Advice for First Years From The Class of 2013

Katz Students at Orientation

Katz Students at Orientation

Summer is Career Development Time for First Years

Back in the good ole’ days – say, a decade ago – summer was considered the time to relax and travel for prospective MBAs. The pace and workload would ramp up soon enough, they reasoned. Before taking the big plunge, they needed that break between work and school, to figure things out and work through the details.

In reality, summer is still a time for first-years to find themselves. The difference, however, is that this process is now being driven by schools – and it has grown very formalized.

That was the message from a recent article in U.S. News and World Report, which profiled the summer MBA orientation programs at the universities of Maryland, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh. And this process starts long before orientation.

At the University of Pittsburgh, for example, students take CareerLeader, an online career assessment tool that connects interests with skills and motivators weeks before orientation. At the same time, they formulate a 30-60 second elevator pitch, and meet with a career advisor to beef up their resumes.  University of Tennessee enrollees also complete CareerLeader, along with being assigned a student-peer coach.

While students may be shocked by the summer emphasis on careers over curriculum, there‘s definitely a method behind it. “It’s really important for us to get a head start in the summer with them discovering who they are and what they’re goals are,” says Molly Kinard, director of MBA career management and alumni relations at the University of Tennessee. That’s particularly true as MBA recruiting starts in earnest when students arrive on campus. “The companies are beginning to interview and hire earlier and earlier in the cycle” says Melissa Shapiro, the director for the Career Management and Academic Advising Center at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business.

First impressions and fast starts are critical to building relationships and landing internships. That’s why orientation is starting earlier and focusing heavily on personal dress, networking, job hunting, and interpersonal communication.

This emphasis on careers was an eye-opener for students like Tommy Malone, who is starting at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business. “I didn’t really understand how much time I was going to be putting into career development, and job searching and stuff like that,” he tells U.S. News. “I didn’t like it at first, but now that I understand how important it is I actually do appreciate it. As long as you follow the process and the goals that are set for you, you’re not going to be that person who is six months from graduating and has no idea what they’re going to do.”

This early focus on wooing employers also helps schools, who are often evaluated on placement rates and starting salaries, two rubrics that can be boosted by career savvy graduates. And administrators are very transparent about this incentive. In fact, Jeffrey Kudisch, the assistant dean of corporate relations and managing director of Smith’s Office of Career Services, makes this quid pro quo a centerpiece in his pitch to first years at orientation. “We are partners,” he tells students. “We’re all in this together.”

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Source: U.S. News and World Report

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