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I want to work in Environmental Consulting

earthEmily Gallagher, a freelance writer, compiled the following information for PM Environmental, an environmental engineering firm. The original post can be found on the PM Environmental website.  Emiliee has given me permission to reprint it here.

PM Environmental discovered that many students express interest in environmental consulting careers, but that there wasn’t much practical information available about what a career in this environmental consulting looks like. With that in mind, Emiliee asked some successful environmental consulting professionals about their thoughts on career paths, advice on classes, starting positions and much more.   Their responses are below.

If a student were looking to get into environmental consulting, what courses should they focus on and what skills should will be most valuable in the industry and most important in helping them succeed?

It depends what type of consulting they are interested in. The environmental sector is really broad, and is probably going to continue to spread into different areas in the future. Clean Tech, Supply Chain, Environmental/Green Design, Sustainable Business Practices, etc. all have different areas of expertise; but, in general I would say focus on the hard skills (math, science, design, engineering, environmental economics, etc.) that pertain to your area of interest. These are more marketable, are likely going to pay more, and are more difficult to learn/master once you are out of a college environment.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Students looking to enter the environmental consulting industry should do their research and determine what aspect of environmental consulting they are interested in making a career.  If environmental due diligence (i.e. Phase I ESA, Phase II ESA, etc.) is the area  students wish to get into, students should focus on environmental policy, environmental chemistry, geology/hydrology, and writing courses. Most courses are not going to cover the basics of writing a Phase I or Phase II ESA, however, if you have a good background in the policy and science involved, you will stand out as an applicant and consultant. 

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

The environmental due diligence consulting that we do at AEI is primarily related to helping people evaluate property for the presence of contamination – it’s a bit like environmental detective work.  Environmental history plays a role in understanding how land use can affect property with legacy issues.  Geology and hydrogeology are important in regards to subsurface sampling and remediation of soil, soil vapor and groundwater.  GIS and geography can help with the presentation of the information that we gather.  One of the most important skills in environmental consulting, in my view, is the ability to take complex information and present it in a well-written, easily understandable format for the layperson.  Conducting research and preparing written findings of your research is one of the most important skills you gain during your studies.

 Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

There are many branches of environmental engineering. Examples include water (potable) and wastewater plant construction, operations and management, infrastructure impact planning, mining operation amelioration, energy conservation, etc. Other aspects include helping governments in the US and overseas develop environmental legislation and regulations for industrial, commercial and residential polluters or those industries that specialize in pollution cleanup.

In addition to technical courses, students should take a foreign language, economics, accounting or finance, political science/government, sociology and writing because consultants are required to be conversant with a range of issues and comfortable communicating with diverse groups of stakeholders.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Earth science, biology, chemistry, and public policy. Learn to write an intelligible report, unlike what engineers tend to crank out. Read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White, or some other such manual.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

LEED AP – then work on energy modeling and audits that show how to pay for improvements.

Chuck Lohre
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

If there were such a thing as a “typical career path,” what would it look like?

Internship, associate, manager, director….I’d say that the corporate ladder in the environmental sector is much the same as anywhere else. Which sector you are working in will dictate a bit of how that path looks, and many people in the environmental field cross sectors throughout their career.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

A typical career path starts out with an internship or entry level consultant.  The next step depends on the specific type of consulting and the company you are working for.  You may transition to a project manager and find that is best for you, or you may have management opportunities and find that is the career path for you.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

In the environmental due diligence field, people generally start out assisting with field work or research under the guidance of a Project Manager.  They then grow into a Project Manager role where they are responsible for all aspects of the project.  Over time, they can progress towards more senior roles such as managing teams of Project Managers and providing technical expertise and working with clients directly.

Holly Neber
President and a principal at AEI Consultants

In an entry level position, what types of tasks and responsibilities should a student expect to take on?

Sector (public, private, or nonprofit) and business size (large, medium, small) will play a large role in terms of what types of tasks and responsibilities an entry level employee will be faced with. In general, larger agencies tend to have more structured roles, opportunities, and larger budgets. Smaller companies and nonprofits tend to have more diverse needs, less structure, and less disposable income. Both of these can have pros and cons, depending on what your goals and needs are. I would say that after looking at sector and business size, the next variable is your manager or managing team. These people, and their working styles, will usually play a big role in terms of what responsibilities will be delegated to you and/or how open your managing team is to you taking initiative as a new hire.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Entry level tasks will focus on learning and building on various aspects of the area of consulting you have chosen.  The training period can vary, and within our company the first year is considered your training period. You will help with research, site visits, information gathering, report writing and preparation, and client communications. All of these will build on each other and as you become more skilled, the projects you are working on will increase in difficulty. As an entry level employee, you should take this time to ask questions and absorb as much information as you can from senior staff members because you will be able to apply all of that information to future projects.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Connsultant, PM Environmental

Example tasks would be conducting site research at local agencies or conducting soil or groundwater sampling at the site.

Holly Neber
President and aPprincipal at AEI Consultants

Most beginning engineers are assigned to a mixture of duties and projects that will teach them the basics of the industry in which they have chosen to work. They will hone their skills as mining engineers, dam designers, energy auditors, etc. They also may be asked to take some accounting or finance courses if they have not done so as undergraduates to prepare them for preparing budgets or capital justifications. They may be asked to go into the field to conduct environmental assessments. In most cases, the work, while interesting, is not glamorous. They may spend several years as part of a team conducting a survey of the water and geological resources in a site scheduled for development.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Grunt work, carrying gear around, helping more senior staff finish reports.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

What kinds of varying positions / jobs / experiences should a new hire seek out to become well-rounded as an environmental consultant and make them marketable in the industry?

In environmental work, I would say seek out projects/jobs/roles that allow you to flex some of those skills (math, science, design, engineering, sales, networking, legal work, etc)–especially skills that you can quantify and talk about in a resume. Project management, which many young environmental professionals do, can be a bit vague. It can be a hard sell. You should learn to back that up with either technical skills (that you can demonstrate you have used at work) or soft skills (Are you a good networker? Do you write really professional emails? Can people refer you to others?). Word of mouth, and having a great network, are really important in the professional world. Of course, in order for your network to work for you, you also have to be good at what you do.

If you want to work abroad, you should definitely spend several months in that area–either as a volunteer or in a paid capacity. If you want to work in or with a country that speaks a foreign language, you should also speak that language.

Working in different sectors–maybe even all of them–would also be great. Unlike other industries, environmental issues cross all three sectors. Having experience working at a non-profit, government agency, and for-profit will give you insider knowledge about culture and operations of each of these types of businesses. It can also be very attractive on your resume, depending on what a particular job is looking for.

