A pro at packing a suitcase perfectly in 15 minutes flat. On a first-name basis with every receptionist at the local airport club lounge. Elite frequent flier on every airline. Sound like someone you know? Yep, university recruiters tend to be pretty seasoned travelers.
But that doesn’t mean that all university recruiting events need to take place on campus.
What if I said that you have the ability to reach students and establish valuable connections with universities… without leaving your office?
It’s true—you can build your employer brand simply by making your company office available to host visiting students and career services professionals. This type of event—often called a “career trek”—gives a select group of students (often those who are carefully vetted by their school’s career services office) a glimpse into what life at your organization is really like. It also allows you to build relationships with universities through their career services offices.
But it’s not enough to just reserve a boardroom and prepare a ho-hum PowerPoint presentation. With the right preparation, you can use the trek as the opportunity to foster real connections between your company and the students who are visiting.
We chatted with Amanda Hansen, Assistant Director of Employer Relations in the Career Development Office at Leeds School of Business at University of Colorado to get her tips on how employers can make the most of this opportunity—and create the best possible impression on students.
Can you give us a brief summary of the Leeds School of Business?
The Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder has a proud history as a flagship school at a top research university. Located in one of the nation’s emerging business hubs for innovation and entrepreneurship, the Leeds School is an academic community rich in tradition and determination. Leeds is a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities.
Since 1906 innovation and academic excellence have been the hallmarks of the Leeds School. In 2001 a transformative gift from the Leeds family shaped programs and curriculum grounded in ethics and diversity. Today the Leeds School of Business aspires to be one of the preeminent business schools in the United States. Scholarship and research are at the core, while integrity and social responsibility are fundamental to the Leeds experience. Knowledge and discovery are advanced in a collaborative, collegial, and inclusive environment.
Innovation and thought leadership in research, teaching, and service supported by distinguished faculty, talented staff, engaged alumni, and business partners produce principled graduates. The Leeds School of Business drives economic development and yields innovative business solutions.
We have 3,300 students currently enrolled including undergrads and MBAs (around 250 MBAs total). This fall we will also be adding an MS program to include studies in Business Analytics and Supply Chain Management. More information on those programs can be found here.
We offer four different areas of emphasis: Finance, Accounting, Management, and Marketing. In addition, we have a Business Minor program and a number of Certificate programs for students who want to customize their degree. More information on these programs can be found here.
What are your general duties and responsibilities as Assistant Director of Employer Relations?
The Employer Relations (ER) team has three full-time staff members. In my role as the Assistant Director of Employer Relations, I am responsible for making sure that our employers connect with students in whatever capacity works for them. This could include career fairs, job postings, on-campus interviews, networking events, résumé critique and mock interview days, other on-campus events, career panels, etc. Basically our team is here so that it is easy for employers to hire our students for jobs and internships.
We have found that about 50% of our students come to the University of Colorado from outside of the state. That being said, we have a large number of students who are looking for full-time employment after college outside of the State of Colorado. Part of my responsibility is making sure that we have connections and job postings for those students when they graduate. I am also responsible for helping to plan and execute our Career Treks—additional information on these below!
What types of employers do you tend to work with?
Our employers come from a wide range of industries, which is great because not all of our students want to work for the same company after graduation!
We have strong connections to the Big 4 (accounting), oil and gas/energy, Colorado-based banks, advertising agencies, companies in healthcare, social media platforms, consulting, “green” companies, start-ups, telecommunications… the school has a great reputation, so this list could go on and on.
In addition, the school has four Centers: The Burridge Center for Finance, a Real Estate Center, the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility (CESR). We have been able to identify these four as strong interest areas for our students (both undergrad and MBA). The Centers offer Certificates in their various areas and the students are able to customize their Leeds experience by being involved. We see a lot of employers who really value that we have these additional learning experiences.
What types of activities do you coordinate with employers?
Our office is great because we are super flexible and collaborative with our employers. Whenever we are meeting with an employer who wants to host an event on campus, we go over a couple of options but also leave it up to them if they want to try something new.
We have an outdoor BBQ grill that some employers will utilize and host a cook-out for our students, we also have a large quad area where we are planning an event for an employer that will include music and pizza. We also help with the more traditional on-campus interviews, information sessions, career fairs, etc.
What are “Career Treks” and what does your involvement in them look like?
As much as we’d like every employer to come on campus and visit us, we realized that wasn’t always possible as many were still trying to run a business!
The Burridge Center for Finance here at Leeds had been taking top finance students to Wall Street for years—but our other students didn’t have the same opportunity to make connections.
