The School of Business’ new career center director will focus on career outcomes and prioritize students under his “new vision” for the center.
Since officials hired Mark Strassman to head the business school’s F. David Fowler Career Center in April, he has restructured the center’s staff to remove “barriers” for students and created a seven-step coaching “action plan.” Administrators and students said the changes will improve students’ job prospects after graduation, ultimately improving the business school’s reputation.
“We’re there to make sure that you are the best person you can be in front of the employer,” Strassman said. “Of course, we’re there also to open as many doors, so it is being in enough places where you’re finally in the right place at the right time.”
Bringing a fresh perspective
While he entered the position with no prior experience in higher education, Strassman said his background in the private sector taught him to emphasize outcomes, like job placement and internships, because outcomes are among students’ top priorities.
“I come from corporate executive search, where you need to fill jobs,” Strassman said. “When you have a client who is saying, ‘Find a new CFO,’ or, ‘Find me a VP of finance,’ you can’t say, ‘Yeah, I’ll do my best.’ You have to have the answers, and you have to turn over every stone until you find the answers.”
Administrators posted a job opening in February for an international student career consultant, but Strassman said officials are no longer searching for someone to fill the role because all career coaches in the center should have the expertise to assist those students. The staff’s training includes a focus on both domestic and international companies, he said.
Strassman said he is prioritizing a staff of full-time career coaches, which has caused some part-time and remote staff to leave the center. At least four career center staff members departed from the career center within the past year, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
Strassman added that career consultants are now no longer assigned to either undergraduate or graduate students because limiting consultants to a specific level placed an unnecessary barrier to student coaching.
“There’s no reason why somebody who coaches undergraduates shouldn’t be coaching graduates and someone who coaches graduates shouldn’t be coaching undergraduates,” Strassman said. “It’s about areas of expertise – data analytics is data analytics. I don’t care which program you’re in, being a consultant is being a consultant.”
Only one undergraduate career consultant was previously listed on the center’s website before the change.
Avery Yoss, a sophomore concentrating in arts management in the business school, said having a career coach with expertise in her specific field is more helpful to her than working with a coach specific to undergraduate students.
“I went to a coach in the career center, and she has a specialty in arts management – which is what I want to do – and she was already telling me about internships you can get into,” she said. “If I didn’t get someone who was interested in arts management, that wouldn’t be as helpful.”
Creating a coaching action plan
Strassman said he and his staff developed a new “action plan” that maps out the seven major steps of the job or internship placement process: self-assessment and visioning, research, resume and cover letter construction, personal brand and reputation building, network development and networking, the interview process and managing the offer process.
Strassman said he has worked with career center staff to be “proactive” in reaching out to students through the center’s newsletters and social media accounts. While the center has expanded and restructured its resources, Strassman said many students never seek out help or use the center’s consultants.
“This action plan now works to be able to convert that visit or that one outreach to where we can end up seven steps down the road to helping them negotiate their salary for employment,” Strassman said.
He added that the school is “changing the model” of its Communities of Practice programs, like the Real Estate and Finance Alliance Mentorship Program and the Mentoring and Immersion Program for Consulting, from last year to accept any student that shows commitment on the application.
“We thought everybody deserves that training,” he said. “If you’re smart enough to get into GWSB, you’re smart enough to be in that program.”
Sim Mittal, a student lead for the Mentoring and Immersion Program for Consulting and a former Hatchet reporter, said the new model will provide “a lot of benefits” to participants by offering programs with three different levels of complexity, giving students the opportunity to experiment and find out whether their chosen career field is for them.
“I think it’s a great program because students get to learn early on in their career if they want to be a consultant or not,” she said.
Mittal added that since the program is no longer “exclusive,” more students can take advantage of it and improve their employment prospects. The programs have a 100 percent job placement rate, according to a presentation made at a Faculty Senate meeting by business school Dean Anuj Mehrotra Friday.
Collaborating to achieve success
Strassman said he wants to be a part of Mehrotra’s push to improve the business school community by prioritizing student success and a culture of transparency. Business school faculty said that Mehrotra has ushered in a welcoming culture in his first year by consistently encouraging feedback from faculty and staff.
“If you would ask any of my staff, you would find that they’re so sick of me saying the word ‘collaborate,’” Strassman said.
He added that Mehrotra has been hands-off in a “good” way with the career center’s work because the dean trusts and backs the career center staff’s decisions.
“I had this vision of what a dean of a business school would feel like or sound like, and I couldn’t have been more wrong, at least here,” Strassman said. “He is such a positive, energetic influence whose main focus is what’s best for the student.”
Mehrotra said he supports Strassman’s vision for the center and added that Strassman brings a lot of “talent” and “creative ideas” to the center.
“I have complete confidence in Mark to be able to take us to the next level,” Mehrotra said in an interview.
Jared Gans contributed reporting.