For me, when considering potential hires for entry level positions at a social venture start-up, these two main things have popped up as “issues”: (1) This person does not have the hard skills and/or experience we need for this specific project and (2) This person does not have the soft skills we need for someone to be a part of our team (they are a bit awkward, don’t feel comfortable networking, their emails are a bit odd and unprofessional sounding). These soft skills will not be taught in school, you kind of have to learn by doing… and the earlier you start, the better.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Internships are valuable experiences and stand out on a resume and application. If you know your career path early in your college career, you should seek out internships with similar skills. As we all know, you do not necessarily know what your career path will be until your last year in college or even after you graduate. However, internships are still very important and will provide you with valuable skills that you will be able to apply to a future career. If you are unsure of your future path in the environmental industry, seek out a range of internships that include field work, data collection, report writing, etc. Any of these can be applied to an environmental consulting career.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

Conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessment research is a good place to start because you get exposed to the regulatory oversight agencies and reviewing the other phases of work that often occur (Phase II investigations and remediation projects).   However, it is a mistake to think of a Phase I position as an entry-level job.  Phase I ESAs can be very complex, depending on the type of site you are evaluating.  If you can work under the guidance of a top notch Phase I Project Manager, you will gain a great skill set and a well-rounded view of the overall industry.   Joining a Subsurface Investigation department as an entry level person can also be helpful in terms of understanding typical contaminants and how they behave in the subsurface of a property.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

Study federal and state regulations and local industrial history.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

What differences are there between working for a large (national or international) environmental consulting firm compared to a smaller, regional one?

For starters: bureaucracy. Larger companies have much bigger food chains, and rely more heavily on bureaucratic processes to get things done. Smaller companies have more of an opportunity for a more democratic or “flat” hierarchical structure–but that is not necessarily always the case.

Second, opportunities and/or requirements for travel and professional development will likely vary between the two.

Third, benefits–and that could go in either direction. Environmental companies tend to be a bit more socially-minded and often offer great “quality-of-life” benefits, but that is really dependent on company culture.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Smaller firms typically allow their staff to “wear more hats” which allows for more variation in your job responsibilities.  If you join a growing smaller firm, there is often more opportunity to advance to levels of more responsibility quickly.  A larger firm may offer more opportunity to work on extremely large or complex remediation jobs or the ability to work internationally.

Holly Neber
President and Principal at AEI Consultants

Larger international or national environmental consulting firms, or the environmental divisions of a large construction or international development firm may work on larger projects in more locations. Smaller firms tend to work locally or partner as subcontractors to larger firms for a piece of a large contract, foreign or domestic. The contract manager usually comes from the larger firm. I am an international consultant who has been a project manager as well as a subcontractor to large multinational corporations.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Large tends to be more for big or quick spill cleanups under EPA oversight; small tends to be more geared towards local conditions such as endangered species, watershed issues, etc.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

If you had one piece of advice for a student looking to get into a career in environmental consulting, what would it be?

Develop your professional skill-set as quickly as possible. Get networking. Everyone hates it, but there is no substitute for it.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Do your research. Self evaluate your skills and match those with an aspect of environmental consulting that is consistent with those skills.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

When you get your first job, be a hard worker.  Show your company’s management that you are up to any challenge.   Opportunities will open up to you from there.   Internships are also great.  We’ve hired a few people that originally worked for us as interns.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

Technical advice: Water – access to clean water and the reuse of process water and waste water- is the single most important issue affecting the world today. Life does not exist without water.

Personal advice: Learn to write well and to be comfortable speaking with people of different backgrounds.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Get a job with a government agency first for the experience. Stay there if you can.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental 

Based on your experience, what are the most surprising or unexpected elements about working in environmental consulting?

In general, it’s less about what I learned in school, and more about how well you do the job. But, I always love how often I get to use economic principles in my job and use project design skills from school when analyzing impact.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

The most surprising aspect of environmental due diligence is the standardization of the process. Although every state has their own regulations, I have had experience completing Phase I ESA reports throughout the eastern and southeastern United States because of the standardized process.

The most unexpected element is the number of industries you will encounter and the manufacturing processes you will have an opportunity to observe.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

Every state has a unique regulatory environment so working in Michigan can be quite different from working in Illinois, even on the same type of project.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

The most surprising aspect of environmental consulting is the extent to which projects are subject to politics, both in the US and abroad.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Congress yanking funds from programs.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

Not wanting to study to pass the LEED AP exam and then go on to work on projects.

Chuck Lohre
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Essentially being my own boss and being really creative and strategic about solving social and environmental problems.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

The most rewarding aspect of my career is the ability to be a resource for our clients.  We have clients that are just as knowledgeable as we are, and we have clients that have never even heard of environmental due diligence. I am able to provide valuable information to clients on both ends of the spectrum, and in between.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

I love working with our clients to find solutions to environmental issues, and I love building a collaborative team with my co-workers.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

The most rewarding aspect of my career is the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Doing public education. It’s amazing how concerned but uninformed people still are about all this stuff.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

 

It’s the future.

Chuck Lohre
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

Biographies of Respondents

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Prior to her involvement with Pipeline Fellowship, Lauren worked in the nonprofit sector in economic development, environmental issues, and women’s empowerment. A long-time sustainability advocate, Lauren has analyzed the Kyoto Protocol with the U.S. Department of State in Brussels and worked on environmental projects in both Spain and Australia. Her interest in social and environmental issues led to her involvement in social entrepreneurship where her focus has been on strategic planning, social impact assessment, and executing mission-based business strategies.

She currently serves on the New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE) Events Committee and is a former Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of New York City (YNPN-NYC) board member.

Lauren has a B.A. in English Literature and Environmental Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.P.A. in Economic Development and Comparative & International Affairs from Indiana University’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). She is also a proud School for International Training (SIT) alumna. You can find Lauren on Twitter (@laurenabele).

www.pipelinefellowship.com

Holly Neber
President, AEI Consultants

Holly Neber is President and a principal at AEI Consultants, a national environmental and engineering firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area.  AEI performs environmental and engineering due diligence, investigation and remediation projects with 14 offices located across the US.  Holly’s educational background consists of a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Kansas and a Masters of Education from Holy Names College.   She is a Registered Environmental Assessor (REA) in California, and oversees the day to day operations of AEI.  AEI’s website is www.aeiconsultants.com

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Ms. Carla Sydney Stone is the founder and principal of International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC, a firm that delivers projects that improve people’s lives. It provides consulting services to companies, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies. Ms. Stone has a proven ability to initiate and build international partnerships to achieve results. A mining engineer, with additional training and certificates in water and wastewater operations, she also acts as a consultant to governments on the critical areas of environment, human capability, and resource management. She has considerable experience in developing, managing and implementing training programs, project management and public information programs for stakeholder support.

Carla Stone is a graduate of Columbia University’s (New York) Henry Krumb School of Mines with a B.S. degree in Mining Engineering, Geophysics Option and M. S. degree in Mining Engineering and Mineral Economics. She also holds certificates in Wastewater III (Delaware) and Water Operations (Delaware). She is a Member of the Board of Directors of People to People International, Delaware Chapter, a Past Member of the Board of the World Trade Center Institute Delaware, and serves on the International Council of Delaware. She also is a member of the Water Environment Federation, the Society of Mining Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, and the Project Management Institute. She has been Chair of the Council of Economics of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers. She also served as Economics Committee Chair for the Delaware Delegation to the White House Conference on Small Business.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental
http://rlcarlson.wordpress.com/

Chuck Lohre, LEED AP+
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

http://www.green-cincinnati.com

In 2007 we started to promote LEED by holding afternoon seminars as forums for prominent LEED pioneers to address the community of architects, engineers, contractors and the public. From there we started to volunteer with the Cincinnati Regional Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and helped develop their web site and trade show exhibit materials. Promotion doesn’t come without education and we registered our offices as a LEED CI project as well as Chuck Lohre passing the LEED AP exam. After developing educational materials for the Fernald Preserve Visitors Center we created classes to help individuals pass the LEED AP exam with one-on-one mentoring and tutoring. With the push to achieve LEED AP status by June 30, 2009, several classes were held. A unique aspect of the classes was actual tours of many regional LEED projects. We received LEED Platinum May, 5, 2011 on our office.

