Receiving Constructive Feedback Gracefully

We’ve all been there…your boss schedules an evaluation for you and your heart starts to race as you question what they might say. Part of being in the workforce is receiving feedback on how you are performing. Although it is meant to provide you with insight on what you are doing right and what you can improve upon so you can be the best at your position, it’s not always easy to hear! This feedback is given so that you can evaluate what you are doing well and what you can improve upon so that you can perform your very best. Sometimes, being told what skills you lack in or which areas you are underperforming in can feel awkward, discouraging, and hurtful. However, that’s not the intent of being provided with feedback. Instead, if you learn how to accept constructive criticism gracefully and use it to your advantage now, you will be prepared to excel in the future.

The first step is to recognize that nobody is perfect, and you are guaranteed to have evaluations in your future, whether scheduled or impromptu.

Once you acknowledge this, then you can start to change the way you view the exchange. It can be helpful to look at it this way: Your employer cares enough about you to be honest with you and help you improve for the future. This is not against you, it is for you to help you find success in your career and to build upon skills that will be applicable no matter what future career you may hold. If you put this into perspective, you’ll be much more likely to not only feel grateful for the advice, but you will also be inspired to improve. 

Beyond ensuring your attitude is positive for your own wellbeing, it is important that you exemplify this positive attitude to your employers rather than getting defensive or making excuses. Further, it goes a long way to let your employers know how you appreciate the feedback and how you are committed to making an improvement for the benefit of the company, the team, and yourself. Your attitude alone can show your employer how committed you are to being the best asset to the organization that you can be. This is important not only for the success of the company but also for your future, as your current employer will likely be contacted by potential employers when you apply to other jobs in the future to provide insight on your performance and character. All employers want someone who is teachable, so by responding gracefully, not only can you personally improve, but you can also demonstrate qualities that all employers seek.

After receiving constructive criticism or feedback, it is important to not only listen but to take action based on the information you are given. Make sure to ask questions to your employer on what you can do to improve your performance. Ask your employers about your strengths: What strengths do you have and how can you use these strengths to improve upon aspects of your work performance you need to better develop? You can take it a step further to demonstrate to your boss that you are committed to improvement and ask to schedule a “progress report” meeting to see how your improvement efforts are going a few weeks after you receive your initial feedback.

Learning how to receive constructive criticism is a vital skill in the workforce and will continually help you advance in your career. Showing employers that you not only know how to take feedback but also apply it will set you apart from other employees and can increase your chances of getting promotions, raises, and glowing recommendations.


-Jordan Mercer, Peer Career Advisor

Alumni Highlight: Katlyn Chandler ’18

Alumna Katlyn Chandler (’18) is all about service – helping others and meeting them where they are. Luckily for her, she has found a way to blend her desire to help others with her passion for nutrition.

When Katlyn was in high school, she constantly felt sluggish and made the decision to change her daily habits by eating right and exercising. This decision changed her life, and in turn, she knew she wanted to help others make healthy decisions as well. Although she entered CofC as a biology major, she quickly found out that public health incorporated all her interests: Preventative health, community health, and nutrition. After switching her major, Katlyn’s career launched.

Throughout her time at CofC, Katlyn dived into various volunteer and internship experiences in the Charleston community that took her out of her comfort zone, teaching her how to better serve people who are different than her.

“Going out into the community and getting to know people through volunteering is a great way to get you out of your shell and see people at eye level. Sometimes we think we can solve a large issue, but you don’t know what a community needs until you are working directly with them.”

For Katlyn, this looked like interning with the Ryan White Wellness Center that served the Eastside community by caring for their health needs. Through this internship, Katlyn was able to find ways for clients to receive nutritional supplemental drinks with a local vendor, file health insurance information, and shadow physicians. She also served with the Lowcountry Herald where she helped supply food and clothing for the homeless. Through each of her experiences during college, she gained a deeper understanding of how to use her studies to serve others well.

