Monica Shutte has been the director of undergraduate career services at the R. H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland for the past six months. Before that, she worked for Georgetown University's alumni career services.
Three-quarters of the Smith School's 2005 graduates who reported their status had jobs one month after graduating. Their average starting salary was nearly $45,000. Shutte recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online project assistant Meredith Bodgas. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
University of Maryland
What innovative services do you offer?
In September we host Business Week [no connection to the publication], a weeklong event filled with career-related activities. Employers come to campus to critique students' resumes, and this year, which will be the second year we're doing this, we're hoping to have mock interviews, too. We also do an event during this week called Career Premiere, which is an informal networking party where students can talk to employers about their company's culture and what skills are needed to excel there.
We're also starting a fellows program next year which will give every Smith School student the opportunity to get experience outside of the classroom -- from taking field trips to companies to doing special networking events -- all in the student's field of interest.
In which areas have graduates gone to work?
Consulting has been one of the biggest draws lately. Students use their business skills doing that, and it's a good way to jumpstart your career because it can lead to different things afterward.
Accounting is another market that's hot right now, and many of our students have been pursuing it. Our students are also interested in information technology because we have a strong program in information systems and logistics. In addition, we have students who go into supply chain management, marketing, and finance.
Which companies come to campus?
Quite a few visit us. We get the top four accounting firms, major consulting firms, and other large, multinational companies.
How do you prepare students for the job search?
We work with them beginning in their freshman year to help them discover what career appeals to them through assessment tests like Career Leader and Myers-Briggs. During their junior year, students are required to take Career Strategies in Business, a class that helps students be savvy and professional in the workplace.
The instructor is an employer from the outside, which students love because they get to hear about another person's real-world experience. The class forces students to think about their careers and go about their job search strategically. It also covers networking and business ethics.
What advice do you give students about their resumes?
We tell students to look at their resumes and cover letters as their main marketing pieces. Since they give employers a first impression of the candidate, they need to be professional in format and content. Spelling and grammar are paramount, because if there's a mistake, the employer will probably not look at the rest of the resume. They'll believe that person won't be detail-oriented in the workplace.
We also tell students to talk about how they developed their skills and helped an organization achieve a particular goal, in addition to listing their tasks. We help students think of strong verbs to convey what they've accomplished to catch an employer's attention.
When should students list their personal interests on their resumes?
If an interest can be a talking point in the interview, then it could be helpful. For instance, if an interviewer sees that a candidate is an avid skier, and that's a shared interest, then that can be a wonderful way to enter an interview dialogue.
But I once saw someone write that they were good at video games on their resume. Playing video games could be a common interest, but more often than not employers feel that information shows that you'll be less focused on the job at hand.
How can students have successful interviews?
Students should draw upon experiences outside of the classroom, like internships, to answer questions. We emphasize the STAR approach, which is thinking about the Situations they experienced, Tasks they had in those situations, Actions they took, and the Results of those actions.
These ideas help employers see how well candidates are able to solve problems. We also stress the importance of nonverbal communication, like dressing professionally, showing up on time, and maintaining eye contact.
What are common mistakes students make on interviews?
Some students have difficulty talking about themselves succinctly. They don't have practice doing 30-second pitches, so they aren't able to come up with strong summary statements. That's why we encourage students to come in and do mock interviews with us and to practice with their friends, family, and classmates. Students also need to show how what they've done is exactly what the employer needs. Making that connection can win over a potential employer.
How do you help students get internships?
Our six-person employer development team goes out and finds full-time jobs and internships each semester and then adds this information to a database for students. We also help students find networking opportunities.
We see internships as the key to full-time jobs because more companies are employing their interns full time after they graduate. Even if students don't have previous internships, they can sell themselves on their leadership roles in student organizations or their volunteer work. Having a part-time job can also help since it shows employers that the student is dedicated to supporting himself and is able to juggle multiple things.
How does being in the Washington, D.C., area benefit students?
Government drives many of the jobs here. Many internships are available because students have access to all the government agencies. The D.C. metro area is also host to many consulting and accounting firms.