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This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
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A firm handshake can help you get a grip on the job market. Basic but useful lessons like this come from corporate recruiters taking part in a groundbreaking career development seminar for incoming freshmen and transfer students.
“Participants learn to write an effective résumé and cover letter, network online and in person, prepare for an interview, and find an internship,” explains Alyssa Hammond, senior associate director of undergraduate career services. It’s a very early education that “many students at other colleges don’t get in all four years from their career services.”
The first-of-its-kind Career Development Introduction (CDI 101) seminar provides a comprehensive career toolkit and the opportunity to practice interviews and elevator pitches in front of employers. Seminar graduates can then apply for an internship that earns a single non-academic credit (CDI 102). The experience is valuable preparation, as more than 90 percent of Bentley students will pursue at least one internship before graduation.
“Internships are typically the largest source of full-time employment for each graduating class,” notes Melissa Sawyer of Bentley’s Office of Undergraduate Career Services.
The program’s authenticity comes from Bentley career advisers and business professionals who teach the classes. The 15 corporate partners participating this spring included Boston Scientific, eBay, the Big Four public accounting firms, and Vistaprint.
Stephanie Perkins of Epsilon is among the campus recruiters who say an elevator pitch is one of the tallest challenges for students. “People often say either too little or way too much. In addition to basics like name, class year and major, I want to know something interesting about you personally.”
That should take no more than 60 seconds, she advises. “Keep it short. During an interview you will have the chance to go into greater detail about your experience.”
For Diana Kil ’16, learning about eye contact and potential interview questions was inspiration to sharpen her skills.
“I listened to feedback from my mock interview and then practiced in front of friends,” says the Marketing major. “It pushed me out of my comfort zone, but also helped me gain confidence about meeting with recruiters.”
In February, Kil signed on for her second internship since completing CDI 101: working as a social media intern at Boston-based Spreadshirt, a custom T-shirt design company.
Two other CDI seminar participants — sophomores Nicholas Gardner and Sean Hannigan, pictured left and right above — landed internships at The Kraft Group. Earlier, the two had attended an information session at Gillette Stadium, coordinated by Career Services and the Bentley Marketing Association.
“I kept in contact with the company and applied for the internship,” says Hannigan. “The interview practice and elevator pitch exercises prepared me well for my Kraft interview, especially since I had to make a presentation to the marketing team.”
Gardner credits the seminar for putting him ahead of junior- and senior-year applicants. “The advice given in CDI 101 opened doors that I most likely would’ve struggled to open on my own. I do not feel that my sophomore application would have been considered without an effective résumé and cover letter.”
In addition to staffing corporate relations at events such as the New England Revolution soccer matches and NFL draft-day party for the New England Patriots, Gardner and Hannigan assist with corporate sales, including website management and marketing campaigns.
Skilled for Life
The CDI seminar reflects Bentley’s distinctive day-one focus on career planning. Over four years, students hone skills to call on long after graduation.
“You can’t control the economy or what the hot jobs are, but you can control what you do to prepare for the unknown,” Hammond observes, noting the highly competitive job market that millennials face. “This is not just a class. It is the beginning of a lifetime of career management.”
How can we better prepare millennials for work? We explored the key skills college grads are lacking, and potential solutions for filling those gaps.