In the fall of 2013 we planned our first Trek. It was local, just down to Denver and we visited four completely different companies. It ended up being very successful and then throughout the 2013–2014 academic year, we also planned San Francisco (February 2014), Boulder (Human Resources focus, March 2014) and back to Denver visiting different companies (April 2014).
We have found that locally we can accommodate 16–18 undergrad students and 4–6 MBAs (depending on boardroom availability from our hosts), and that out of state it is best to stick with 14–15 undergrads and 4–5 MBAs. With any more than 20 students, it gets difficult trying to figure out lodging, logistics, etc.
We start the planning months in advance by meeting to talk about the geographic area that we want to target. Then, we meet with our Alumni, Development, and External Relations teams to determine if we have any connections in that area who we can reach out to. This is typically how we determine where we are going to visit.
Some visits require heading to that area ahead of time to qualify companies and meet face to face, but the majority of the work is done over the phone or via email. We also take into consideration companies that have the space and time to host us, as well as making sure they are somewhere our students would eventually want to work.
Then, we figure out what type of event that we want to host as part of the Trek. We typically have a networking event at the end of the evening where we invite local alums, company hosts, and the students who participate. We also have to check with our Dean, David Ikenberry, on his schedule, as he is often in attendance for our alumni events.
Then, the student outreach starts. We send an email out advertising the Trek and inviting students to apply. The current application process includes a cover letter, résumé, and Leeds staff or faculty reference. We also have financial aid available for students to apply for when we are traveling outside of the state.
For our employers, we typically ask that they plan to have us there for 1.5 to 2 hours. The visits are most successful when we have a company tour, spend time talking with recent hires or interns about their experiences, and really get a feel for what the company culture is like. We have seen individual speakers with PowerPoint presentations as well as larger panels where we do a Q&A session. Each company can structure it for what makes sense for their team.
This academic year we are planning Treks to New York (Marketing, Media & Fashion, September 2014), Houston (Energy, November 2014), San Francisco (Technology, January 2015), and back down to Denver for two more local ones (October 2014 and April 2015).
Our hope is that by the time all of our students are seniors, they will have had an opportunity to connect with their top choice for employers in whatever capacity suits them (either through a Trek, Career Fair, etc.)
What are some of the qualities of employers who are most successful at hosting Career Treks?
In my opinion, the most successful visits have been the ones that are not over-thought. Our students don’t necessarily need a massive presentation by your executives. They really want to learn more from the newest employees there, talk to the recruiters about how they can stand out, and see what the cool things are that are happening inside of your building. Students also appreciate lots of unstructured time for networking, as this is when they really can make connections.
This generation of students places a lot of value on the culture of the company, flexibility, and workplace perks. We have toured companies that have a ping pong table, a keg on the lower floor (for Friday afternoons), provide a free, catered lunch every day, and also one that has a gym on site for employees to exercise at. Our students love finding these things out and it makes them really start to prioritize and value what they want their after college experience to be like.
What are some of the qualities of employers who are least successful at hosting Career Treks?
All in all, we have had great companies as our hosts. If I had to choose the less successful ones though, I would have to say they were very large companies who put us in a boardroom and gave a formalized presentation and talked the whole time.
The students definitely want to SEE the environment they would be working in. Sometimes this wasn’t possible due to security concerns, so we will definitely need to think about that for future treks.
What is something you wish all employers knew about dealing with students/university relations offices?
Our students, our entry-level workforce, are the greatest asset to companies today. They are engaged, excited to learn, and just looking for a company to give them that chance. You hear a lot in the media that the ethics of this generation aren’t the same and I would have to disagree. Our Leeds School of Business students are doing some amazing things right now and I am incredibly proud to be a part of that.
There are so many different ways to be engaged with our students (or any students on your local campus). Reach out to your Career team and ask! Even if you don’t have a current job or internship opening, there are still additional ways to be involved. Sign up to be a mentor, volunteer for a Career Panel, or help with a Résumé Critique Day. Take advantage of the colleges and universities in your backyard and create experiences for the next generation of leaders.
The next step: Can you try out one of Amanda’s suggestions for getting involved with your local colleges and universities? Contact the career services offices to see what types of events they’ll be hosting and how you can get involved.
If you’re interested in hosting a career trek, make sure that you include the elements that Amanda highlighted—unstructured time for networking, authentic glimpses into your company culture and work environment, and opportunities for two-way communication.
Have any other thoughts on hosting a career trek? Let us know in the comments section below!
Images courtesy of Leeds School of Business