Tag: Weston Career Center

Carolyn Feltner, EMBA50, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Touring with the Grateful Dead the summer after college. That is the only time since I was 15 that I didn’t have a job. And I sold water out of my car, so, technically, I was still working. Just ask my parents.

I love working. It gives me fulfillment, a sense of accomplishment and feeling of community. I made many of my best friends at the office.

I am one of thousands whose position was eliminated because of COVID-19. I came home from spring break with my two daughters on a Saturday night. Less than 12 hours later, I went to the office that Sunday to catch up on work, only to walk into my own layoff.

I had been worried about the effect COVID-19 would have on my family’s physical health, but I did not think of how much it could impact our financial health. Talk about your life being flipped in 24 hours.

‘What’s next?’

The question became “Okay, what’s next?” I have more than 20 years of marketing experience and was an EMBA50. I have been honored to be part of two established and respected communities in St. Louis: Olin and Anheuser-Busch.

I had heard of Mary Houlihan before, as she worked at Anheuser-Busch and now is at Olin, but I had never met her. The day I lost my job, March 22, I couldn’t count how many times former colleagues and classmates told me to connect with her, once I had told them my news. And, as if by luck, I received an email that afternoon that Olin was starting a boot camp for MBAs in transition led by Mary Houlihan and Frans VanOudenallen, career coaches at Olin’s Weston Career Center.

The boot camp has been invaluable. Topics such as managing the transition, having the right mindset and getting organized have helped me navigate the beginning of this journey. Peter Ambrose, EMBA12, was a guest speaker at the last session and explained the importance of “emotional resiliency” as we transition during the crisis.

Olin also offers a career group coaching session. I took this course when I started in the EMBA program. At the time, though, I was employed and wasn’t pursuing other career opportunities. It was a great course then, but it is even more vital now.

Mary has been my coach through all of this. She both supports me and pushes me.

Once Olin, always Olin

I have known the strength of the Olin community for a long time. My mother, Sally Roth, EMBA11, has talked about her connection to the school, relationship with the professors and friendships with her classmates. I felt that way while I attended Olin two years ago.

Only now, however, do I understand the significance of my time at Olin. My classmates from industries as diverse as manufacturing, finance and healthcare have reached out. They not only have offered connections and advice, but also they are there for me as friends.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Yes, a layoff can happen to you. Yes, even you.
  2. Everything happens for a reason (and you will repeat that mantra until you almost believe it).
  3. Olin staff, faculty and alum are there for you. Reach out to them.

As much as my time at Olin was valuable, the connections I made there have been priceless. Once Olin, always Olin. Now time to find my next career adventure. Unfortunately, no bands are touring now, so I’ll be sticking with marketing.

Photo: Carolyn Feltner, EMBA50

In the economic climate caused by COVID-19, many summer 2020 internship programs and full-time offers will likely continue, but some companies have already rescinded job offers. And it sucks. I know.

I am here to offer a few words of encouragement and share advice from my 18 years in talent acquisition. Start with this perspective: We’re in the midst of a pandemic that has ravaged the global economy while sickening and killing tens of thousands.

I survived the 2001 and 2008 recessions. When it comes to looking at a resume and identifying employment gaps, for some industries, recruiters practically expect to find gaps in those years. The same is true now.

Yes, work history is important, but what matters more to a recruiter is what you did with your time. How you tackled the job market in 2020 will be what defines you.

Creating a parallel plan

Have you considered creating a parallel plan? A parallel plan is simply an alternative plan. Creating one helps you reduce stress by preparing for all possibilities and diversifying your options after the school year or graduation.

The benefit is that you will identify your transferable skills and increase your understanding of the job market and your career goals.

Consider Pralabh Garg, MBA ’21. He originally came to Olin to pursue a career in consulting. After fall interviews did not work out, he decided to go back to his roots and looked more into technology companies, which reminded him of his passion for creating solutions using technology.

This was the catalyst to apply for the summer entrepreneurship stipend program through the WCC. His application was accepted, and he will work closely with Professor Doug Villhard to pursue his business plan for an event planning app.

Pralabh recognized that instead of the traditional summer internship, he could refine his entrepreneurial skills to position him well for full-time recruiting in the coming fall.

Broadening options, increasing knowledge

There is always going to be work that needs to be done. Can you volunteer your talents at a nonprofit? Even if you decide to answer a “help wanted” sign for the summer, drive for Uber or take extra classes, your “job” will be worthwhile.

Broadening your options is one way to create a career parallel plan. Can you expand your geographic preferences? Or, have you thought about different industries? Your goal should be to increase your skills or knowledge.

This would be the perfect place to mention the new 1.5 credit course offered through Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Students will have the chance to work on a team-based consulting project with a corporation, nonprofit or startup organization (contact the CEL directly for details: CEL@olin.wustl.edu).

When thinking of your alternative plan, take a deep breath. What’s the worst that could happen? I would say doing nothing. And if I know our WashU Olin students, doing nothing is not an option.

