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Programs

Giving students a leg up in landing a job

April 14, 2009

Students participating in the College of Business Career Passport program may find themselves sitting in first-class as they navigate a tour through the virtual world of landing a job.

Career Passport program

The program, a collaboration of College of Business faculty and companies both local and statewide, lasts about six weeks and provides a hands-on experience outside the classroom for students who will be competing in a tight job market.

“With this program, students walk through an entire ‘itinerary’ to see what they will need to successfully enter the business world. We walk them through each part with a series of workshops that include expert advice in the areas of resumes, networking, interviewing, and searching for a career,” says Bill Shuster, instructor, Department of Management, and program coordinator.

Learn what will be expected

Designed primarily for marketing and management students, the Career Passport program allows students to learn from a real-world company exactly what will be expected from them in their eventual jobs – everything from creating a compelling cover letter and making value propositions to conducting a successful interview and learning proper office etiquette.

It all works because of a dedicated faculty, an enthusiastic group of businesses, and the quality of participating students. “We create strong partnerships with the business community. There’s a lot of support from managers who are excited to do whatever they can to help students,” Shuster says. “In today’s market, there’s a lot of competitions, and these companies want to keep their names and brands out there.”

The information provided by business experts helps students adapt to an ever-changing environment. “Each company has its own theory, its own expectations from its employees,” Shuster says. “That information is invaluable. It’s designed to help students be assertive, especially in this economy. You have to get in there and say, ‘This is what I can do for your company.’ ”

Alumni make program even more personal

Shuster says many of the participating business representatives are College of Business alumni, which makes the program even more personal.  Ann Richardson is a 2004 marketing graduate and an area recruiter for The Sherwin-Williams Company.

“The passport program’s greatest strength is the professional networking between employers and students,” she says. “Via this networking, students realize what individual strengths they bring to the business world and how to best market their unique skills. As an employer conducting workshops, I get to know what my ‘customers/students’ want from perspective companies.”

As a 2002 graduate and recruiter for Molson Coors, Brett Dilley is personally invested in the program. “I’m a somewhat recent graduate and not far removed from being a student,” he says. “I want to pass on all of the good advice I got. I think most of the value of the passport program comes from people who come back to share their experiences with students. I feel it’s my civic duty to be a part of that.”

“In the passport program, they’ll hear first-hand what grabs the attention of an employer and how to sell themselves. Once they tap into that, you can see the confidence building that they actually have something to offer.”

 Leg up in competitive economy

Shuster says the program gives students a leg up in a competitive economy.  “They will have to work harder to compete for these jobs,” he says. “Because of the diversity of the companies involved, students learn that each company, person and business culture is completely different. They see the present, the future, and their particular fit in the company. It opens their eyes to different opportunities.”

The Career Passport program provides a break from past job-seeking traditions, says David Ramsay, with the Worldwide Product Marketing Workstation at the Hewlett-Packard Company.

“We’ve gone past the point where the students go into the typical ‘cattle call’ when looking for a job. We set aside two days each spring and fall when we rent out a ballroom or set up under a big tent on the Oval so we can sit down and talk with students in an atmosphere that’s more comfortable,” he says. This fits HP’s mission to build an ongoing contact with students from the time they are freshmen. “We don’t wait until a month before graduation,” he says. “We want to develop a relationship in advance.”

Prepared well before graduation

This network sets the roots of a student’s career well before graduation, Ramsay says. “It’s like a tree. It’s as big as you want to grow it. Basically, you’re grafting one network off another so you have all of these branches of possibilities,” he says. 

Colorado State turns out an “upper crop” of graduates for whom the program offers significant preparation, according to Ramsay.

“They have a lot of abilities, but many of them don’t know their own strengths. That’s where the passport program is invaluable,” he says. “They can be coached in the skills they’ll need in getting a job – the nuts and bolts of the search process.”

Keep an open mind, find right fit

Richardson’s goal is for students to leave the program knowing two important lessons. “I will feel it has been a success if, first, they learn to keep an open mind when looking at employers. I would have never imagined working for a paint company (Sherwin-Williams), and now I can’t imagine working for any other company,” she says.

Richardson also believes students shouldn’t apologize for being choosy about finding the right fit instead of taking the first job offered. “I would like students to remember this is their career search,” she says.

“Each successful student is our investment for the future. That’s what makes us an extra-strong business school,” he says. “Other schools may talk about it; we do it.”

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Original story by Joyce Davis. Full story originally published in the College of Business Alumni Magazine, The Difference, Spring 2009, pages 7-11.