October 30, 2020

Paul Binkley: On the Job

Paul Binkley became the inaugural executive director of the Center for Career and Professional Development last summer. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Paul Binkley became the inaugural executive director of the Center for Career and Professional Development last summer. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Job searches can be stressful, but even more so for those entering the workforce in the middle of a pandemic.

It’s important to remind students they have “the strengths necessary to survive and thrive,” said Paul Binkley, who became the UMW Center for Career and Professional Development’s inaugural executive director last summer.

“Throughout my career, I’ve learned that students often already have the answers they’re looking for,” said Binkley, who has spent over 20 years in higher education in the U.S. and abroad, most recently leading the career development team at Johns Hopkins University. “But they need someone to help them ask the right questions.”

While the Mary Washington campus is closed and employees are teleworking due to the coronavirus threat, the career center is very much open for business, Binkley said – at least virtually. In fact, his team has ramped up efforts, holding online one-on-one coaching sessions and sending out opportunities via weekly newsletter and social media. Binkley himself will be presenting a UMW Alumni Relations Mary Talks event on May 6 to discuss job prospects during and after the pandemic.

His team is also rolling out a new service in which students can record answers to thousands of interview questions and get feedback from faculty or career coaches. “The key to interviews, online or in person,” he said, “is practice, practice, practice.”

Many graduating seniors at UMW already secured positions prior to COVID-19, Binkley said. For those who are still searching, plenty of employers are eager to connect and want to know how students are staying active and engaged during the quarantine. But for some, he recognizes that may be a challenge.

“If it’s difficult to feel motivated,” he said, “a great place to start is by doing small things every day to remind ourselves that we are still in control and moving forward.”

 

Though the UMW campus is closed and remote learning is taking place, Binkley said the career center is very much open for business. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Though the UMW campus is closed and remote learning is taking place, Binkley said the career center is very much open for business. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Q: What’s a typical day look like for you these days?
A: I get up later but dressing for work gets me in a professional mindset. I have lots of virtual meetings, and intersperse microbreaks to play with my cats, watch a quick video or throw in a load of laundry.

Q: What was your first job out of college?
A: I was a high school student teacher, but I quit after three months. Following that, I worked as an office manager for a psychologist, which was a great entry into the professional world because I had a boss who wanted me to succeed in whatever field I desired.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Watching my staff and students develop into professionals.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Recognizing that students need to experience the world for themselves at their own pace, without pressuring them to do what I think is right.

Q: What are you doing to keep busy?
A: I bought a house near campus and remodeling it has taken a lot of time. With the spring weather, I’m looking forward to working on the outside.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I HATE Brussels sprouts. I’ve had them cooked every way and still can’t stand them.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Life is a process, not an outcome.