Five Olin alumni who graduated during the worst economic recession in the US since the Great Depression share what they learned with the class of 2020 and 2021, who now face their own anxious, uncertain future.

“It’s not fair.”

In a panel Zoom conversation on Friday, April 17, among full-time MBA students and five alumni who graduated during the 2008-2009 recession, Davi Bryan spoke bluntly to the students.

“Relative to students who graduated a year or two ago, you are going to have to put in more work,” said Bryan, MBA ’08, and executive for workplace experience, North America lead at Avande. “It is going to be harder. You are going to have to bring more creativity to your search. And is that fair? No, it’s not. But at some point, you’ve just got to do it.”

Bryan, along with Jeannie Chan, MBA ’08, associate director at Merck; EJ Hullverson, MBA ’09, digital project lead at Nestlé Purina; Bobby Stewart, MBA ’08, marketing consultant at RDS Marketing Solutions; and Julie Zuick, MBA ’09, senior consultant for diversified search at Grant Cooper, shared their experiences and wisdom with students hoping to find jobs or summer internships amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.

Find the “new doors” that open

Recognizing that the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 has closed doors for students, who might face hiring freezes or rescinded internships, Olin’s Weston Career Center invited the five MBA alumni, who had experienced similar tumult in their own job searches, to share their insights.

Panelists and full-time MBA students gathered with Weston Career Center staff on Friday, April 17 to discuss career searching during an economic downturn.

The panel, moderated by Kendra Kelly, MBA ’21, encouraged students to consider ways this change in plans might lead to options they might not have previously considered.

“In tumultuous times, opportunity can arise,” said Hulverson. “Being able to flex and bend and approach the situation looking for opportunities is what defined my job search.”

Bryan agreed, remembering her fear of failure because she couldn’t find the jobs she’d dreamed of and planned for. “I think my experience and those of the others here today speak for themselves: this isn’t something that follows you forever, and it doesn’t create an insurmountable hurdle.”

She explained how she turned an experience working for Walmart, after which she chose to move toward consulting, still helped her land her desired job at Deloitte because she had a story to tell about what she learned about herself: “I told them the skills I’d learned. Now I’m telling Deloitte a story of how I fit in there, and how the skills I learned at Walmart make me a better candidate.”

Stewart reminded students that large, publicly traded organizations—which may have frozen hiring—aren’t the only choice for getting experience. “Use your entrepreneurial spirit, the resources Olin has provided you to help other organizations get where they need to be.”

Zuick put it simply: “Each job, each company will teach you something,” she said.

Be prepared, work hard, use your skills

It’s no secret that the class of 2020 and 2021 will have to work hard and be creative in their job search—but the panelists explored how that might set them apart.

That need to be flexible, hard-working and agile in the job search is the same need companies have for their workers. As Hullverson said, “I don’t think the world is getting any more certain. Being able to pivot is extremely valuable.”

Zuick reminded students to do their research—and keep up that hard-work mindset once they’ve landed the position. “You might want to take on more,” she recommended. “You’ll get a project—knock that out of the park. But if it’s going well, ask for a second project where you can gain more skills and become a leader.”

The panel encouraged the students to stretch. “You’re going to have to do a lot of things that are uncomfortable,” Bryan explained. “But just because it feels uncomfortable doesn’t mean you’re not good at it.”

Be yourself

At least once in the hourlong session, each panelist reminded the students of the most important part of the job search: be who you are, and be real.

The panelists recommended that students not shy away from the impact COVID-19 is having on all of us. “Be sensitive about it,” said Chan. “But there is something that everyone is going through right now. Start a conversation by talking about this common experience, and become a real person to the person on the phone.”

Stewart reminded the students, “you’re competing against a lot of other very smart, very talented people from top MBA programs. Personality really does matter.”

After an hour of question-and-answer, students expressed their gratitude at the chance to talk to people who understood what they were experiencing—and had lived through it.

Adam Hull (MBA ’21) felt edified learning from the perspective of another class who faced challenging economic times. “It was inspiring to see that each member of the panel had built a fantastic career and had used the economic difficulties as a way to build resilience and adaptability.”

As the event wrapped up, Kelly asked the panelists for parting thoughts. Bryan summed up her hopes for the class of 2020:

“I hope you are being stretched and learning things about yourself, so that you emerge from this experience knowing who you are and what your value is. Then, you’ll be able to weather whatever comes before you. That’s my wish for each of you.”

When nearly 100 first-year MBA students traveled to three continents and four destinations during their global immersion experience last summer, they did more than just study abroad. Indeed, they were working professionals who experienced their career goals in real-time as they worked with local and global companies.

Chris Collier, WCC Career Coach, speaks to Olin MBA students during their global immersion in Barcelona.

Walking alongside them each step of the way was a team of dedicated career and communication coaches from Olin’s Weston Career Center, who graded presentations and helped students contextualize their experiences and prepare for job and internship interviews—with some internship interviews even happening during late nights in Barcelona. Students reflect on the experience in the video above.

