Eastern Kentucky University SWA: Rachel Park – Her Journey & Interview Tips from the Other Side of the Table

Contributing Writer: Mercer University’s Assistant Director of The Mercer Athletic Foundation, Allie Ware (@allieware22)

Rachel Park’s journey to becoming a Senior Women’s Administrator (SWA) is one that she didn’t expect. Rachel graduated from Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in 2006 with a degree in communications. After graduating, she attended the University of Louisville to obtain her Masters in Sports Administration while simultaneously working as an assistant in the Sports Information office. Wanting to follow in her father Karl’s footsteps, who served as the Sports Information Director at EKU for more than 35 years, she accepted her first full-time job as Assistant Director of Athletics Public Relations at the University of Richmond (UR). Rachel was the primary sports contact for women’s basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and tennis.

Rachel thrived in sports information and everyone noticed. Coaches and players loved having her cover their program. Becca Wann-Taylor, one of the most decorated UR athletes of all time, was a two-sport athlete who played basketball and soccer. Rachel covered all of Becca’s success including when she won a gold medal playing with the Women’s National Team at the 2012 FIFA U20 World Cup. Becca talks about what it was like to work so closely with Rachel by saying,

“Rachel was hands-down one of my favorite people on campus at Richmond. Yes, she covered both women’s basketball and soccer very well, but more importantly she became a great friend. She is so down to earth and I found myself in her office just hanging out with her at least once per week. I graduated 4 years ago and we still keep in touch frequently. She had (and still has) an impact on my life far beyond any article or media coverage during my time at UR.”

Head women’s lacrosse coach Allison Evans Kwolek was one of many coaches who loved having Rachel cover her program. Allison said,

“Rachel did a great job covering women’s lacrosse while at Richmond. From post-game recaps to creating content for our social media accounts, she always delivered excellence in her work and publicized our program in an exceptional way.”

After more than four years at UR, Rachel felt it was time for a change. She wasn’t sure what that change would bring, but she felt called to try something outside of the sports information office. It wasn’t soon after that she got a call from her alma mater, EKU, where she was asked to consider joining their athletic staff as the Director of Marketing. Rachel had no full-time work in marketing, but she knew it was a great opportunity to be closer to her family and a way to diversify her resume. She accepted the offer knowing she was going to have a learning curve, but she embraced the challenge. Rachel was at EKU for four years when the SWA positioned opened. She knew she was ready to make the move to an administrative role and immediately went to the Director of Athletics to inform him that she was very interested in the position. On June 30, 2017 she was named the SWA at EKU. Rachel still holds her title as Director of Marketing and loves having the ability to continue to work on both ends of the athletic department.

Now having two titles, Rachel knows that she has to manage her time efficiently. As issues arise with different teams, coaches and student-athletes, she has to trust her instincts and learn on the go to problem solve. Working directly with coaches through her previous role in sports information, she is experienced with maintaining positive relationships and communicating efficiently. For example, Rachel would prefer to hear about a problem or situation first-hand from a coach then finding out from a student-athlete, social media or any other source. She believes, “As long as the administrator is in the know from the very beginning, the chances of a reasonable solution is much higher.” Rachel encourages those looking to have a career in collegiate athletics to surround themselves with good people. And by good people, she means, people that push you professionally and personally and who will tell you the honest answer even when you don’t want to hear it. Rachel also believes in surrounding herself with people who have different viewpoints because it helps grow her humility and forces her to think in different ways. Rachel credits her role at Richmond for properly preparing her to be where she is in her career.

While she isn’t sure what the next step might be in her career, Rachel is focusing on being the best possible SWA and marketing professional she can be and believes true growth happens when you hone specific skills in your area. Rachel resides in Lexington, Kentucky. Her father Karl now works in a part-time role as the Executive Director of the EKU Athletics Hall of Fame and the Coordinator of the Worn Cleat Club.

Q and A with Rachel Park on the Job Search Process:

What is conventional job search advice that you disagree with in this business?

          Apply to as many jobs as possible. I think options are fine, but by being selective and choosing to apply to jobs you’re truly passionate about will pay dividends down the road and give a clear vision as to what the optimal professional path might be. Be authentic within the cover letter and resume submission. Employers will take notice.

Biggest mistakes you see from the interviewers perspective? 

          Rushing the questions and saturating the candidate with too much information in the beginning. The interview process is overwhelming, and by taking the process one step at a time with the prospective candidate builds trust for the position.

Questions you like to ask during the interview and why?/ What do you specifically looks for in a candidate and why?

           I really do enjoy the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question. I think the answer to that very simple opening can reveal a lot. Yes, all employers want to hire the best. At the end of the day, for me, it’s all about the personality and fit within the company that truly sets a part a candidate. Skills can be learned. The fit within the company either happens or it doesn’t.

           Things I look for in a candidate: Personality, drive, character and passion for the industry. I don’t necessary lean towards someone with background knowledge in the industry if their personality won’t be a fit within our company. As I stated before, we can always teach someone new skills. The drive and personality are qualities that are innate to an individual. Those two areas supersede anything else.

Follow Rachel Park on Twitter: @rachelpark1

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