had to point out the mistakes were the same people who pushed me to do more, because they believed in me. The “Aha” moment I guess was realizing I was doing good work and making a difference, regardless of the mistakes.