 

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Getting Your Foot in the Door with Macy’s

macys logoAbout Macy’s

Macy’s began in 1858 as a single dry goods store in New York City.  Since then, Macy’s, Inc. has evolved into one of the nation’s premier retailers for fashion and affordable luxury, and today, operates more than 800 Macy’s department stores and furniture galleries in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. Macy’s, Inc. also operates 40 Bloomingdale’s stores in 12 states, as well as macys.com and bloomingdales.com for distinctive online shopping experiences.

Last year, Macy’s hired more than 1000 students for jobs, internships and their management development programs.

Learn more about opportunities at Macyscollege.com.

dara-silverglateAbout Dara

Dara Silverglate is a Manager of College Relations with Macy’s, Inc.

She began her career with Macy’s as a Merchandising Assistant in 2006, was promoted to Assistant Buyer in 2007, and became an Associate Buyer in 2008.  She transitioned into her current role in 2010. She earned a BS in Retailing and Consumer Sciences from the University of Arizona.

Blake WittersAbout Blake

Blake Witters is a Director of College Relations with Macy’s.  He oversees hiring for the Macy’s Store Management Executive Development Program and Internships across the eight regions of the company.

Blake began working for Macy’s in high school.  He has been an associate, an intern, an assistant sales manager, a group sales manager, a college recruiter for the Store Management team, and a regional manager and regional director in College Relations, prior to accepting his current position  A graduate of the University of Georgia, Blake KNOWS Macy’s!

What kinds of opportunities do you recruit on-campus to fill?

DARA: I recruit for our Merchant Executive Development Program for Macy’s and macys.com and for our Finance Executive Development Program and for Human Resources.  We have one director and three recruiters for the Merchant and Finance Executive Development Programs and HR recruiting, and we target 15 universities across the country.

BLAKE:  I oversee recruiting for our Store Management Executive Development Program and our Intern Program. I have one regional director and eight recruiters on my team, and we target about 50 universities nationally, primarily for the Store Management and internship positions but we also work in partnership with Bloomingdale’s stores, logistics, finance and human resources for our Cincinnati offices.

How important is a student’s specific college major for these opportunities?

DARA: We are open to all majors! In fact, this past fall I was recruiting on campus with one of our Buyers, and she had been a Theology major in college.

As long as you understand business (and want to work in business), have strong analytical and communication skills and can demonstrate leadership, you could be a good candidate for us, regardless of your major.

BLAKE:  That’s right, all majors!  About two-thirds of our hires come out of the business schools, but the remaining third come from a broad variety of disciplines.  They key things we look for in candidates are a genuine interest in working in business, an aptitude for the retail business, and demonstrated leadership and analytical skills.

We’re running a business, and when you come to work for Macy’s, you are given significant responsibility for some area of our business.  We want to make sure you are ready, willing and able.

How can students demonstrate they have the qualities and characteristics Macy’s seeks in candidates?

DARA: Stand out at the career fair! Have your 90-second elevator pitch ready!

Be prepared with examples that illustrate how you excel at leadership, how you applied your analytical and communication skills with positive results, how well you know Excel.

Don’t just tell us, show us! Give examples of the things you have done.

BLAKE:  We want to see that you have been involved beyond the classroom.  Develop your leadership and analytical skills and, like Dara said, provide the examples.  Without the examples, you’re just giving us your opinion.

How do students not on your target campuses apply?

If you know someone at Macy’s, use them as a referral.  We are not going to hire you because of the referral, but we will review your application.

Apply online!  Online application systems are not a black hole for job applications. Over 15% of our hires last year came primarily through our online application system. Every application submitted online gets reviewed!

Naturally applications that get some face time – through a referral, at a career fair or at campus recruiting event – do have a certain advantage, but we do hire candidates that come to use through Macyscollege.com.

Macys bannerWhat do you look for in candidates?

BLAKE: We look for students with internship experience.  Internships teach you time management and how to collaborate productively with others in the workplace.

DARA: We look for students who understand Macy’s.  Students need to understand that, while Macy’s is in the fashion industry, we are a business.  You have to be interested in business; in retail and fashion; in business strategy; in understanding what customers will respond to and delivering that. We are a $26.4 billion company, and we don’t do that just by selling clothes.  We do that by understanding business – what’s working and what isn’t – and understanding our customers.

BLAKE: We are looking for student leaders – students who are involved on campus, whether it’s a fraternity or sorority, a student chapter of a professional association, student government.  You name it!  It’s great to be a member of an organization, but we are interested in hearing how you impacted that organization for the better.  How you demonstrated leadership.

DARA: We do have a minimum GPA requirement for our programs, but don’t depend upon your GPA to get you an interview. A 3.2 students with a lot of internship and leadership experience is usually a stronger candidate than a 4.o student who focused only on their classwork.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to work for your company?

BLAKE: Get involved on your campus outside the classroom and look for opportunities to develop you skills.

Want to develop as a leader? Join and make an impact on a student organization.

Want to get experience? Get an internship, a work-study job or a part-time job or volunteer in a meaningful way.

Need to develop your skills?  Take a class in Excel, public speaking or time management.

Want to know your options?  Attend the career panels and information sessions your career center offers.  Go on information gathering interviews with people working in professions you are considering.  Get their advice.

DARA: If you are interested in Macy’s, come to our events on campus.  Not just the career fairs, but the employer panels, information sessions, and the guest lectures.  These events will give you an opportunity to get to know us and will give us an opportunity to get to know you.

BLAKE: There are things you need to do and learn that you are not going to get in the classroom.  Seek them out!

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to enter the workforce?

DARA: Put yourself in situations that are uncomfortable.  Life is full of uncomfortable situations. You cannot avoid them, so you need to learn how to manage through them.

Look for opportunities to work in teams and collaborate with others.  You need to show you can work well with and depend upon others to get a job done.  You need to show you can give and take constructive feedback and criticism.

BLAKE: If you think you want to work for Macy’s, get a job in a store and see if the retail industry is someplace you fit. And, learn Excel; particularly if you are interested in our programs. You have to be able to use Excel.

What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing with you?

Not being ready for the “Why Macy’s?” question. You have to do your research. When students aren’t prepared to answer the “Why Macy’s?” question, or follow up questions about our business and strategies, they show they’re not really interested our company or our industry.  And, have questions! The questions you ask at the end of the interview tell me a lot about how much you prepared for the interview.

Too much fashion! Students that wear too much perfume or cologne or dress too fashion forward.  You’re not going to a party or a club – you are going to a job interview. Dress professionally.  We are looking for business people, not astonishing!

Not connecting the dots.  Your job in an interview is to show how what you did in school relates to what Macy’s does.  Connects the dots between your qualifications and our business needs.  Don’t assume we understand what you offer.  Show us why we should consider you for employment.

