Having twice been the President of the University Career Services Committee, what is the biggest change you have seen among business students and the industry as a whole over the years?
On the theme of early recruiting, the investment banking industry used to be a laggard, but a year ago, interviews started happening in October. This year, the applications opened in March, and we are already doing “superdays” this summer for next summer, where early recruiting is just taking off.
The other thing is that with the consulting and investment banking industry, they are considered Ivy League career fields where they hire from East Coast-based schools. They recruit students who study subjects like Economics. But in the past few years, they’ve shown more openness to considering students from non-target schools.
In the past, our students had to work really hard and network like crazy because they didn’t come here to recruit regularly. However, firms are finding that our students know their stuff and excel in their chosen areas. They do phenomenal work on internships and secure positions later on. It’s not that there are more positions in the field, if anything, there are less, but it’s like they took a chance on students in non-target schools and they performed well ahead because of their finance and accounting training. Sure, the Ivy League Economics graduates must be really smart and can pick up things quickly, but our students are at an advantage because of their industry knowledge.
In terms of skill sets, the huge thing now is data analytics. At Fisher, we have data analytics minors, data analytics organizations students can join, and immersion program they can take part in. We are increasing the opportunities for majors to get more of the data analytics piece.
Even in sales, the industry is driven by data analytics.
All of our business students are exposed to analysis because they have to take a course in statistics, but the ask is going to keep growing because we have so much more access to data now and companies are looking to use data more effectively to drive decisions.
As an active member of the National Undergraduate Business Symposium, can you tell us a little about changes that we can anticipate to the world of business?
There are lots of conversations happening around job offers and the timeline of managing offers and we’re encouraging our students to talk to us about that.
Another thing that’s changing is the training on providing for neurodiverse students. There is an increasing number of students on the autism spectrum coming to us as more high schoolers are encouraged to go to college. We need to be sensitive to these issues and be well-informed on how to train them to disclose information to employers about the situation.
They should not be judged on the efficacy of their communications because many of them are brilliant people who can perform the job.
In the last two years, we’ve had about half a dozen students to work with, compared to none in the past. We’ve developed some university-wide programs to work with these students, but the biggest challenge we have is in communication skills. Everything about a job search can be discomforting, and it’s hard to get a job without an interview. On-campus interviews can sometimes take place in very small spaces that are very stressful. If they have a way to disclose their discomfort to the employers, they can receive accommodations to make them more comfortable, which is something they’ll need at the workplace too.
A lot of time, students are hesitant to disclose this personal piece of information, and when they do bring up what they need, it’s difficult to still maintain confidence. That’s where we need to work with them because they’re Fisher students too.
More companies today are recognizing the impact that these people can have on organizations, perhaps not in client-facing positions, but we’re seeing more chances in positions that we didn’t have before.
Another challenge is in serving the needs of our international student population. We had a huge increase about 10 years ago, with students mostly from China, because of work restrictions. The current administration has made it even harder and we have to change the way we help them understand their options and how to market themselves. We let them know what’s here, but also highlight where they can be more successful, which may not be here in the U.S. Our international population at the business college is about 15%. It was once as high as 27% but we’ve made a deliberate effort to achieve our current level.
What advice do you have for students — with regards to dreaming up a career, planning a career path, and working on their careers?
If you don’t know what you want to study, we have a person dedicated to Fisher students. The university has people to help you find out your interests and abilities. If you’re a veteran and you don’t know how to take your experience you had while actively deployed and turn it into a marketable skill, there are people here who can help you with that. If you know your major, but you have anxiety issues and the midterms and managing the job search is putting you over the edge, you have free counseling and support services. You don’t have to go through the journey in higher ed alone, but once you’re in the working world, all that goes away and you’ll have to pay for it.
Among the big services at our university is the active email campaign for freshmen and sophomores where they get targeted emails. Some emails to freshmen remind them to set career goals, work on their resume, have it critiques, or meet with a career coach. Many of the sophomores are trying to get internships so we send out tip sheets and we do surveys asking them how they got them, and giving them information on how to network effectively. Accounting students can do internships in the spring semester of their junior year, so the department makes sure they have all their classes taken the summer before, and our targeted emails help make sure they’re planning it all out.
All Junior students can also choose from seven to eight industry classes on top of their regular curriculum in the fall to get exposure as part of the industry immersion program. They hear from industry professionals, and learn how to present their resumes, how to talk about their experiences in an interview. They learn about all aspects of the industry and in the second semester of the program, students work on a project in teams for industry partners.
Your school has resources and honest-to-god, you will never be in a situation in your life again where you have as many resources. Take advantage of it.