With new staff members and expanded services to meet the needs of more internship and job-seeking students, the School of Business’s Career Services is on the rise. Kerry Willigan, director of Career Services, calls the changes a welcomed “growth opportunity.”
In the last year, Career Services has grown to include three full-time staff members, and will be adding a full-time internship coordinator and part-time government contracting job developer. Kaleb Lewis serves as assistant director and Kimberly Blue as graduate career manager, working at both the Arlington and Fairfax campuses.
Blue helps graduate students market themselves and their graduate degree so they can take the next step in their career. “While not terribly different from undergraduates, there is a bit more personal branding and strategic networking that goes into a graduate level job search,” Willigan said.
In the fall 2016 semester with only two advisors on staff, the Career Services team served more than 1,000 students and alumni.
“That’s a growth opportunity for us because we’re seeing such an increase in the demand from students who want to do an internship for credit. We’ve tripled the number of students who have taken the internship class,” Willigan said, as internship credits now count as an elective for an undergraduate student’s major.
With the creation of Business Foundations courses, students are looking for internships earlier in their college careers. Business Foundations courses provide undergraduate students basic principles to excel in today’s business environment. They prepare students for their upper level courses and real-world experiences, like internships.
“Some employers are actually looking at freshmen and sophomores for internships, so we’re going to start seeing more of those students too,” Willigan said.
Along with more staff has come expanded programming, such as the Ask the Professionals panels, which have transformed over the last two years from a focus on career field to major. “We’ve seen that quadruple. Two years ago we had maybe 25 students showing up for an Ask the Professionals event. Now we have nearly 100 showing up for each event,” Willigan said.
If students are short on time, they can also drop-off their resumes to be critiqued and ready for pick up in 48 hours.
“Resume drop off is brand new, and it’s something that we’re seeing increased traffic on, which is great,” Lewis said. “They can then schedule an appointment if they want one-on-one feedback, or they can do a walk-in. It saves them time and turns a 30 minute appointment into 15 minutes, and they’re getting valuable feed back on their resumes.”
Senior management major Mark Ghaly took advantage of resume drop off. “This is a really convenient service. I am glad it was put into place, and I could drop off my resume before I graduate,” Ghaly said.
Students will also have the chance to attend new workshops each semester, covering everything from basic resume writing skills, to networking and career fair preparation. The Career Services team will also reach out to students at new student orientations over the summer.
“We’ll be meeting with all incoming first year and transfer students in the undergraduate program, as well as their families to help them learn about us. Sometimes parents can be our biggest advocates in getting their student to visit,” Lewis said.
Career Services also is open to all School of Business alumni. Yousef Chashi, a management major, graduated in December 2016. When he started his job search in January of this year, he met with Lewis to get help with his resume and cover letter. Chashi says he now feels confident in submitting his application materials.
“I felt welcome in Kaleb’s office, which allowed me to ask more questions. His comments and suggestions were logical and very helpful to improve my cover letter and resume. Kaleb was also willing to look at them after my revisions and gave me some suggestions,” Chashi said, recommending that more students visit Career Services at the beginning of their job search.
Bashar Abdu, a senior accounting major, also met with Lewis when he was having doubts on pursuing an accounting career. Abdu said he was afraid to be judged, but “when I met with Kaleb, all this fear was put aside, and he was even more encouraging and understanding than I thought he would be.”
Lewis encouraged Abdu to try different internships and helped update his resume. Abdu felt more confident handing out his resume at the Career Fair and was even invited to an interview after posting his resume on HireMason.
It’s these success stories that make Lewis look forward to the future of Career Services and finding more ways to help current students and alumni with their internship or job search.
“We all really care about our jobs. Our passion is helping other people find their passion. So working with students and helping them through the process, we want to know how things are going. Let me know how the interview went, let me know when you get the position, because I get joy out of them and their success.”
With the Office of Career Services in “full growth mode,” Willigan is setting her sights high for its future.
“With our student to advisor ratios being above industry standards, we need to add more career staff to assist our graduates, undergraduates, and alumni with their career development needs,” she said. “With that expansion in mind, we will outgrow our current office suite and will be looking to locate to a state of the art career development center, which would include interview rooms fully equipped with the technology necessary for students to conduct both in person and virtual interviews.”