What are some of the most impressive things you have seen students do when interviewing with you?

workthumb_2_22

DARA: I love when candidates tell me something about Macy’s that I don’t already know.  That really shows initiative!

Also, when students can speak to our strategies and make their own observations about what these strategies mean to them as a consumer.  That’s powerful.

Students that offer their opinions on our business strategies and suggest ways we might improve or do things differently; they almost always make a good impression.

BLAKE: People who can clearly present their qualifications in ways that connect to Macy’s and our programs catch my attention. Be ready to tell me why you want to work for Macy’s and why we should hire you.

If you knew then what you know now: What advice do you have for college students as they plan for life after college and getting that first job?

DARA:  Make a lasting impression! Go to the career fair as a freshman to see what there is to see and meet the recruiters. Go back to the career fair as a sophomore and continue building those relationships. Return to the career fair during your junior year to continue those relationships and compete for the internships.  Lead the way to the career fair as a senior and compete for jobs.  I love getting to know students over the course of their college careers.

Make smart decisions about the classes you take inside and outside of your major.  Take classes that will help you develop skills and abilities you will need after you graduate.

BLAKE: Take advantage of the career services and resources at your college.  Do mock interviews. Get your resume reviews.  Seek out their advice early and often. Start this process early. Don’t wait until the start of your senior year to think about life after graduation.

Getting Your Foot in the Door with the Southwestern Advantage Company

SWAdvantageLogoAbout Southwestern Advantage

For over 140 years, college and university students from all over the world have participated in the Southwestern Advantage summer sales and leadership program.

Southwestern Advantage serves as the core company of the Southwestern Family of Companies.  It’s in this program that students are trained in life skills such as independence, confidence, self-motivation and goal-setting.  They run their own business selling an integrated learning system to families throughout North America

Southwestern Advantage was established as a publisher in 1855 by Reverend J. R. Graves in Nashville, Tennessee.  Originally called the Southwestern Publishing House, Southwestern Advantage is recognized as the oldest and one of the most respected direct selling companies in the US helping young people build character, gain life skills, and reach their goals.

Since 1970, nearly 100,000 students have participated in the Southwestern Advantage summer sales and leadership internship program. Many former Southwestern Advantage interns now hold distinguished positions in their respective fields. U.S. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn was part of the Southwestern Advantage internship program, as was Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas.

In fact, there are thousands of doctors, lawyers, authors, pastors, teachers, entrepreneurs, and homemakers who have had the experience.

ralphbrighamAbout Ralph

Ralph Brigham is the Global Director of Campus Relations for Southwestern Advantage.  For the past 11 years he has been traveling to universities around North America, Europe, Africa and Australia coaching hundreds of corporate recruiters and speaking to campus officials.  Ralph holds a doctorate in Adult and Higher Education Administration from Montana State University.

Prior to joining Southwestern, he spent 25 years in higher education, primarily as Career Services Director at Montana State University.  Ralph has served as president of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and is a certified Life Coach.

What kinds of opportunities do you recruit on-campus to fill?

We recruit for participants in our Summer Sales and Leadership Internship Program.

Southwestern interns get the chance to run their own business during the summer, selling educational books, CDs, software and other resources to families in their target communities

After an intensive week-long sales training and leadership development program at the Southwestern Sales School in Nashville, Southwestern interns head to their target communities, secure housing with a host family (we help with housing, by the way), and “start their businesses” selling Southwestern Advantage educational resources.

Our interns pay their own travel expenses, traveling to Nashville for training and to their target communities (most car-pool).  Once they reach their target communities, their expenses are minimal.  The host families charge nominal rent.  Of course, interns have to pay for their own food and local transportation.

Students come to the Southwestern Intern Program from over 340 colleges and universities and nearly 30 countries.  Each summer, approximately 2,500 students take on the challenge to become independent contractors and learn all aspects of running a business.

What about the Southwestern Advantage Internship Program appeals most to students?

Probably, the most important thing to most of our participants is the opportunity for personal growth, as well as to make a positive difference to families and their children. A summer running one’s own business, out of their normal “comfort zone”  causes a person to grow in confidence, flexibility and adaptability, resourcefulness, cultural awareness, and communication skills with all types of people.

The chance to sit down with families and their children and diagnose what some of their educational needs are, then suggest solutions for them, is a powerful and personal interaction with other people. Many students tell us that returning at the end of the summer to deliver their products, and show the children how to best use them, is one of the greatest experiences of their lives.

Another major appeal for many students is the entrepreneurial nature of the work and the opportunity to make a good deal of money.  The potential income the Southwestern Advantage Summer Internship Program offers is very appealing, but the money doesn’t come easy; and we are very upfront and honest about that!

The most successful Southwestern Advantage student dealers choose to work long hours, six days a week. Running your own business can be challenging, but very rewarding. The amount of money you save throughout the summer, however, depends directly on the individual intern. The average gross profit last summer by a Southwestern Advantage intern in their first year was about $8,000. Some first-year interns made over $20,000, while some did not make any money, usually because they discontinued their work long before the summer was over. There is a definite learning curve in this activity, as in most others.

How much you make and save over the summer is directly proportional to your work habits and how you apply the training you receive in the Southwestern Advantage Sales School. Just like any other entrepreneurial endeavor, if you are not working, you are not making any money.

If you need a guaranteed salary or a set amount of income, our internship program may not be right for you. But if you think you are inspired by the challenge and believe you prosper in an environment where there is no ceiling on potential, it may be right up your alley!

Some students are attracted by the opportunity to travel.  The Southwestern Advantage Summer Internship Program gives students the opportunity to see another part of the country, or in the case of participants in our International Program, a whole other part of the world. Our interns gain independence and maturity by relocating to another community. They become part of the community and get to know many fascinating families.

Many students are looking for sales experience. Let’s be honest here: Most students do not go to college to major in “Sales,” and most college curricula don’t focus on sales, but most of us end up in careers that involve selling. Whether it is ideas, information, products or services, we are all selling something.

Our internship program gives students something they aren’t getting in the classroom – sales experience! There are lots of summer jobs for college students that simply offer a paycheck. However, that’s precisely what they are – jobs; not career training. Our summer internship program is not a job, it’s career training, valuable for just about everyone, regardless of major.

Some students are inspired by the challenge.  Life is full of challenges, and our summer internship program is challenging. For some students, our program offers the kind of challenge they seek; to be out of their element, in a new place, getting to know new people, creating their own opportunities.

No one ever said life would be easy – and this program is not for those looking for an easy way to spend a summer. The students best suited to succeed in our program are those who have an inner desire to study hard and work hard, and those who are coachable. Prior sales experience is not necessary, but the willingness and desire to grow, learn and take on new challenges is.

How important is a student’s specific college major for these opportunities?

We recruit all majors, and our program is valuable to students in all majors.  Often, people think that our program is only for Business students, but we have very successful students from Engineering, Nursing, Agriculture, Psychology, Communication, Education, the Liberal Arts, and the Natural Sciences disciplines.

Academic major is less important than program fit.

How do students interested in working in other areas of your company apply/express their interest?

