A Wealth of Career Choices and Advice


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 8, 2009) - As the University of Kentucky welcomes another outstanding class of incoming first-year students, it's a good time to pause and reflect on what the college experience should be all about, and where it can help to lead an individual on a career and life path.


At one time or another, most of us have wondered to ourselves, "Do you think I could be good at that?" Sometimes we act on the thought and quickly find out that "No, I'm not very good at that." However, sometimes the answer turns out to be yes. In the case of University of Kentucky Gatton College of Business and Economics Associate Professor of Marketing David Hardesty, the answer to his question turned out to be a resounding "Yes!"

Hardesty was an undergraduate student double-majoring in mathematics and economics at Salisbury State University in Maryland when he approached one of his math professors, Lee May, about leading the class through one of the upcoming week's lessons.  That was nearly two decades ago, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

"Teaching just came naturally to me," said Hardesty in a recent interview. "I receive great joy in sharing knowledge and interacting with students."

We will get back to this energetic UK faculty member in a moment.

Francene Gilmer joined the UK family this spring as assistant provost for career education and director of the James Stuckert Career Center on campus.

"An important part of our mission is to help students understand what their goals and choices might be," said Gilmer. "Often, students begin college feeling pretty certain about what field they want to major in or what job they would like to pursue after graduation, and they wind up doing something totally different with their lives."

Gilmer encourages students to use their first semester on campus to get a feel for college life, nurture good study habits, and get settled in. As the spring semester unfolds, students should begin to think about how they could utilize their summers to best advantage.

"Basically, a student has three summers in which to build a portfolio of experience, to sample what different companies, organizations, and industries are about," said Gilmer. "It's perfectly OK if you do an internship after your freshman year and discover that business or occupation is not for you.  In fact, that can be a real plus in helping you to find out just what it is you would like to pursue."

For those students who may have trouble determining where their abilities and career potentials may lie, the Stuckert Career Center offers interest inventories, counseling, and other guidance. By taking advantage of these services early in their undergraduate careers, students can get a better idea of just what it is they want to study, and avoid deciding to switch their major during their junior or senior year because they realize a particular field is not for them.

"Shadowing someone who already is in a particular career is a great tool for discovery," said Gilmer. "And it does not have to be for six months or a year. Sometimes even two or three weeks can be a real eye opener for someone, either pro or con."

At various stages of development, self-exploration, careers investigation, decision-making, and seeking opportunities are components of the career planning process. A career planning guide detailing these steps is available at the Stuckert Career Center.

Gilmer added, "A successful and well-rounded college experience should help to develop the total person and prepare that individual to better market their skills in the workplace, toward pursuing a graduate degree, or whatever the choice may be."

Parents can play an integral role in the college student development process from afar by asking career-related questions, emphasizing internships, encouraging extracurricular involvement, and allowing students to explore beyond the norm.

Now, back to David Hardesty, the associate professor at UK's Gatton College, who really had no idea that his path would lead him to the university faculty position which he absolutely loves.

"I was lucky to have two amazing mentors at the University of South Carolina, where I pursued my graduate degrees," said Hardesty. "Professor Don Edwards, my master’s thesis adviser, and Professor Bill Bearden, my dissertation chair, saw my enthusiasm for teaching and research and encouraged me to pursue an academic career."

Hardesty was aware of the strong reputation in behavioral research enjoyed by the Gatton College School of Management's Marketing Area, and when a faculty position came open, he pursued it successfully, joining UK in 2005.

Lead author or co-author of several articles in the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Retailing, and other nationally and internationally respected publications, Hardesty recently received honorable mention for the 2009 Davidson Award for the best paper in the Journal of Retailing.  This is just the latest example of several honors his publications have earned.

His teaching includes master's level classes in Gatton's immersive 11-month MBA program, Gatton’s Night MBA program, and a doctoral seminar in consumer behavior. Hardesty serves as director of graduate studies, is director of the Von Allmen Behavioral Research Lab, and still finds time to serve on several college and university advisory committees. If that is not enough, he currently is leading MAPLE, an acronym for the Marketing Area Program for Learning and Enhancement, which provides an extra opportunity for doctoral students in marketing to gain exposure to what it takes to be a successful marketing academic. 

David Hardesty thought he could be good at being a college professor. Turns out he was right.