How The Best Undergrad Programs Prep Students For The Job Market



“It’s good to start getting the language of leadership out there because it is one of the skills that employers look at,” Smeal’s Handley said. “We want to make sure students are doing a better job communicating this to employers.”

At Mays Business School, there used to be one career coordinator who was assigned to work with all of the undergraduate business students, whether upperclassmen or lowerclassmen. That is no longer the case, as the school decided a year-and-a-half ago to appoint a staff person specifically in charge of working with freshman and sophomore business students. Mays is now one of five undergraduate business schools in the country that has someone in career services assigned to work specifically with the younger students, Mays’ Thompson said. “That has become one of our competitive advantages, especially as employers are developing pipelines with students beginning as early as freshman year,” she said.

As a result, the school has been able to do much more targeted programming with that population. Every semester, Thompson goes into the school’s Business 101 class to give an introduction to career services. She also has developed a career fair prep workshop, a monthly meet up where students discuss different topics related to career services and recently spearheaded the school’s first “freshman exchange trip” to Dallas this year, where students got to visit AT&T’s headquarters. The school also organizes mock interviews with local professionals, as well as simulated networking events that help prepare students for career fairs.


The school’s focus on younger students has helped the school gain recognition from employers, Thompson said. “Employers are coming to the career fair and saying, ‘I just talked to freshmen and they were so prepared,’” she said. “For some of them, it is an eye-opening experience. It lets them know the career center is doing everything they can to prepare students and that is showing in employers’ interactions with them.”

The Marriott School at BYU does not admit undergraduates to the business school until their junior year, making it all the more pressing for career services to reach freshman and sophomores before they even set foot in the school, said Mike Roberts, an assistant dean at the Marriott School and director of the career center. The career services staff makes a concerted effort to reach out to business clubs on campus. They work with them to develop programming targeted towards lowerclassmen, such as resume development, networking and sponsoring corporate events.

“We are using our clubs as a way to do a lot of development before they get into the program, “ Roberts said. “We’re hoping that by sophomore year, they’ll have chosen one of these clubs and get really involved.” At the behest of the career services office, the Marriott School’s student government recently changed their charter, agreeing to sponsor more events that target prospective Marriott students., he said.


At the Smeal School, Handley and her staff also have realized that the student clubs are a valuable way to get their messages out to students, For the first time last year, the school’s 35 student business organization had to submit a strategic plan to career services that outlined how they plan to develop soft skills around leadership, strategic thinking and communications in their programming for students. This direct pipeline into the student groups’ plans for the year has allowed career services to be more proactive, whether it is offering leadership coaching to students in these clubs or connecting the students with companies recruiting on campus, Handley said.

One of the more unusual programs to be found in a career services office is housed at the Marriott School, which handpicks 35 students each year to serve as paid part-time recruitment managers for the employers who visit campus, Roberts said. Each student hired by the office is assigned to a recruiter at a company, and works closely with them to build a plan on how they will reach students that year, whether it is setting up information sessions, assisting them with career fair planning or getting openings posted on job boards, Roberts said. The student recruitment managers must go through an extensive training program before they start their jobs, and pay increases are tied to metrics like recruiter satisfaction, Roberts said. “It’s not just a job that the student gets paid for,” he said. “We are trying to make sure each company that comes here is satisfied with their effort,” he said.


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