The Southwestern Advantage Summer Internship Program is THE pathway to other opportunities with the company.  Some graduates who have worked with Southwestern Advantage during the summers while in college, come to work for one of our “sister” companies after they graduate.  They love to hire graduates who’ve had several summers with Southwestern Advantage.  Our sister companies offer sales-related opportunities in fundraising, executive search, consulting, training, Insurance and Investment services.

What do you look for in candidates?

Candidates must have the ability and willingness to travel to a different part of the country for the summer.  In addition, we want students who are entrepreneurial-minded and want to develop that aspect of their personality and skills.  We want students who study hard and work hard. They need to be both coachable and persistent and have a competitive spirit

We look for students who want to grow outside their comfort zone, have a track record of trying different things and having success.

Lastly, I look for a firm handshake; that almost always makes a positive first impression.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to work for your company?

GET INVOLVED on campus.  Don’t just join a group, though; just “belonging” means nothing.  When I look at a resume and see that a student is involved in a student organization, I want to know how and how much.  The first thing I ask about is their involvement.  How did they make a difference?  Find a way to make a difference; to get some sort of leadership or project management role.  We want interns that get involved and make a difference.

I also think it is beneficial to volunteer your time in service to others. Volunteering builds character, and we want interns of impeccable character.

In general, do whatever you can to develop yourself, your understanding of your career options and your goals.  Find out what motivates you and do that!

If you are motivated to work hard and work for yourself, we’re interested in getting to know you better.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to enter the workforce?

Learn how to work with people that are not like you.  There are a lot more people in the world unlike you than there are people just like you.  It is important that you can work and play well with people from different backgrounds than your own.

Take advantage of the career services at your university as much as possible.  And, get to know your professors.  The best thing a couple of our recruiters said they did in college was to form personal relationships with their professors.

Sit in the front row, answer questions in class, and take advantage of office hours.

Do at least one internship; do more than one if you can!

Look for opportunities to step out of your comfort zone.

What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing with you?

Believe it or not, I have seen students bring food, take calls, and respond to texts during interviews! That is just disrespectful.

Showing up late, not paying attention, not taking notes, not asking any questions; these things show me you’re really not interested in what we offer.

What are some of the most impressive things you have seen students do when interviewing with you?

I love it when candidates show up early, have their resumes ready, and are attentive and “present”  and engaged during the interview.

Candidates who learn my name and use it, that dress respectfully and are clean shaven or not overly accessorized.

First impressions are really important.

SalesCalls6_27_08321-300x199If you knew then what you know now: What advice do you have for college students as they plan for life after college and getting that first job?

Do a Southwestern internship for at least two summers while you are in school!  Learn to run a business, and learn to lead others as they run theirs!

Don’t just take classes! Take advantage of the services, programs and opportunities offered on campus, and get to know your professors, advisors and classmates.

Spend time actually planning how to succeed during your university years and spend time actually planning how to succeed during your career after graduation

Getting your Foot in the Door with E & J Gallo Winery

Gallo LogoAbout the E. & J. Gallo Winery

With humble beginnings, E. & J. Gallo Winery was established in 1933 in Modesto, California, by brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo.  It has become the world’s largest winery and the foremost winery in the art of grape growing, winemaking, distribution and marketing of wines. Gallo remains family-owned, spanning four generations of the Gallo family actively working in the business, and employs more than 5,000 employees worldwide. With nine wineries strategically located in wine regions in both California and Washington and access to grapes from vineyards in all of the premier grape-growing areas of both states, Gallo produces wines in every category, to suit every taste.  Gallo imports wines from eight of the major wine growing countries in the world.

Cyndy BagleyAbout Cyndy

Cyndy Bagley is a Regional Manager of Training & Recruiting for E. & J. Gallo Winery. She is based in Austin and recruits on college campuses across the southwest. She is one of nine E. & J. Gallo campus recruiters.

Cyndy graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree Agricultural Economics. While she was in college, Cyndy worked on a vineyard and took classes in viticulture and enology. She has been certified by the Society of Wine Educators as a Certified Specialist of Wine.

Cyndy started her career as a distributor Sales Representative, was promoted to a Retail District Sales Manager then went to work directly for E&J Gallo Winery as a Field Marketing Manager Prior to her current position as Regional Manager of Training & Recruiting.

What kinds of opportunities do you recruit on-campus to fill?

 

Nationally, E. & J. Gallo Winery recruits on various college campuses to fill full-time entry-level sales positions for our accelerated Management Development Program (MDP). The MDP Program helps to bridge the gap between campus and career through extensive, on-the-job training across all aspects of sales.  Starting as a Sales Representative with our distributor partners, you’ll receive front-line experience expanding Gallo distribution in an established retail territory.  In the next phase, candidates move into a District Sales Manager role, where they assume a direct leadership role and balance responsibilities of developing others and achieving results.  Every MDP path is unique, and the final phase of the program may lead you toward a variety of positions.  Some common paths include retail or on-premise field marketing manager, customer development, direct to consumer, fine wine or spirits.

At our headquarters in Modesto, CA, we also recruit on-campus for entry-level positions in Engineering, Winemaking, Supply Chain, IT, Finance and Accounting, as well as a variety of other positions.

How important is a student’s specific college major for these opportunities?

Gallo offers a number of opportunities for all types of candidates, and the E. &J. Gallo Winery MDP program accepts applications from all undergraduate majors.

What do you look for in candidates?

At Gallo, we look for candidates that have the ability to Envision opportunities, Enlist partners, Engage a team, and Execute with excellence.  We look for candidates with demonstrated experience in these areas, and we specifically focus on leadership experience for the MDP Program.

When it comes to Leadership, we look for demonstrated leadership on campus, at work or through your community. We look for students who really drive the student activities that take place on their campus, and there is a good reason for that: We believe that students who are real leaders on their campuses or in their communities have had experience managing people and projects, delegating responsibilities, and dealing with a variety of stressful situations successfully.  In addition, student leaders learn how to manage their time, and time management is important in our business.

How do these traits show up on a student’s resume?

As a college recruiter, I see nearly 2,000 resumes a semester, so it is extremely important that you highlight your major successes clearly, concisely, and accurately on your resume.  This is your chance to tell your personal story.  When possible, use specific and quantifiable examples to demonstrate your achievements.   Use your Campus Career Center as a resource to review your resume as well.

How can students not at your target campuses or those interested in working in other areas of your company apply/express their interest?

For current openings at E. & J. Gallo Winery, please visit the Careers section of the E. & J. Gallo Winery website to see what is available.  For specific on-campus recruiting questions, you may email college.recruiting@ejgallo.com.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to enter the workforce?

I believe getting involved on campus, at work, or in your community is important to help you figure out how to manage your time and learn how to lead others.  You may go through an adjustment period after college, managing demands from work and personal life (and not getting a Spring Break!)  The transition may be easier if you are already accustomed to managing multiple priorities, and staying focused on the task at hand.

What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing with you?

Not doing their homework.  It’s important to research a company prior to interviewing, to understand if this is a company that is right for you.  Review the company website, recent articles, and materials that may be at your Campus Career Center.

Not being able to talk about topics on and off your resume.   Be prepared with a variety of examples to highlight your own accomplishments and strengths, as well as your opportunities.    We realize that you can’t put everything on your resume; we don’t want you to. That being said, we are interested in learning about the whole you and not just the information on your resume.  This is your chance to tell your story.

