About Me – Director of Inclusive Career Development Donnell Turner

“Don’t trade your authenticity for the approval of others.”

 – Moushmi Roy
Donnell Turner smiling

Hi, my name is Donnell Turner, the new Director of Inclusive Career Development at the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning. I’m eager to share insights from my educational journey and diverse career path. Reflecting on my career, I appreciate every turn – from experimenting with entrepreneurial ventures to embracing varied professional roles. These experiences not only helped me eliminate unsuitable paths but also fostered versatile skills and a deeper understanding of my professional identity.

Modified Career Aspirations

After completing my undergraduate studies in Biblical and Theological Studies and Christian Education, my path took an unexpected turn. While working as a part-time caseworker at Little Friends, a social services agency for individuals with developmental disabilities, I found my plans for full-time ministry shifting. Immersed in this enriching environment, I embarked on graduate studies in Educational Ministries. During this period, I was presented with a compelling opportunity to become a full-time Case Manager at Little Friends, an offer that redefined my professional trajectory.

Revised Career Trajectory

Five years in, a chance to enter the staffing and recruitment industry emerged, promising significantly higher financial rewards – albeit on a 100% commission basis. As a self-described introvert, I was apprehensive yet intrigued. Surprisingly, I thrived, not just financially, but in adapting my skills to a seemingly extroverted domain, for the next six years.

However, the shifting employment landscape soon transformed the industry. No longer a candidates’ market, my role in placing accounting and finance professionals became increasingly challenging. This necessitated innovative thinking and a bold career pivot. Leveraging my extensive network, I transitioned to a role in higher education as a Career Advisor at Loyola University Chicago. Despite my lack of direct experience in academia, I effectively showcased the diverse skills gained from social services and recruitment. It wasn’t long before I discovered my true calling. Embracing career advising, I taught a ‘Career and Life Planning’ course and developed a curriculum supporting alumni through the post-2007/2008 recession job market, marking the beginning of a fulfilling new chapter in my professional journey.

Designing Your Life

My journey as a first-generation, low-income college student left me acutely aware of the unique challenges faced in higher education. This personal history has deeply influenced my programming efforts, aimed at easing the journey for students with similar backgrounds. My approach took a transformative turn in 2019 after reading ‘Designing Your Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Inspired, I traveled to my hometown of Chicago to join a cohort and become a certified Designing Your Life coach.

Originating as a Stanford University class to aid design students in their job search, ‘Designing Your Life’ swiftly evolved into the university’s most popular course. Burnett and Evans, both Stanford professors and seasoned Silicon Valley designers, advocate for the use of design thinking as a pathway to fulfilling careers and lives. Their philosophy resonates deeply with me: encouraging a mindset of exploration, low-risk experimentation, and swift adaptation in the pursuit of meaningful work and life.

Equipped with these insights, I crafted a new course: ‘Designing Your Life & Career.’ This curriculum aims to shift students’ perspectives from traditional, limiting questions like ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ and ‘What is your passion?’ to more open-ended, problem-solving inquiries such as ‘What problem(s) do you want to solve in your communities or in the world?’ Reflecting on my own career path, I’ve realized how this approach could have guided my earlier transitions, lending clarity and purpose to each step. Now, I witness its impact on my students, as they navigate their career paths with a renewed sense of agency and possibility. One notable success was a student who shifted from a path they felt ‘stuck’ in, to pioneering a community project that aligned with their true interests – a testament to the power of rethinking how we approach our life’s work.”

“Living coherently doesn’t mean everything is in perfect order all the time. It means you are living in alignment with your values and have not sacrificed your integrity along the way.” 

– Bill Burnett, Designing Your Life: Build a Life that Works for You

Let’s Connect the Dots to Your Future

In my newly minted role as Director of Inclusive Career Development in the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning, one of my goals is to develop and initiate career and professional development strategies for our affinity-based groups.

I have also made Senior Career Planning a priority. These appointments are for seniors who have not identified an industry for employment after graduation and need assistance identifying career interests and learning job search strategies. Similarly, I’m meeting with juniors who are also looking for help with what’s next after Amherst.

If you would like to learn more about my winding educational and career path or begin planning for life after Amherst, please book an appointment with me in Handshake or email me.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

By Donnell Turner
Donnell Turner Director of Inclusive Career Development