Upon graduation, Katlyn decided to go directly into the workforce. As she searched for jobs, she initially looked past an opportunity with the Lowcountry Food Bank because she saw the phrase public speaking in the job title and was nervous about performing this task. Despite being nervous about the public speaking aspect, she reconsidered and decided to apply so she could learn more about what this position truly entailed. After interviewing, she felt more confident about pursuing this role, and she began serving as an AmeriCorps for the Lowcountry Food Bank as the Program Coordinator of “Cooking Matters.” This program helps low-income families shop and eat healthier on a budget. In partnership with other organizations, she hosted 6-week classes to teach how to prepare food and provide nutrition lessons. It turns out that the very aspect that made her initially hesitant to apply – public speaking – is now something she loves to do! She fell in love with her career, and after completing her year term in this role, she landed a position as a Nutrition Education Specialist for the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC).

Katlyn currently serves low-income communities in this role within the Women, Infants, and Children department. She loves that she gets to work with different types of people such as children from 0-5 years of age, prenatal moms, and post-partum women by discussing breastfeeding, promoting physical activity, and providing healthy recipes for picky eaters. Additionally, she provides nutrition health assessments and offers food benefits, but tailored in a way that is most optimal for their health.

“My favorite part is talking to a client who is really open to nutrition education and having them learn something they never knew before. I love seeing the lightbulb go off in their heads. Many people think everything has to change for nutrition, but you can actually make small changes to become healthier.”

Alumna Katlyn Chandler has successfully used her passion for nutrition to serve the Charleston community.


-Camille Hamrick, Career Counselor

Student Spotlight: Emilia Olson

Emilia Olson is a certified EMT and leader of sustainability at the College of Charleston. During the Spring semester of her freshman year, Emilia decided to take an EMS course advertised by the College’s pre-med fraternity, AED, to gain clinical experience with her studies. The semester-long program trains students who wish to work for CofC EMS and other EMS companies. As an aspiring international healthcare clinician, Emilia knew this opportunity would give her valuable experience. The course offers eight hours of lecture and lab a week, ride alongs, and a psychomotor and cognitive exam. By the end of the program, students are certified through the National Registry and South Carolina.

Emilia Olson is a junior at the Honors College of Charleston from Summerville, South Carolina. She is double majoring in International Studies and Public Health with a concentration in Latin American Studies on the pre-med track. She chose the College for the location, the scholarship and study abroad opportunities, and the CofC Honors College. After graduation, Emilia plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Global Health and attend medical school. She hopes to work in the field of international health and practice as a clinician to promote sustainable health systems around the world. Emilia chose her majors because she wanted to have an interdisciplinary background that encompassed current global politics and how policy is determined to influence peoples’ health. Her Latin American Studies concentration allows her to learn about the variety of cultures in the region as well as the intersection between those ancient cultures and globalization. In addition to studying Latin America, Emilia is the founder of Amanecer Textiles, a reusable tote bag non-profit in the region. The business “promotes economic exchange and women’s economic empowerment” with women in Guatemala. Amanecer Textiles advances sustainability and eco-friendly practices in both Guatemala and the U.S. by developing reusable and affordable products.

On a local scale, Emilia is also helping the community by volunteering for the student-run CofC EMS and working for a private company in Charleston. One of the most important parts of volunteering on campus for Emilia is the opportunity to play a clinical role in people’s lives and, at the same time, providing a service that is free of charge. On the other hand, Emilia’s experience working for the private EMT company confirms to her that there are many issues with the US Healthcare system, especially during the times of the pandemic. She saw how the social determinants of health manifested along social and economic lines because of the cost of utilizing the services. This is not a barrier for patients that are aided through CofC EMS.

Emilia recommends any students interested in medical school to consider becoming an EMT and gain valuable medical experience that is community-focused. Not only do students earn clinical hours, but they also gain experience with emergency patient care that is not available in the classroom.

“EMS is the only position you can have as an undergraduate to be as self-sufficient as a medical care provider. With CofC EMS, you’re volunteering and helping the local Charleston community.”

CofC offers a discount for students who wish to learn and volunteer with CofC EMS after certification.