Not asking questions.  Always be ready to ask questions. Your questions will help you learn more about the company, and also demonstrate your interest in the company and the opportunities we offer.  Be specific with your questions; ask about business trends, opportunities for the future, growth, and direction of the company. This is your time to interview us, use it wisely.

What are some of the most impressive things you have seen students do when interviewing with you?

Students who smile, are energetic, and are eager to tell their story – After all, I am recruiting for sales! Be excited about who you are and what you offer.  Even if you’re nervous, be confident and genuine.

Be professional –Show up on time (or early), look professional, have a firm hand shake and maintain good eye contact.

 If you knew then what you know now: What advice do you have for college students as they plan for life after college and getting that first job?

Start early! And by that, I mean start thinking about a career when you are deciding what university to attend.

When you visit college campuses, stop by the career center, meet the career center staff and ask questions. Ask them who recruits on their campus. Ask them about the type and level of career assistance they provide to students with your interests. Make sure the college you go to offers courses, activities and career support that match your interests and skills.

While you are in school – get involved and try new things. College is the one time in your life when you can really explore your interests and discover who you are and what you like to do. Don’t miss out on that opportunity. If you find something you like, stick with it! Try to gain experience through leadership and make an impact.

And, lastly, when leadership opportunities are presented, volunteer to take them on.

 

Getting Your Foot in the Door at Enterprise Rent-A-Car

About Enterprise

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is the flagship brand of St. Louis-based Enterprise Holdings, a privately-held and family-owned company which, through its regional subsidiaries, also owns and operates the Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental brands. Enterprise is an internationally recognized brand with more than 6,000 neighborhood and airport locations in the United States, Canada, the U.K., Ireland, and Germany. With more than 5,000 offices located within 15 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population, Enterprise Rent-A-Car offers a wide variety of car leasing, van-pooling, car-sharing and hourly rental.

In 2012-13, Enterprise will hire 8,500 new college graduates, making them one of the largest recruiters of college graduate in the country.

About Marie

Marie Artim is Vice President for Talent Acquisition at Enterprise Holdings Inc.  Prior to her current position, Marie was an Assistant Vice President of Recruiting and prior to that a Corporate HR Manager for Recruiting. Marie started her career with Enterprise directly out of college as a Management Trainee after completing her undergraduate degree at Purdue University. She has been there ever since.

Marie, you’ve been with Enterprise a long time, and Enterprise has a reputation for keeping people around a long time. How do you retain employees so successfully?

When we hire someone in as a Management Trainee we take a very long term approach.  There are a lot of opportunities to be successful within the company. Whether you want to take a straight career path ladder or move from one region or area of business to another, there are many ways to advance professionally and stay in the Enterprise family.  And, we like to promote from within!  I started as a Management Trainee 20 years ago.  Our CEO, our COO and just about all of our other senior level leadership also started as Management Trainees.

We want our employees and prospective employees to know that at Enterprise, you can change careers without changing companies, as long as you are ready to work hard, deliver exceptional customer service and have fun in the process.

We do a great job retaining employees who want to work hard and have fun in an environment where hard work and exceptional customer service is rewarded.  And it’s been that way since the company was founded in 1957.

Our guiding philosophy, set forth by our founder Jack Taylor,  has always been the following:

Take care of your customers and your employees and the profits will follow.

This philosophy has been the backbone of our success story.  We want to exceed our customers’ expectations, and we want to reward our employees for delivering great service.

What about location?  How do you decide where management trainees will work?

We really leave location up to the candidates.  Whether you want to live in a small town, a big city or somewhere in between – it really doesn’t matter.  We want to put people to work near where they want to live, and with 5,500 locations across the US, we offer a lot of options.

When you recruit on college campuses, what types of positions are you seeking to fill?

We recruit on campus for our Management Training Program and our Management Internship Program, and we are open to all majors.

How important is a student’s specific college major?

We see a lot of business majors applying for our opportunities because what we offer is business-related, but we also see successful and competitive candidates also from communication, liberal arts, math – you name it.  It’s less about major and more about overall fit and desire to work for Enterprise.  Regardless of major, we are looking for candidates with the soft skills and the business acumen required for the job and a real desire to learn how to run a business.

What about other opportunities with Enterprise; those in human resources, accounting, information, technology, etc.?  How do you fill those positions?

The vast majority of our opportunities at all levels are filled from within the company and with candidates who originally came to us through the Management Training Program.  Roles in human resources, marketing, purchasing, and the like are almost always filled with candidates that have gone through our Management Training Program.

We have a similar Training Program for accounting, and we do recruit for this Program on campus, as well.  There are just a lot fewer opportunities in that Program than there are in our Management Training Program, so our recruiting activity is not as aggressive.

Nearly all of our information technology staff is in our corporate offices in St. Louis, and we don’t actively recruit entry-level candidates for our IT department.  But, if someone is interested in working in IT for Enterprise, they can find out about available opportunities on our website – http://go.enterpriseholdings.com.

What do you look for in candidate?

First and foremost we look for customer service & empathy. Candidates must show the ability to go above and beyond to take care of customer needs.

We also look for leadership skills. Since the Management Training Program is our leadership pipeline, candidates need to demonstrate that they possess leadership skills and characteristics.

Strong candidates also show they are flexible and adaptable.  Management Trainees need the ability to think on their feet, make quick decisions and be flexible and adaptable in their approach to work and life.  Things move pretty fast around here, and you need to be able to keep up.

A strong work ethic and ability to multitask are very important.  Candidates that worked while they were in school and/or were involved in student organizations and still did well in school have proof that they can juggle multiple responsibilities effectively and get the job done.

Lastly, excellent communication skills are a must.  Someone who is highly social tends to do well with us because ours is a customer-focused business.  You have to have the soft skills to go along with the desire to work in business.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do to be prepared to go to work for Enterprise?

Get a job while you are in school!  Holding down a job while going to school, whether it’s full-time or part-time, tells me a lot about your work ethic and your ability to manage and prioritize your responsibilities.

Get involved in your campus and community! Being involved in student organizations, community organizations, and athletics gives you the opportunity to work in teams, demonstrate leadership, get things done and make an impact.

Focus on quality (not quantity) of involvement. It’s not about just joining student organizations; it’s about the quality of your involvement.  I would much rather see a candidate that has been deeply involved and active in one organization than one that has joined a lot of organizations but done little or nothing as a member.  I can’t stress that enough – it’s about the quality of the involvement, not the quantity.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do to be prepared to go to enter the workforce?

Find a way to experience a 40-hour work week.  Whether that comes from a full-time summer internship or some other kind of full-time work experience, if you can experience working full-time before you officially enter the full-time workforce, it won’t be such a culture shock!

Look for ways to demonstrate individual accountability, work under deadlines and work in teams.  You will have to be personally accountable, work under deadlines and work well with others in your job no matter where you end up working, so the sooner you develop these skills the better.

Develop your ability to communication professionally.  Communicating for business – in person, on the phone, via email, on paper – is very different from communicating personally with friends. The better your communication skills – written and verbal – the more successful you will be professionally.