Ray Wagner (MBA ’21) called the experience of having career coaches along “invaluable.” He reflected, “What’s so great about having had them on the trip with us is we’re a step ahead of our peers.” We caught up with Ray, who shares how he’s been able to apply lessons from the immersion in the classroom and in his career plans.

In retrospect, can you describe how the global immersion has influenced your approach to class?

In respect to my approach to class, I think the global immersion further ingrained in me how global business really is. 

The global immersion opened my eyes and widened my aperture of business dynamics on a worldly scale. Now, as I approach business cases in class or work with my professors and classmates, I tend to look at things from more of a global lens—trying to see all sides of the story and the implications of respective business decisions.

What did you gain from the experience that you’ve been able to apply already – particularly as it might relate to your career interest?

Most notably, the global immersion opened my eyes to the vast amount of business opportunities that are out there. As we consulted with the wineries in Barcelona and with Strange Donuts in Shanghai, I developed a real interest in the strategy of how a business works and the implications of decisions business leaders make. 

That being said, I have been able to dive deeper into business strategy within my coursework and it has really driven my approach to my post-MBA career. The global immersion sparked my interest in looking at businesses objectively and answering the existential questions that a young entrepreneur or a CEO may have in order to make their business prosperous.   

What are your career ambitions right now? Do you have plans for your summer internship?

Thanks to the global immersion, I am motivated to work within the strategy space of a business. I am continuing to pursue that ambition and looking to make an impact on a team that answers those existential questions for businesses. 

As I continue to navigate my career aspirations and full time recruiting, I am excited to join the corporate strategy office at Emerson this summer as part of their MBA Leadership Internship Program. Emerson is such a great company headquartered in St. Louis with a large global footprint. 

I am very excited to get some real-world exposure from such a great company this summer.  I look to bring my leadership background from the military and experiences from the global immersion and MBA to Emerson and make great contributions to the team.  

Olin MBA students visit Cisco in Silicon Valley in October 2019, thanks to the help of alumni in the company and relationships forged through the Weston Career Center.

Good business is all about good relationships.

As a business school, building strong relationships means 14 companies will hire more of your graduates than they did the year before. A commitment to creating new relationships means another 15 companies will hire your graduates for the first time.

Jennifer Whitten
Jennifer Whitten

Both happened this year. And thanks to the efforts of our Weston Career Center, we saw even more positive results for our students and recent graduates. Internship recruiting is up. New firms are coming to campus to recruit our students. Alumni are engaging with our students in greater numbers than ever.

Nearly two years ago, WashU Olin began a massive overhaul of the WCC and our corporate relations efforts. Now, that work is yielding the results we anticipated when we began.

Dorothy Kittner at the Olin cookout in 2017.
Dorothy Kittner at the Olin cookout in 2017.

“We’ve been much more focused and targeted,” said Jen Whitten, associate dean and director of the WCC. “Everything has moved from a transactional to a relationship model.”

In the past 18 months, Jen and her team have consolidated the career center and our corporate relations operation so they work hand-in-glove. Jen, along with Dorothy Kittner, associate dean and director of corporate relations, have deployed Olin team members to the east and west coasts of the United States, into Europe, the Middle East and Shanghai.

Those moves acknowledge the common interests we share with corporate partners. Building those relationships means we gain insight into career trends and specific job opportunities for our students and alumni.

“Having the ability to collaborate in real time with the WCC really helps to connect the dots,” Dorothy said. At the same time, these moves create new opportunities for recruiters to gain exposure to our talented students.

“We are really running on all four cylinders—and then some,” Dorothy said. “We’re helping employers rethink their strategies, creatively adapting to new ways of meeting students—bringing students to them, for example, or connecting them through live-streamed interviews.”

Indeed, our students regularly take career treks focused on technology, finance, accounting, wealth management and consulting—with access to big-name players in every industry.

Meanwhile, Jen and her team are empowered to “break down barriers,” persuading recruiters who have never visited to make a trip to Olin. “What’s the best way to plug you into Olin?” she asks. “We’ll figure it out.”

As any sound business would do, we leveraged external experts two years ago for insight into the next steps for our career center. Boston Consulting Group conceived many of the strategies we’ve implemented in corporate relations and career services. An interesting byproduct: BCG is now active on campus, working hard to further engage.

Placing corporate relations professionals in the field establishes that WashU Olin is serious about creating relationships. Empowering those professionals to proactively break down recruiting barriers builds those relationships. Encouraging those professionals to leverage our strong alumni network within those companies further cements those relationships.

Conventional wisdom has always been that without at least 200 MBA students, a business school cannot attract recruiters to campus. Jen has shown that conventional wisdom is wrong. We’ve had more employers engaging in a broader range of recruiting events than ever before. And we only see growth in the future.

Pictured above: Olin MBA students visit Cisco in Silicon Valley in October 2019, thanks to the help of alumni in the company and relationships forged through the Weston Career Center.