-Christina Ferrell, Peer Career Advisor

Alumni Highlight: Seth Burrell ’15

The Coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the world we live in, and it is vitally important to be aware of how to effectively search for opportunities despite the pandemic. This summer, the Career Center hosted a (Job) “Search Party” series where CofC alumni shared their tips and insight on how to successfully job search. Seth Burrell, a speaker at the first Search Party series, provided his insights on finding employment during the Coronavirus pandemic. Burrell graduated from the College of Charleston in 2015 with a degree in Political Science. He now works in talent booking, production, and real estate. Burrell’s career did not begin after graduation; it began during the CofC Transfer Orientation. As a transfer student, he met fellow students with similar goals and his networking journey took off from there.

After graduation, Burrell’s first job was far from his dream position. However, it laid the foundation to make further connections with others that led to new opportunities. He learned valuable writing, email drafting, and presentation skills that he uses daily at his current position with Norwegian Cruise Lines.

“Just because you didn’t land your first job from the first interview, that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen.”

From his experience, the way to secure your first job out of college is to reach out to CofC alumni in your prospective field to establish a form of communication, receive advice, and to learn about opportunities – in other words, networking. By connecting with alumni from your university, you have a great starting point to get a meaningful conversation started. While networking is different for everyone, “it’s okay to be direct” and request an informational interview with that individual or with someone else in their company to be more informed about your prospective career path. When looking for connection points, the Career Center recommends that you use College of Charleston’s Alumni Search Tool on LinkedIn to identify individuals within the career field, company, or location affiliated with the College. As you’re making connections, it’s important to introduce yourself and include the fact that you’re a CofC student looking for advice on professional topics, such as the job search. In addition to networking with alumni, you can start establishing connections with employers through the Career Center’s Career Fairs held every semester.

Throughout Burrell’s career, the practice of job searching has developed, most recently due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The traditional method of starting your career [and meeting employers in person] has completely flipped on its head [due to quarantine].” It is important today for graduates to do three things:

  1. Work on soft skills.
  2. Identify companies that would be a risk or dream to work for and just go for it.
  3. Use this time to reflect, and ask yourself what companies or career fields are interesting to you to help focus your career pursuits.

The pandemic has changed the job market and the future of many companies. However, Burrell points out that:

“It’s a great opportunity to build your own personal skills because we have so much free time… Things are really difficult right now, but the people who are using this time to grow will be better off.”


-Christina Ferrell, Peer Career Advisor

Cougar Career Column Writers: Meet Jordan!

Meet the Peer Career Advisors (PCAs) who are using their career success training to write and publish articles in the Cougar Career Column! Today we would like to introduce you to PCA Jordan!

Jordan is a junior at CofC studying political science with minors in French and creative writing. She aspires to use her degree to become a prosecuting attorney and politician. Because Jordan values gaining relevant experience to better prepare her for her career goals, she has completed internships with the Kathy Landing Campaign and EKG Law. She is also heavily involved on campus as the president of the Network of Enlightened Women, engagement as a Student Alumni Associate, and previous positions in the Student Government Association and the Office of the Registrar. Through her position as a PCA, Jordan has learned:

To the Freshman, From the Senior

 I came into college thinking I had it all figured out. I had finished most of my gen ed requirements with AP classes, I had my two majors declared and a minor picked out, I knew I was joining the Peace Corps after graduation, and I knew exactly what my career was going to be. So, when I signed up for my first semester of classes, I jumped right into my classes for my majors, not bothering to explore other subjects because I knew what I was doing.

            You probably know where this story is going…of course, I realized that one of my majors just wasn’t the right fit, and suddenly, my entire life plan was up in the air. I was lost, confused, and extremely stressed, because it felt like I was the only one without a plan. I had to take a step back and reevaluate, and that meant doing what I should have done in the first place – exploring classes from a variety of disciplines. I had heard this advice before, but chose to ignore it, because I thought I had it all figured out. So, for my first piece of advice:

Take the time to explore your options, even if you already have an idea of what you want to do. This is the only time in your life when you’ll have the opportunity to study anything you want, and you might find a passion you didn’t know you had! 