Learn how to think on your feet.   Life after college doesn’t follow a lesson plan.  It isn’t nearly as structured or predictable as college. You have to think on your feet and read/react/adapt to new situations daily.  The sooner you develop ability to think on your feet, the better prepared you will be to enter the workforce.

What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing?

A lack of preparedness.  The biggest mistake I see is someone trying to just wing it. We still see students who don’t take the interviewing and recruiting process as seriously as they should.  They’re not prepared to talk about themselves or discuss how what they offer matches what we need in candidates. Winging it doesn’t work!

Not understanding our business.  I sometimes hear students say they want to work for Enterprise because they want to work in the travel and hospitality industry, and they cite helping people with their vacation rentals as an example of what they mean.   In reality, vacation rentals are a very small part of what we do, and we are not necessarily in the travel and hospitality business.

What are some of the most impressive things students have done when interviewing?

I am always impressed when students show a genuine interest in and commitment to the hiring process throughout the hiring process. When they come to information sessions, meet with us at career fairs, and then come to interview.  They are showing a commitment to the process.

When you meet with student for the first time and that student has already done an informational interview with someone in our company, that shows a real interest in Enterprise and in making a sound career decision.

Then, wow me in the interview, show me you understand our company, show your enthusiasm, and follow up with thank you notes.

You mentioned thank you notes. How important are thank you notes?

As much as we talk about thank you notes, students still rarely send them.

If you’re just not qualified for the job, a thank you note isn’t going to help.  But, when there are multiple qualified candidates, and one of them takes the time to prepare and send a unique thank you note – that makes a real difference, particularly as the interview process progresses.

If you knew then what you know now  .  .  .  what advice do you have for college students as they consider their career opportunities?

Keep an open mind to explore all opportunities and do your research.  The “perfect job” may not be so perfect once you learn more about; and the job you never thought you would want might be exactly the job and career path that suits you best.  Dig below the surface on opportunities – don’t judge things based on your first impression.  You’ll be surprised by how much you will learn and how many opportunities you will discover.

Getting Your Foot in the Door at Mattress Firm


About Mattress Firm

Founded in 1986, Mattress Firm is the largest and most successful specialty bedding company in the world. With over 1000 locations across 27 states, Mattress Firm’s long-term goal is to be the global choice for better sleep. In the near term, their goal is to be “border-to-border, coast-to-coast, the specialty bedding retailer of choice in every city across the country.”

About Abby Ludens

Abby Ludens is the Director of Talent Acquisition & Retention for Mattress Firm. She began her career with Mattress Firm as a Field Manager in 2001 and rapidly progressed into roles as a Developmental Recruiting Specialist and a National Recruiting Manager before taking her current job in February 2012.

Abby and her recruiting team source talent for full-time, part-time and internship opportunities with Mattress Firm, targeting candidates for Mattress Firm’s Sales and Management Training Program.

What kinds of opportunities do you recruit on-campus to fill?

AbbyWhen we go on campus, we are recruiting primarily to identify candidates for our Sales and Management Training Program. 

We hire a lot of people right out of college into our Sales and Management Training Program.  It is the best way to start a career with Mattress Firm, because we promote from within to fill most of our middle and upper management positions.  Approximately 97% of our district management and regional sales management team have come through our Sales and Management Training Program, and many directly from college campuses.

We also recruit for a much smaller Operations Management Training Program, so students interested in logistics or distribution center management can apply for opportunities in that program as well.

What is the typical career progression for a top quality new hire that performs really well on the job?

Abby: For a top performer, it will typically take about 8-12 months to move into a store-level management role with Mattress Firm.  To move into an Area Management Role, our first level of multi-unit management with responsibility for multiple stores, it will take about 16-24 months. To move into a District Management role – about 24-36 months.

There is a lot of opportunity for advancement at Mattress Firm for someone willing to invest the time and effort!

How important is a student’s specific college major for these opportunities?

Abby: We spend a lot of time recruiting students in business, communication, psychology and similar majors because we have had a lot of success hiring students from those types of majors, but a student’s specific major or area of study itself isn’t really important in our evaluation of him or her as a candidate for the Sales and Management Training Program.  We are looking for well-rounded candidates who have been successful inside and outside the classroom, regardless of major.

How do students interested in working in other areas of your company apply/express their interest?

AbbyGo to the Careers page on the Mattress Firm website and click on the “Apply Here” link under Opportunities.  The will be able to select their language of choice [English or Spanish] and target states and cities, review position descriptions for available jobs, create an applicant account, and apply online.

What do you look for in candidates?

AbbyWe look for passion – it’s one of our core values.  Show your passion for something – a job, a cause, an extracurricular activity – and be able to talk about why you are passionate about it during the interview.  Passion goes a long way in our organization.

We look for experience beyond the classroom – extracurricular activities, volunteering, jobs and internships. We are a very social organization, so we look for students with excellent social, organizational and time management skills.

Involvement in student government, student organizations, Greek organizations and athletics – both intercollegiate and intramural – are indicators of that a student might have the skills, attitude, and competitive spirit we are seeking.

Regardless of their major, I think all students should take some classes in public speaking, accounting & finance and writing – particularly grammar. Not having these fundamental skills in communication and business will hamper your ability to advance with our company.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to work for your company?

AbbyIf you can, study abroad, learn another language, do things that will expand your skill set and cultural experience.  College is when you have the time to do this, so take advantage of every opportunity you can.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to enter the workforce?

Abby: Learn how to manage your time and set priorities, and realize that you are probably not going to work a Monday-Friday, 8-5 schedule.  In most jobs, you are going to spend a lot of time at work, and you are going to miss some of those football games, parties and events you’d like to attend.

In your first few years out of college, don’t be afraid of the hours. Throw yourself into it. If you work those hours, and you work really hard, you’re probably going to grow at a faster rate. Working evenings and weekends – that is going to happen; but if you put in the hours, the rewards will come.

And, start weaning yourself off of naps!  Even though we’re a mattress company, we don’t get to take naps during the day!

What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing with you?

AbbyNot being prepared for the interview. Most students know to come prepared with questions about our company. While you will likely have time to ask questions during the interview, don’t ask questions you can find the answers to online.

Asking really basic questions. Ask meaningful questions that you can’t read about on our website. Ask questions about the culture, a day in the life, growth opportunities — questions that will help you understand if ours is the right company for you.

Not being unable to convey how their extracurricular experiences have prepared them for the real world. These experiences do help you in the real world . . .  you just need to think about how to tell those stories prior to the interview.

Not dressing professionally. We don’t care how many suits you have while in college, as long as you have one good one . . .  and keep it ironed! We know when you get a job, you will expand your professional wardrobe; just show us you have a sense for what is professional and what is not.

What are some of the most impressive things you have seen students do when interviewing with you?

AbbyStudents who are able to build rapport and let their personality are always impressive. An interview, unfortunately, can lend itself to a stiff, sterile environment where it becomes hard to see a candidate’s personality. Do your best to avoid canned interview answers.Students who are able to let their personality shine always stand out.

Students who come to our pre-interview information sessions and other recruiting events events tend to stand out from the rest. Having the opportunity to get to know candidates outside of the interview room tends to be pretty important during our selection process. The more opportunities we have to positively interact with you, the more likely we will remember you as a top candidate.

