The overarching goal of the Carlson School career centers is not to help students find a job. It’s to help them find work they love. “What really provides meaning for all of our staff is when we see students land their dream jobs and walk out of our offices so incredibly proud of themselves and excited to launch their careers,” says Graduate Business Career Center (GBCC) Director Maggie Tomas.
“Students are the center of everything we do,” says Mark Sorenson-Wagner, the director of the Undergraduate Business Career Center (UBCC). “Our students have diverse interests, skills, and values, and our programs and events are geared toward assisting students in connecting with pieces of themselves and using that information to make good career-related decisions.”
Gone are the days when career centers were akin to a mere bulletin board. “When I started working in career services, we literally posted jobs on a wall and students sent their application materials by mail,” Sorenson-Wagner says. “Most saw the career center as a place for seniors to go their last semester before graduating to look for jobs.”
Now, career-related conversations are weaved into students’ time at the Carlson School during orientation before their first semester—sometimes even earlier. “The career center does an amazing job of connecting with students even before they join the school,” says Priyanka Nadgiri, a current second-year Full-Time MBA student who has lined up an assistant marketing manager position at Ecolab after graduation. “Such early connections help build confidence. From day one, the career centers are involved in making students understand how businesses work and the potential of their career path. They ensure that each candidate is successful in their career journey and provide personalized attention to each individual.”
Meeting with students early is also beneficial for the centers themselves. “Having good, early rapport with our students also puts us in a place where students are open to sharing ideas for programming or events with us,” Tomas says. “Much of our newer programming comes from students. We have a ‘yes, why not’ mentality—an openness to try new things—and that encourages students to provide suggestions.” She says in the six years she has been at the Carlson School, she cannot remember a time a student made a case for the need of a new offering that the centers did not subsequently add to their services.
“Some students feel most served through coaching, others love the company engagement aspect, so company info sessions and networking events are most beneficial,” Tomas says. Other students get a lot out of treks to national cities where they explore another location and learn from alumni who left the Twin Cities to start a career elsewhere. “If I had to choose one thing that sets us apart and really prepares students, it would be the level of coaching provided,” she says. “We are well-staffed and we know each of our students, so we can provide incredibly personalized service to help our students stay on top of their job search.”
“The career center has so many resources that the list could go on and on, from mock interviews to a rack for you to keep your suit,” says Akansha Ashokan, a senior studying management information systems with a minor in Spanish and business law. “They have everything and anything students need to succeed, and they will give you their all to ensure your success.”
Among meeting with the centers’ career coaches and attending career fairs, Ashokan was particularly taken with information sessions set up with companies. “They are a great way to hear about a company and meet some of the employees in a low-stakes environment,” she says. “Attending an information session makes it easier to talk to those companies at the career fair, and the fair is the perfect place to see all the companies recruiting at Carlson.”
Nadgiri concurs. “On-campus recruitment eases the entire interviewing process,” she says, adding that it helps lower the anxiety of getting selected amongst hundreds of applicants or having multiple interviews at multiple locations. “I was fortunate to seek an internship, which I eventually converted to a job offer, in a company of my choice through on-campus recruitment. It was the best starting point I could ever have in my career journey.”
While the career centers work closely with their employer partners to highlight the value Carlson School graduates bring to the workplace, they also want to make sure the companies have a great experience by meeting their need to identify and hire talent. “The only way for this to be mutually beneficial is to provide high-quality services and build meaningful relationships that go beyond mere transactions,” Sorenson-Wagner says. “The voice of our employer partners are incredibly important to how we design our work.”
Recruiting is changing, and without those voices, the career centers would not be able to prepare students appropriately and at the right times. “We are able to use employer feedback to help inform not only the career center, but other areas of the Carlson School,” he says. As an example, when company partners suggested new graduates needed more training in Microsoft Excel, the undergraduate program created BA1001—Introduction to Analyzing Business Problems using Excel.
For alumni, there is another benefit the career centers provide that is sometimes overlooked. “Lifetime support!” Tomas says. “Three years ago, we changed our policy to allow alumni to have unlimited coaching services. This has doubled the number of annual alumni appointments. We also serve our alumni through events such as The Way We Work Series, Drinks and Development, and our Job Search Workshops.”
This past year, the career centers have started holding alumni socials at some of their national companies that have a growing number of Carlson alumni. “We bring the group together along with the recruiting team to learn how to better engage with the company for current students and to build further alumni engagement outside of the Twin Cities,” Tomas says.
However the career centers are helping students, it is working. They consistently reach 95 percent and above in job placements every year. “We strive to show students the possibilities their degree provides them, prepare them for their chosen job search, and work with them through that entire process,” Tomas says. “For employers, we hope to spread the word on the quality of our talent and the drive our students have.”
At the undergraduate level, a lot of the work is assisting students with uncovering the values important to them in a career or workplace. “When students understand this about themselves, we can work with them to find companies, industries, or job functions that best align with their passion as well as ways to explore these connections during job and internship processes,” Sorenson-Wagner says.
For Ashokan, who will be working at Deloitte Consulting after graduation, the career centers helped in this way. “The career coaches invested themselves in my offer decisions by giving me advice on how to evaluate them and making sure I’m thinking through what’s best for me not only professionally, but also personally,” she says. “I don’t think many other places would view each student as more than just a student and care for each one as an individual and as a person.”
This feature originally appeared in the Spring 2018 Carlson School Alumni Magazine.