It’s finally 2016, and for many people the start of the New Year means it’s time to set some new goals. On Jan. 13, the Hiatt Career Center sponsored a webinar, hosted by Debbie Lipton ’83, to help give Brandeisians a jump-start on their 2016 career goals.

 “I’m a career counselor and job-search coach,” Lipton said in an interview with the Justice. “So I do everything from helping people to make good decisions about the type of work they want to do to helping them get there once they decide what they want.”

After responding to an email from the Hiatt Career Center looking for alumni to conduct mock interviews with students, Lipton connected with Alexandra Stephens, associate director of Alumni Career Programs and Engagement. After learning about Lipton’s role as a career counselor, Stephens suggested Lipton host a webinar at the start of the New Year. 

During the webinar, Lipton stressed the importance of making the right type of resolutions. Using the acronym SMART, she explained that the best goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-framed. Rather than saying, ‘I will get a new job,’ Lipton suggested it might be more helpful to instead say, ‘This month I will look into jobs in my field of interest.’ 

This, she explained, creates a much more attainable goal and discourages a win/lose philosophy of thinking. 

Lipton also talked about the importance of having a support system in place. Though making SMART goals sets you up for success, she explained that it’s equally important to be accountable for those goals. 

While using the SMART goal method is something all Brandeis students can try, Lipton goes a bit more in-depth with her own clients. 

“I’m going to ask them to write down what they may be interested in and ask them to share information with me about their work history, about their education, about volunteer work, hobbies, awards they’ve received either in school or the workplace [and] what they feel most proud of,” she said. 

She also seeks to understand the reasoning behind the career choices her clients have made to see what outside factors may have influenced them. 

“For many people it can be because of what their parents do,” Lipton explained.  “Or it can be a family expectation, or many years ago, especially for women, choices were far more limited so they were typically secretaries or teachers or nurses, but not necessarily anywhere else; but that’s changed enormously in the last couple of generations.” 

The job-search process is something that has become more nuanced in the past several years thanks to the rising use of technology and social media. 

Lipton has charted these changes and works to find ways to help her clients stand out. 

“If your resume and cover letter and Linked In aren’t done in a particular way, even if you’re the right person for the job, the employers won’t necessarily pay attention to you because you’re not communicating your skills and capabilities in a way that is meaningful to them. You need to be able to do that.”

While studying as a student at Brandeis, Lipton found herself helping other students with their graduate school and job applications during their senior years. 

“Something clicked between that and career counseling,” she explained. “By the time I graduated Brandeis, I knew I wanted to be a career counselor, but it just took me a little while to figure out how to make it happen … I wanted to explore other careers myself before I became someone who was going to help other people figure out what they wanted to do.”

After graduation, Lipton first started working for an organization that focused on public relations and community outreach on behalf of  fraternal organizations. 

From there she gained experience working within the public and private sectors and non-profits. It was only three years ago that she founded Lipton Career Management. 

“I had talked about [founding my own business] a lot, but circumstances only came together about three years ago,” she said. 

For current Brandeis undergraduates, Lipton gave advice for achieving career success. She emphasized that all students should visit the Hiatt Career Center as soon as possible. 

“What you want to be doing is thinking about where you want your education to take you. A lot of people are scared to look that straight in the eye because it can feel overwhelming, but … just start by having a conversation about what you think you might like to do.” 

She also explained the benefit of scheduling  informational interviews where you can speak to someone who has knowledge of or does work  in your field of interest. 

“Some people have a certain idea about what a field is going to be like … then they arrive and they start the job and they realize they don’t like the job or they don’t like the industry. 

If they had thought about that ahead of time they might have made different choices in their coursework and in setting their goal.”

Looking back at her own undergraduate experience, Lipton was pleased with the connections she made at the Hiatt Career Center as well as in her choice of school. 

Though it took her nearly 30 years, Lipton was able to found her own business doing the work she first identified as her passion while at Brandeis. 

“I took something that was a dream and made it a reality in order to be able to come back to the work that I love doing most,” Lipton said.