            I ended up finding passions for public health and African studies, so I transitioned my international studies major to a minor and added a public health major. Not everyone was thrilled with my choices – some people wanted me to study business or biology, something I could “make a lot of money in.” I realized quickly that my major was mine to choose, not anybody else’s, because I would be the one sitting in class every day; I wanted to study things that made me excited to go to class! 

I also started getting involved in research on campus, and stumbled upon a passion for studying the ways in which the prison system is woven into our society, which is now formulating my new career goals in social work and academic research. I found several opportunities to get involved in my new passion on and off campus, such as clubs, research projects, volunteer positions, and internships, and I gained so much valuable experience that has helped me determine my career goals and begin working towards them. Although each opportunity was valuable, I started becoming very overwhelmed because I had committed to too many things, and I had to learn how to say “no” and prioritize the things I cared about most. This brings me to my next career development tip:

Don’t say yes to everything, and don’t say no to everything. If you say yes to everything, you will quickly get burned out, but if you say no to everything, you might miss out on some great opportunities to learn about yourself and the world around you. Choose your activities and extracurriculars wisely – Pursue valuable opportunities, but ensure that you can balance all of your commitments well. Focus on the career areas you enjoy, even if they are different from what others want you to do.

            This includes academics; you’re allowed to take classes just for fun. Not everything has to be directly related to your major or minor. Throughout my time at CofC, I’ve taken classes from so many different disciplines (once I finally listened to everyone’s advice and explored other subjects!). I’ve taken Russian, dance, Model African Union, French, several independent studies, and sociology, to name a few. I’ve also taken some really cool classes on study abroad trips, from a course on postcolonial development in Ghana to a seminar on international business practices in Denmark, Sweden, and England. Studying abroad is another great way to explore new subjects and learn about other places and cultures while also learning about yourself. Even if you just go for a week, go abroad! And until it’s safe to travel again, consider trying out a new language or taking a class or two on a different area of the world- I really recommend the African studies courses! 

             Freshman year can be scary; there’s so much pressure on you to start figuring out the rest of your life. And while yes, you should be thinking about that, take this once in a lifetime opportunity to explore the world and get to know yourself, because if you know who you are and focus on the things you’re passionate about, then everything will fall into place.

-Katie Hill, Peer Career Advisor

Cougar Career Column Writers: Meet Katie!

Meet the writers who are capturing the stories of students and alumni in the Cougar Career Column!

Katie is a Peer Career Advisor (PCA) and she assists her peers with a variety of career-related content. As a PCA, she also helps develop content for the Cougar Career Column. Today, we would like for you to meet PCA Katie!

My name is Katie and I’m a senior here at CofC! I’m studying political science and public health with minors in international studies and Spanish, and my plan (don’t hold me to it, it changes a lot!) is to get my master’s in social work and spend several years as a social worker in a prison before pursuing my PhD and becoming a professor.

I have worked at the Career Center since the beginning of my sophomore year, and it has been one of my favorite experiences on campus! I was the person who struggled long and hard about what major was the right fit for me (I won’t tell how many times I changed it, but it’s more than you can count on one hand).

One of the most important things I learned in the Career Center was that college is about studying what interests you, not what other people think you should do or what seems like it’ll get you the highest-paying job.

Your major doesn’t have to equal your career, so study something that gets you excited to go to class everyday!

Student Spotlight: Ethan Bain

Growing up in the Bahamas, Student Employee of the Year Ethan Bain wanted to attend college in a place that felt like home. At College of Charleston, he found just that. Along with the beautiful subtropical campus and moderate class size, Ethan found his niche as he chose his major.

Freshman year was challenging for Ethan as he adjusted to life in college. He found himself only going to class and then going straight home to study, which made it difficult to make friends. He changed his major multiple times before landing on economics with a minor in business administration and data science. Once he found the right fit with his major, things started falling into place. Classes became truly engaging for him, he was able to start making connections with friends, and he landed a job as a Peer Advisor in the Academic Advising and Planning Center. Through this position, Ethan has been able to help students going through the exact same thing he experienced as he changed his major.

In Ethan’s student employee position, he meets with students individually to answer questions related to academics and walks them through how to make decisions.