If you knew then what you know now: What advice do you have for college students as they plan for life after college and getting that first job?

AbbyYour GPA is important, but it’s not everything, and once you land that first job it becomes less and less important.

A well-rounded education is more important than GPA, so get involved outside the classroom.  Your education is more than just the classes you take; at least it should be!

Your group projects in school are really important. Being able to work as part of a group and understanding group dynamics are both really important once you get out of school.

Getting Your Foot in the Door at the Young & Rubicam Group

About the Young & Rubicam Group

Young & Rubicam Group is a strategic partnership of more than 20 marketing and communication companies, dynamically organized to meet their clients’ growing and evolving needs and operating in all the major countries around the world.  The Group’s areas of expertise include advertising, digital, media, public relations, research, health communications, social media, grassroots marketing and direct marketing.

Young & Rubicam Group is a member of WPP, the world’s leading communications services group.

About Celia Berk

As the Chief Talent Officer for Young and Rubicam Group, Celia Berk works with the leadership of all of Group companies to promote collaboration in attracting, developing and retaining the best talent across the Group’s global network.

 What kinds of opportunities do you recruit on college campuses to fill?

Celia: When we recruit on college campuses, we are typically looking to identify entry-level candidates across our  marketing and communication disciplines.  Our Y&R Group Career Path Guide provides a really good summary of the depth and breadth of opportunities available across our network of companies.

How do you target campuses? 

Celia: First, we look at where our best people went to school and recruit there. We also look at the diversity of the student body; we’re a global company with diverse clients, so having a diverse workforce is very important to us.

School standing in our various disciplines is also a factor.  We look to schools with exceptional programs in advertising, digital, public relations, research, media, and communications. 

Personally, I am most interested in schools that provide their students a broad grounding in the world – not just in their major.

If you’re not at one of our target schools, don’t let that stop you from pursuing us!  Research us online, review the career sections of our websites, contact the company or companies that interest you most.

How important is a student’s specific college major for these opportunities?

Celia: At the entry level, people can come from any kind of background – from any major or school – and start a really interesting career in one of our companies.   But whether you majored in humanities, history, sociology, business, engineering, medicine, psychology, or communication, you need an affinity for the kinds of work we do.

How do students interested in working in other areas of your company apply/express their interest?

Celia: Candidates for jobs outside our core marketing and communications business (like HR, Finance, IT) are typically sourced at the local level by recruiters at the individual companies.  We post opportunities on our individual company websites, use local and industry-specific job boards, and network with colleagues through professional associations. Each company does its own unique recruiting to meet these needs. 

What do you look for in candidates?

Celia: Personally, I look for intellectual curiosity, strong written and verbal communication skills, a sense of the larger world, and a genuine interest in the kinds of work we do.  I am always interested in talking to candidates who understand what we do and see it as a really interesting way to have a varied and challenging career.

We all do courtesy interviews, and we can tell immediately when someone doesn’t know or care what we are about. I  want people who really get it; who are instantly intrigued by what we do!  THAT person has my attention!

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to work for your company?

Celia: Our business is about communicating with stakeholders in the broadest sense, so we look for people who enjoy that kind of work. Some kind of work experience is very important.  Internships are great, but not everyone can do an internship in advertising or marketing.  I’ve spoken with lots of impressive entry-level candidates who have led big initiatives on campus or in the community, or had other types of solid work experience that show a strong work ethic and an understanding of what it means to be a professional. 

 Show that you know how to work hard and work smart.  Show you’ve been a member of a team that would want to have you back (even if you’re not particularly interested in going back!) And once you have gotten a  job, show that you can meet  the needs of that job and are someone who adds value.

What about participation in a study abroad program?

Celia:  That can be very beneficial.   You won’t be penalized if you don’t have it, but it is a great way to  show flexibility, adaptability to new cultures, and resourcefulness – an understanding that the whole world is not like the one you currently live in. Study abroad gives you a broader vantage point.  Honestly, it’s hard to be in different work cultures – if you can decode the culture of a foreign country, you can probably decode our company’s!

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to enter the workforce?

Celia: Be active, be involved, be  part of a variety of communities. Show some get-up-and-go. Show that you can make things happen for yourself.

What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing with you?

Celia:  I am shocked by how few students actually do their homework before an interview.

For example, asking me: How long have you been with the company?”  All they have to do is go to LinkedIn to see how long I have been with the company and learn quite a lot about me, my career and my accomplishments.

I know immediately when someone hasn’t read my profile because there are some interesting conversation starters in there they can use.

Another pet peeve is asking questions they can easily answer for themselves, like “What kind of jobs do you have?” They can usually get this information off the company website.

My general advice: 

  • Dress appropriately (when in doubt, dress less casually; and you can always ask what the dress code is)
  • Be on time (but not ridiculously early)
  • Bring copies of your resume
  • Write a thank you note

And, if you follow up with me a few months later, help me remember you. Provide some context in your email:  Thank you for the time you spent with me a few months ago.  As you may recall, I had just graduated from . . .  and was looking for . . .  and you put me in touch with  . . . .   I was wondering if you might have some advice about . . .

Remember, it’s not all about you. Your communication (letters, emails, resume, etc.) should present a balance between what you want and what you offer.

What are some of the most impressive things you have seen students do when interviewing with you?

I am always impressed by students who have done their homework, have a good resume, and ask good questions.  You can get a real measure of a person by how smart their questions are.

If you knew then what you know now: What advice do you have for college students as they plan for life after college and getting that first job?

Starting your career in a marketing and communications company gives you tools that no one will ever be able to take away from you: How to create and manage perceptions, how to deal with stakeholders, how business works,  and how to develop your own personal communication skills.  You will use these skills throughout your career.

From day one in your career, build your network and never lose track of it.  With LinkedIn, there is no excuse! 

Note, I said LinkedIn, not Facebook.  I am not your friend; I am a prospective colleague, so don’t “friend” me on Facebook.  Also, don’t request to connect with me on LinkedIn without a specific message and purpose in your request – make sure I can tell why you are asking to link to me.

Want to learn more about career opportunities with Young & Rubicam Group companies? 

Go to the Young & Rubicam Group Careers Page.  And, take Celia’s advice:

 Do your homework, have a good resume, and ask good questions. 

 

Get Your Foot in the Door: Recruiter Interviews

What are “Get Your Foot in the Door (GYFITD)” blog posts?  They are brief interviews with recruiters who target college students and graduate to fill opportunities with the companies they represent.

GYFITD interviews are intended to help job seekers understand the unique hiring dynamics of different companies and give them some authentic first-hand perspective on what it takes to get their foot in the door of a variety of professions, companies and industries.

GYFITD interviews focus on the following set of topics and questions:

Tell me a little about your company
What kinds of opportunities do you recruit on-campus to fill?
How important is a student’s specific college major for these opportunities?
How do students interested in working in other areas of your company apply/express their interest?
What do you look for in candidates?
In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to work for your company?
In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to enter the workforce?
What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing with you?
What are some of the most impressive things you have seen students do when interviewing with you?
If you knew then what you know now: What advice do you have for college students as they plan for life after college and getting that first job?

You can call up all previous interviews using from the Tags or Categories to the right, or by clicking on the “Get Your Foot in The Door” link at the top of the page.