Over 90 percent of the 2017 Marriott School of Management graduating class received full-time job offers after graduation, according to Marriott School Business Career Center Director Mike Roberts.
Roberts said this wasn’t due only to the merits of business students themselves — over 75 student employees work behind the scenes to help their peers achieve career success.
“Other universities may involve students for mentoring purposes or administrative tasks,” Roberts said. “We’re very unique in the fact that our students are the primary interface with all these recruiters and companies that come.”
Roberts said working in the Business Career Center has immensely impacted many student employees’ careers, and in some cases, heavily altered their career course.
Abigail Alder, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2016, said she might never have had the courage to pursue her dream jobs without her experience working at the Business Career Center.
“Working at the Business Career Center was very much a ‘becoming’ experience for me,” Alder said. “I received coaching and training that continues to be useful in both my professional and personal life.”
Alder, who now works as an associate consultant at Bain and Company in Dallas, said most of what she learned centered on professionalism and proactivity — how to make a real impact regardless of her role in an organization.
“We were given a safe environment to experiment and principle-based coaching that allowed us to learn through that experimentation,” Alder said.
It was this process that gave her the confidence to network and apply for her dream jobs.
The Business Career Center has grown the student-led model into a well-oiled machine over the past three years, according to Roberts. Roberts said the key to the model’s continued success is the unparalleled leadership of Director of Operations Melinda Maughan.
“Without Melinda, it wouldn’t just happen,” Roberts said.
Maughan first spearheaded the transition to the student-led career center model three years ago. Maughan’s team has grown from three to 30 students in three years.
Maughan said she first became interested in the position because of the prospect of working with students and helping them get jobs.
“That’s why everyone goes to school, right? To get a job. I wanted to be a part of that,” Maughan said.
Information systems student Andy Nielson, who has worked on Maughan’s student team for three years, said Maughan puts the success and happiness of her team above all else.
“Melinda cares about us. She expects a lot from us and she is willing to invest in us if we are willing to do our part, as well,” Nielson said.
To build a successful team, Maughan said she focuses on the ‘bus principle’ outlined in the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
“It’s all about making sure we get the right people on the bus and making sure they’re in the right seat on the bus,” Maughan said.
By the numbers, it is no easy task to obtain a seat on the bus: while three to four vacancies on Maughan’s team open up each year, as many as 180 applicants vie for those positions.
“The hiring process is really rigorous,” Maughan said. “There’s a three-round interview process.”
Maughan said two student employees participate in each round of an interview and are trained on how to conduct interviews.
After an interview, students debrief with Maughan on whether the candidate matches the responsibilities, and they participate in deciding whether to bring the person onto the team.
Applicants must pass through normal interview questions, a skills test and a ‘culture fit.’
“We look at the whole picture,” Maughan said.
Maughan said if someone doesn’t make it, it doesn’t reflect on them personally — it just means they were the wrong fit.
Nielson said he thinks the culture of professionalism that prevails in the Business Career Center is why students prepare for their own future careers so well.
“It’s really because she (Maughan) expects us to succeed,” Nielson said.
Roberts said employment in the Business Career Center is designed to simulate the stresses and challenges students will face when they enter the workforce after graduating.
“It’s really ironic that as a Business Career Center offering career preparation and development resources at large, the ones on the team are the ones who gain the most of that,” Maughan said.
Brennan Boyack, a junior in the finance program, works as a recruiting coordinator on Maughan’s team. Boyack said Maughan trusts the team to take care of things themselves, but is always there to mentor and help along the way.
“She’s not just teaching us how to do a job; she is teaching us life lessons,” Boyack said.