“Often times, students come in with a lot of stuff going on, and they worry about classes. After they come in and have the meeting, you can visibly see a weight lifted off their shoulders. It makes me happy to know I’m helping them achieve their goals.”

Ethan excelled in this position and became the recipient of the 2020 Student Employee of the Year award! Ethan practiced and honed his skillset to help him succeed in this position, and says:

“Put others before yourself. When you’re working, especially in my position working with a team, it’s not so much about you; it’s about what’s important for the entire team. Don’t be afraid to voice your own opinion because it is important to have your voice heard, but you should make decisions ultimately to benefit to the team.”

Ethan takes his role seriously and has grown to understand the significance that student employees have at the College.

“We take a tremendous load off the professional advisors which gives them the opportunity to see more students. I also work in the Center for Student Learning, and in that role, we meet with students and help them have a better outcome in their class. Their grade in that class may determine if they get to keep their scholarship or not. I know how important that is.”

Not only does Ethan’s role as a student employee allow him to help others, but it is also preparing him for his career aspirations to go into economic and policy research in order to advise governments on monetary policy. He hopes to apply his advising skills on a larger scale by advising governments. Finding the right fit for his major has led him to succeed at CofC and has prepared him to enter a profession he is excited about.

2020 Student Employee of the Year, Ethan Bain, receiving a plaque recognizing his reliability, quality of work, initiative, professionalism, and contribution to his department.


-Camille Hamrick, Career Counselor

Cougar Career Column Writers: Meet Christina!

Meet the writers who are capturing the stories of students and alumni in the Cougar Career Column!

The Career Center’s Peer Career Advisors (PCAs) have been selectively chosen and trained to assist their peers with a variety of career-related content. PCAs are an asset to the team, expanding the Career Center’s reach as they equip their peers to be career ready. Today, we would like for you to meet PCA Christina!

Hello! My name is Christina Ferrell and I am a junior at the Honors College of Charleston and a member of the International Scholars Program. I am double majoring in International Studies and French with a minor in Russian Studies. I’m from Fort Mill, South Carolina, and love to learn about politics and languages! After graduation, I plan to complete a master’s degree in Democracy and Political Science, focusing on Eastern European Studies and pursue a career in world politics in Europe.

I began working as a Peer Career Advisor at the College of Charleston Career Center during the Spring semester of my sophomore year. I have learned so much from this job about resumes, interview techniques, and cover letter drafting that I will take with me after I graduate. I love to help students improve their resumes and give them advice on how to find internships that align with their major and will help them in their prospective career.

Student Spotlight: Vi Truong

Student Spotlight: Vi Truong

Vi Truong is a Biology major and Chemistry minor on the pre-med track from Columbia, South Carolina. She chose the College of Charleston for the affordability, the inclusive and diverse atmosphere, and the small campus community. She also likes the close proximity to MUSC and the research and internship opportunities for CofC students. Her interest in health and medicine has propelled her to become involved in an opportunity to study chemicals found in many products that are not regulated by the FDA.

During the Summer of 2020, Vi was accepted into a research program through the CofC Biology Department with her Microbiology professor, Dr. Matthew Rhodes, and has received a financial grant from the College for research and conducting labs. The program studies Obesegens, a chemical that the FDA does not regulate, but includes in many products. It can affect one’s gut health and may increase one’s chances of becoming obese. She obtained the position by networking at a mixer held by the School of Sciences and Mathematics. As such, Vi can testify to the role networking can play in finding opportunities. She says,

Build a relationship with your professor. Once you establish that connection and show your responsibility, it can take you far in your college career and it’s also good to have someone to write a letter of recommendation for the future.

After graduation, Vi plans to travel and learn more about global health and traditional medicine, then attend medical school. Although she is very driven in her studies, Vi recognizes the importance of being involved in activities outside of class.

Balance your work and make the most of your time at the College and extracurricular activities!

Just like Vi, your time at CofC can be maximized by networking, participating in opportunities that allow you to learn more about your field, and participating in fun extracurricular activities!


-Christina Ferrell, Peer Career Advisor