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Melissa Turk

Melissa Turk

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

Hello all! I am a higher education professional with previous roles in the areas of new student and family orientation, student leadership, and personal/professional development at Case Western Reserve University, University of Southern California, and University of Mount Union. I recently made a career shift whereby I’m now supporting career and professional development programming for alumni at Carnegie Mellon University, and this past January, jumped on the side gig bandwagon and started my own consulting and facilitation brand. Under this brand I help groups and organizations come together to solve problems from organizational dynamics to leadership growth and development.

I love bringing people together, building connections and solving problems, which falls in line with the recent Strengths Finder assessment I took in which I was identified as a strategic influencer (Activator, Command, Strategic, Futuristic and Self Assurance). I try my best to lead with empathy and bring unheard voices to the forefront of the conversation. I believe that individual stories need to be heard, understood, and amplified to help us come together. There is true power in a story if you’re willing to listen.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

The memory that sticks out the most is listening to a recording about financial management on the resource page and learning that I knew nothing! Immediately, I started researching everything I could, set up an appointment with a financial advisor, and started developing a plan. I was hooked into the Network from there, because I started learning things and gaining access to knowledge that I had never been exposed to before. From there, I’ve met some amazing and supportive women and continue to learn and grow my knowledge base.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

Early in my career, I experienced our department moving from one division to another while at the same time having all the staff in that department venture off to new opportunities. This left me, at a year into my career, running a sizable program that was extremely short staffed. This was a pivotal moment in my career because it gave me the opportunity to step up, and I did. Was everything perfect? No. Did I cry a lot? Yes. But I didn’t let the situation define me, I took control and lead even if I wasn’t 100% sure what I was doing. I learned a lot about myself that summer and it brought out skills I didn’t even know I had. I am proud of this accomplishment because I didn’t just survive that year, I thrived.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is when an alumnus/a contacts me to share how attending one of our programs or events impacted their professional and personal life, or that the experiences they’ve had working with me or attending a program has helped them form a deeper connection to their alma mater. It’s also been rewarding to hear from my colleagues that the work I am doing is not only supporting their work, but also helping them build relationships with our alumni.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

The legacy I hope to leave through my work is that of the individual impact my relationships have had on those I met along the way; it’s in knowing I did or said something that changed the course of someone’s life for the better.

What is your favorite social media site? Why?

My favorite social media site is LinkedIn because I've learned so much from those I am connected with. The articles I've come across have not only helped me become a better professional but also helped me bring new ideas to the table. As you can tell by most of my responses personal growth is a key priority in my life and I feel like LinkedIn has been a great tool to keep me on top of my game.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

Honestly, I had to ask a friend to help me with this question and she immediately responded with: the ability to talk to anyone, and not just talk to anyone, but also make them feel comfortable and in a trusted space when doing so.

What does success look like to you?

Success to me is learning and growing. I believe that no matter what the situation or outcome is, if there is learning and growth then there is success. If I’ve helped someone learn something new or become a better version of themselves, then I’ve been successful. If I learned something new or because of the situation became a better version of myself, then I’ve been successful.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Work-life balance used to be an issue for me but I’ve learned in the past few years to advocate for myself and my time. I grew up in a generation where being busy was a badge of honor. If you weren’t busy you weren’t working hard enough or good at your job. That mindset burned me out. I ended up being the go-to person for projects because I always strived to do a good job and I’d never say no. Now, when I collaborate with colleagues on projects, I am transparent about my capacity for workload. I’ll tell them I am willing to work with them on the project, but I’m clear with respect to what I am able to commit to at the time. I also suggest that during interviews you ask specific questions about work-life balance. For example, if I work late or travel over the weekend is there flexibility to take time-off that following week? What is your work from home policy? Are there core hours that we’re expected to work, and what is the flexibility within that? If this is a place that is truly open to work-life balance these questions will be easy to answer and they won’t judge you for asking them. If you feel hesitation or they don’t hire you because of your inquiry about their work-life flexibility, then it’s probably a place that isn’t actually flexible. I’ve learned that being transparent upfront helps you really learn about the organization and if it really is a right fit.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

When I was in grad school a few colleagues sent me a job posting they thought I’d be great for, but it was all the way in Los Angeles, and at the time I’d spent my whole life in Ohio. I remember saying to my supervisor “Yeah, this job looks great but it’s all the way in LA”. I’ll never forget what she told me: “What do you have to lose by applying? Just because you apply doesn’t mean you have to take it or make the move, but by never applying you’ll never know what opportunity you could be missing out on.” I applied for that job and three months later I was moving to LA and my life was forever changed! I’ve used and shared that advice ever since, which has lead me to live a very full life.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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