My Global Career: Tara Maher and breaking into the IE field

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Tara relocated to Phoenix, Arizona in 2014 to join the CEA Alumni Relations Team after attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California. When she is not at the office, Tara is playing soccer, hiking, or exploring the world. She recently spent two weeks in Paris, took a week-long trip to visit three National Parks in Utah, and hiked the highest peak in Arizona. You can find her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

 

Hi Tara! So, what do you currently do professionally?

I currently work as the Alumni Relations Associate for CEA Study Abroad.

What are some of your responsibilities and projects in that role? 

I interview, train, and guide a team of 100 Alumni Ambassadors as they host events throughout the semester as well as manage our Alumni Relations’ social media accounts.

Long term, I am creating re-entry and career-development resources for all CEA alumni while expanding the community.

What do you like about your current position? What are some of the challenges?

I love working with the Ambassadors. They are the reason I enjoy my job so much. Their passion and enthusiasm for study abroad remind me of my own experience and the challenges that I faced upon returning. I hope to help them through their re-entry process and learn how to further articulate their abroad experience in a meaningful way.

One of the biggest challenges is trying to keep thousands of alumni engaged. I have connected with a few who are further removed from their experience and have learned about their post-study abroad life (two alumni even met through their program and are getting married!). However, there are still many more who have no connection to CEA Alumni Relations since returning, so my goal is to seek out and engage those alumni. I’m excited to see what the future holds.

How did you get from college to what you’re doing today?

I decided to study abroad in Paris with CEA during the fall 2012 semester and completely fell in love with the city. My experience inspired a new career path in International Education, which is how I found the CEA Alumni Ambassador Program.

During my last year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I volunteered as a CEA Alumni Ambassador and a Cal Poly International Peer Contact, helping both U.S. students study abroad and international students adjust to California culture.

As graduation approached, I sought after multiple International Education positions until I found a summer job with Education First (EF) in Long Beach as an Activity Leader. It was a challenging month, guiding a group of 50 international high school students not only around Long Beach but also on excursions to Disneyland, Six Flags, and Las Vegas, but I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding summer.

Post-EF, I began looking for full-time jobs and stumbled upon CEA’s open position for the Alumni Relations Associate. Reading over the job description and responsibilities, I knew it was fate. Here was a position that allowed me to channel my excitement for study abroad and passion for developing re-entry resources. I joined CEA in 2014 and have been growing the Ambassador Program ever since.

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It’s wonderful how everything worked out! What tips can you share with others who are interested in doing similar work?

International Education is a difficult field to break in to, but if you feel passionately about working in this area, be proactive. Attend a study abroad returnee conference, check out opportunities to help in the study abroad office, or join an Ambassador Program.

Remember that sometimes finding short-term or volunteer work develops your skills and knowledge in unexpected ways and may lead you down a new path (plus, it boosts your resume!). You will be challenged, but don’t give up.

Thanks for sharing your global career story, Tara! 

About the Author: Cate Brubaker

Cate Brubaker, PhD is the author of the Re-Entry Roadmap creative workbook and founder of SmallPlanetStudio.com. A former expat and current part-time nomad, Cate has worked in international education for 20 years.

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