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Poole Staff Spotlight: Meet Janet Rakes

By Caroline Barnhill

When Janet Rakes sees a problem, she can’t help but try to find a solution. It’s one of the reasons why Rakes, assistant director and career coach, is a valued member of Poole College of Management’s Career Center (Undergraduate Programs). This fall semester, with the help of Bev Porter and Megan Grubb, Rakes started a first-generation career support group and employer mentor program for undergraduate Poole students. 

“I was inspired to develop this program after reading Mary Haskett’s 2020 NC State Food & Housing Security Report. Due to food and housing insecurity, some students are forced to leave school, often in debt, with no degree or professional employment – pushing them and their families even further into financial difficulties. I wanted to help find a solution to this problem,” Rakes says.

She recognized that the college’s relationship with its employer-partners was a possible, untapped resource that has been given little attention in the quest to alleviate college student food and housing insecurity. And then she got to work…

Q&A with Janet Rakes

What is a project in your current role that you are particularly proud of? 

The first-generation career support group and mentor program. Employers have a great need for college-educated students and have funds to invest in the development of their human resources. In addition, I believe there are many employers who would like to assist struggling students who want to work for them. However, they are unsure of how to help.

This past summer, I obtained the names and email addresses of Poole’s undergraduate, first-generation students. I sent an email to all of these students describing the purpose and structure of the career development support and employer mentor program and invited them to meet with me each Wednesday from 8:15 – 9:00 a.m. during the fall semester. Each week, we cover a different career topic, such as resume & cover letter writing, interviewing, dining etiquette, and negotiating a job offer – as well as how to represent themselves to potential employer mentors.

Poole first-generation college students meeting their mentors.

During the summer of 2022, Bev Porter introduced me to Toshiba representatives interested in serving as my students’ mentors. I met with interested Toshiba employees via Zoom and explained the purpose of the mentor program, as well as some of the challenges that first-generation students face as they work their way through college and seek internships. On September 21, a group of Toshiba mentors volunteered to come to Poole. Students and mentors introduced themselves to each other and then paired off to arrange meeting times and locations. It is my hope that these mentorships will lead to well-paid internships and well-paid, full-time employment when students graduate. I want to continue expanding the mentor program to include a variety of employers and provide all undergraduate, first-generation students with an employer mentor in their career field of interest. Not only can career-related internships provide funds to support basic needs and reduce student debt, they can provide students with opportunities to explore career options and career-related experiences that impress recruiters. Through hands-on experience, internships can help students learn at a much deeper, more memorable level the material taught in the classroom, reduce the fear of attending college, and increase well-being and confidence.

What’s the most memorable Poole College event you have attended?

The most memorable Poole events I attend are our Poole College Career Fairs. I love seeing our students who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much presenting themselves to our employer partners looking so grown-up, polished and professional, ready to make a positive impact on our world.

Why do you love being a part of Poole?

Many people go into the field of education to make a difference in students’ lives and are often frustrated, discouraged and experience burnout due to lack of support. I love working at Poole because the college has provided me with the opportunity, support and resources necessary to make a real difference in the lives of thousands of students and has granted me the privilege of working with so many highly intelligent, creative and dedicated people.

Tell us more about your life outside of Poole College.

Janet with one of her grandsons.

One of the great joys of my life is assisting my daughter and son-in-law raise my two grandsons and helping my rescue dog, Honey, thrive in her new home.

My Poole colleagues might not know…

I have a new grand pup named Levon.