Meet Terra: Advisor, Counselor, Coach, Mentor

Posted on April 01, 2021

Hi – I'm Terra Kerska, a Career Advisor with the Department of Labor and Regulation Sioux Falls Job Service. I have had the privilege of being in my position with the Career Launch program for three years.

As a Career Advisor, my days can vary greatly. One day I could be presenting Bring Your ‘A’ Game to a classroom of high school seniors, and the next I’m at a career camp with middle school students. That same week, I will likely be at a local business to discuss the Career Launch program and how we can partner together to help our youth. I never have the same day twice, so I always need to be versatile and flexible.

Another aspect of my job as a Career Advisor is to coordinate work-based learning experiences for students. I work with businesses to discuss hosting students for internships, job shadows, and informational interviews. This helps the student to get a real-world view of what the job could be like and how it could be a good career path for them.

I was asked what part of this job my favorite is – it's impossible to choose because there are so many aspects of my job that I love doing. First and foremost are the students. They have this amazing energy that lifts me whenever I am around them. They are so smart, and I have learned so much from them. I also love to see the look on their faces when they have an "ah-ha" moment and they have discovered something big.

I also like meeting new people and hearing about what is going on in our state. I get the opportunity to meet new people at schools, businesses, organizations, and conferences. I am amazed at what is happening every day and the growth our state is experiencing. It gets me so excited to help our youth.

A little more about my program, Career Launch. It is about helping South Dakota youth create a plan to be successful in whatever career they chose. We don’t push them in one direction or another. What we do is give them all the information and tools they need to make informed decisions. Then we assist them in turning goals into reality.

For example, if a student isn’t sure about what they would like to do, we have assessments we can give them to spark ideas. If a student knows what they want to do, but not sure how to get there, we show them ways to achieve it. If the student is completely prepared, has a plan, and has started executing it, we can help them with interviewing skills, writing a professional resume, and so much more.

Career Launch and our local job service office offer an invaluable service to our community. We don't just help the youth; we also help the schools with career development for our students. We help businesses build their workforce and their brand. I, and my counterparts across the state, have an impact on the entire state’s youth and workforce. How amazing is that!

I once had a student who was struggling with what she wanted to do. She was graduating soon and had heard good things about the internship program, so she came to me to help her decide what type of internship she could pursue. I met with her before class had started to get to know her and get more details from her. She felt strongly that she wanted to work as a vet tech. I know this can be a very difficult position for some people, especially those who are very caring toward animals. When I spoke to her about what a vet tech does, I knew immediately this was not the job for her. She and I spent two weeks trying to figure out what she could do for her internship. By this point, she was very frustrated and angry with me, and being in the middle of a pandemic didn’t help matters. I worried about how she was going to do at the internship site if she agreed to take the job.

After many questions and meetings together, we finally decided to put her working with children. She wasn’t 100% happy about it but said she would give it a try.

This placement turned out to be so successful for her. The staff and kids loved her so much they offered her a permanent position. Every time I saw her after that she was all smiling. The day she graduated high school, she gave me a big hug and thanked me for helping her.

Every student should be a part of this program. There are so many things we can do to help them be successful in a job and life. Even something as little as teaching them to do a proper handshake or as big as planning out the next five years, we can help.

The best part is students do not need to apply or qualify for this program. We just ask that they be brave enough to come to talk to us. We offer support, someone to be their cheerleader and mentor. Our only expectation is for the student to stay with us, be honest, be trustworthy, and be committed.

Even if a student has everything figured out – or so they think – we can still provide support such as perfecting a resume or honing their interviewing skills. Some students need help with their soft skills such as how to answer a phone properly, speak to customers, or some software basics. Others need more intense one-on-one assistance. The beauty is we address the needs of the students and offer them support in their journeys.

Visit the Career Launch SD website today and see how far your dreams can take you.