GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT THROUGH CLUBS
Another contact point for the Career Management team is the club ecosystem, with professional, regional, and affinity clubs being the biggest targets. Each of these clubs has a liaison assigned, who can work with members on education and recruiting-related activities.
“One of the great things about Wharton is that there are a ton of opportunities for student leadership,” Hopping says. “The clubs are run by students, but we talk about ourselves as advisors and partners to their process and there are varying degrees to how much they tap into that. So we work with them sometimes on conference planning and ideas, career trek visit planning, and suggestions for companies to consider.”
Not only does the center provide advisory support to clubs, but they also supply them with company intel. “For example, we’ll get on the phone with a ton of companies and gather market info and want to pass that meaty intel onto the students,” Hopping adds. “The clubs can be a great channel for that, so sometimes we’ll create repositories of information or a deck for them with all the alumni insights we uncovered in the conversations over the last few months with these companies.”
WORKING CLOSELY WITH FACULTY
At Texas McCombs, this has carried over to faculty too. Over the past three years, Janet Huang has worked to build close partnerships with key faculty in operations, marketing, finance, management, and other departments. For example, Huang works closely with Lamar Johnson, executive director of the school’s Center for Customer Insight and Marketing Strategy. Johnson’s team brings the best of both worlds: they have built an impressive list of partners in his ecosystem and understand the needs of McCombs students. As a result, the Center acts as an extension of the career services team, who ultimately turn the center’s information over to students.
This approach benefits both parties. “I meet with faculty regularly to show them what our career management framework is and what we’re seeing in the marketplace,” Huang explains. “We share with them feedback we get from employers of what our students can improve upon so they can touch upon those topics in the classroom. Neither faculty nor career management alone can prepare the students for the marketplace. It is the entire experience.”
Huang herself embraces the mantra that a happy customer produces a happy business. For her, students are the customers, which is why her team strives to create a “personalized and customized experience” – one based on understanding their day-to-day experience and embracing their ideas.
USING EVERY RESOURCE AVAILABLE
“The students are core to what we do,” she asserts. “We are very open to feedback with them. If you think about their experiences with us, they come in and see us on day one in orientation. We get to lay eyes on every student in the program and they are required to complete our course. We have a point person on my team with every student organization who works closely with them on treks to places like Silicon Valley or Seattle to meet with the various companies. We also partner with them on any new initiatives that they are working on such as bringing startups on campus. For example, we partner with the Entrepreneurship Society on creating their Tech Night, where different companies come and mix-and-mingle with our students.”
One-on-one coaching is the bread-and-butter of any career center. McCombs maintains an open-door policy, where students can walk in whenever they have a need. Their services range from tinkering with resumes to conducting mock interviews and coffee chats. At the same time, the staff is heavily involved in career planning. “Our role is to ensure that they have the right plan in place to hold them accountable for implementing the plan,” Huang says. “If things don’t work out, how do they pivot?”
The center also meets weekly with student leaders in the Graduate Business Council, along with organizing nearly 40 2nd-year peer advisors who support first-years with interviewing. Alumni are another resource at the center’s disposal. During orientation, first-years spend a day with alumni panels from seven different industries and functions. Throughout the year, alumni return for information sessions and panels. Along the same lines, the center calls on industry experts and alumni alike to provide individual coaching and special workshops on campus.
STAYING ON TOP OF THE STUDENTS
These various touchpoints give the career center a good pulse for what is happening on campus…and beyond. “We actually know the status and progress of every single student every year,” Huang emphasizes. “The team makes it a priority that if we haven’t seen a student in a while, we will do proactive outreach to bring them in to ensure they are on track. If they are, we continue to ensure they execute and stay motivated in terms of executing their plan. If not, we revisit what might be the best plan for them going forward. It is a priority for us to know how the student is doing.”
How do career centers ultimately measure their success? There are plenty of metrics, such as center visits, starting salary, and base pay that reflect well on their work. For Huang, one of the most telling signs is what employers tell her about students they hired.
“There was a partner who spoke up at a session I was at,” Huang recalls. “She was very passionate about this. She said McCombs students had the experiential learning and the grit to put things into practice and figure out solutions from day one. They were problem-solvers and resilient. Best of all, they curry such a family feel around them.”
WATCHING A PERSON’S STORY PLAY OUT IS THE BIG REWARD
At Wharton, Michelle Hopping takes pride in building and deepening relationships with companies, particularly when she can build “market share” and add Wharton MBAs to new divisions, locations, and functions in a company. That goes double for the enterprise side, which often doesn’t recruit at Wharton or understand the true value of MBAs. In this segment, Hopping’s satisfaction is the result of a series of small victories steeped in scrappy creativity.
“If we go after a tech firm – pre IPO – we might get them to agree to host a trek visit,” Hopping explains. “The next year, they’ll agree to look at resumes from our resume book. Year three: After two years of cultivation, they’ll post a position on our job board. Fast forward a few years, now they’re hiring multiple interns from Wharton We take a long-term view on this relationship cultivation.”
However, Hopping’s biggest satisfaction comes from helping students find their path as much as a job.
“Many times, we’ll see a person who is planning a major career change. They know they’re facing an uphill battle in pursuing an industry that may not be historically open to career changers. So we’ll walk through that process with the student: coach them about how to talk about themselves; hustle to get to the people who make decisions in that space; and stay on top of everything and follow up so they really stand out. That’s the kind of story I would point to…working alongside them and giving them a high five at graduation just knowing the story behind that person. There are tons of stories about students who need to pivot mid-stream, pick themselves up, and demonstrate resilience by going to Plan B or Plan C. To see them succeed is really rewarding.”
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