New Course Gives Sophomores Professional Development Edge
October 17, 2014
A new course for Isenberg's sophomores is giving them a competitive edge in job interviewing, networking, and skills for researching employers and industries. The course, "Career and Professional Development," is equipping students with a roadmap for professional development success.
Developed by Isenberg's Director of Internships Kim Figueroa and her colleagues at the school's Chase Career Center, the course picks up where a professional development seminar for Isenberg freshman leaves off. In that course the school's dean, Mark Fuller, and successful Isenberg graduates urge the students to begin career exploration and planning from day one. The freshman seminar offers inspiration and establishes expectations; its sophomore sequel shows the students how to achieve them.
Pursuit of Internships
Gearing up for internships-multiple internships-is a central theme of the sophomore course. Landing an internship, like the quest for a full-time job, calls for strategic networking, interviewing, and research skills, emphasize Figueroa and her co-instructors, Chase's senior career advisor Trish Harper, junior-year writing lecturer Michael Schurter, and Undergraduate Associate Dean Linda Shea. Above all, internships prepare students for careers after graduation by immersing them in the language, culture, and practices of business.
Throughout the semester, each student builds and fine-tunes a personal narrative, based on a formal personality assessment, inventories of their accomplishments and interests, and evaluation of their fit in different professional settings. The narrative, says Harper, becomes a touchstone for how students present themselves in resumes, interviews, and networking.
Resumes, notes Figueroa, can sink or swim with the quality of their bulleted descriptors. She and her fellow instructors recommend action verbs and keywords that connect a student's skills and accomplishments to an employer's job description. The course asks Isenberg students to use Optimal Resume,* an online tool that allows them to fine-tune their language and self-descriptions to specific job opportunities and employers.
Students prepare for interviews with Optimal Interview,* interactive software that, through a virtual interviewer, poses questions-including open-ended behavioral ones-through the lens of their major and their future profession. Students receive advice from an online coach and additional pointers in the classroom. They can revisit the software any time to practice and refine their interviewing technique.
Voices of Experience
Throughout the semester, a host of business professionals and professional development insiders visit the classroom. Chase's Director of Recruiting Operations, Melissa Salva, helps students with the nuances of LinkedIn. An alumni panel explores networking, a recruiter panel discusses interviewing, and Isenberg juniors and seniors recount their own internships.
For a final project, students work in teams, researching and dissecting specific industries, their professional opportunities, and career paths. The exercise, says Harper, helps students to strategically understand the companies and industries that they will one day join. "When you're talking with an employer, it's about them; it's about you being a good fit," she emphasizes.
"The course introduces basics like resume writing and interviewing early on," remarks Chase Center executive director Nicolas Wegman. "With those tactical activities under their belts, we then challenge the students with more strategic concerns like positioning themselves for professional opportunities that complement their interests and skills, and analyzing employers and their industries." The course is demanding, adds Figueroa. "But as things come together, everybody appreciates our central message: This course is about you and your success!"