April 9, 2018
A Loyola University Maryland education prepares students not just for the world of today, but the world of tomorrow. As a university, Loyola must help undergraduates plan carefully to link the rich, distinctive liberal arts education Loyola offers with their professional goals.
So career planning is increasingly important—and even essential—to undergraduate education at Loyola.
At the same time, the University is investing in strengthening career services for students, helping students connect with alumni and parents who can help them on their professional journeys, and giving them the tools they need not just to step into their first job, but also to live lives of discernment that will ensure success and personal fulfillment.
“Loyola graduates,” says Jim Dickinson, Ph.D., ’01, assistant vice president of career services, “are infinitely adaptable and immediately employable.”
And the world needs Loyola University Maryland graduates.
Loyola Ready. Loyola set. Loyola go.
Stop by the Career Center on any weekday afternoon, and you’ll find it humming with activity.
Students are checking in for interviews and appointments, using iPads at the front counter. Other students are dropping by unannounced, full of questions about business cards and career fairs and internships and where to begin.
The college years are packed with classes and clubs, friends and pick-up games at the Fitness & Aquatics Center, exams and exploration. But these students know that one day they will graduate.
This whole extraordinary journey is leading somewhere. And more and more students are recognizing earlier in the process that they need to have a plan as they keep their eyes on that goal.
Loyola’s Career Center is ready for every student who walks through the doors.
“Everybody’s on their own path,” says Jim Dickinson, Ph.D., ’01. “We meet them where they are.”
As a Loyola student, Dickinson doesn’t remember turning to anyone in career services. A psychology major with a writing minor, he was involved and interested in campus life, but it didn’t occur to him to stop by the Career Center to figure out his next step.
When he returned to Loyola as its first assistant vice president of career services in July 2016, Dickinson took some time to observe and see how the Career Center worked—and how students were using it—before he started implementing changes. Then he worked with the staff there to renovate the space to serve students better.
He introduced Loyola Connect, an online network powered by PeopleGrove that offers alumni, parents, employees, and other friends of Loyola a chance to network with and mentor students. He introduced Loyola to Handshake, a high-powered job search and career management tool.
But the most significant change Dickinson has brought has been introducing a Jesuit lens to the career search process. He and his colleagues in the Career Center now help students view their journeys in a four-phase cycle: self-discovery, exploration, preparation, and active pursuit.
“When you think about the practice of discernment, we experience, reflect, and act,” Dickinson says. “Our work isn’t focused on a four-year action plan. We’re teaching students and alumni about a repeatable process they will use throughout their careers.”
Meeting students where they are
Members of the Career Center team discuss the approach with students on their initial visits to the Career Center.
“You could be a senior in self-discovery or a first-year student in active pursuit,” says John Montgomery, a student in Loyola’s Master’s in School Counseling program who counsels students when they visit the Career Center.
A career changer himself, Montgomery left the business world after 10 years to pursue a career in counseling. He enjoyed business, but after becoming a parent, he was looking for greater fulfillment in his work. A Florida International University graduate who settled in his wife’s hometown, Baltimore, he found his way to Loyola, where he’s come to appreciate the Jesuit approach.
“The whole reflection aspect is something that is really genuine—there is constant reflection in my graduate program, and we talk about service to the community,” he says.
As Montgomery meets with students, he tries to figure out where they are on their individual journeys.
“It’s a process,” says Montgomery, who will complete his degree in December. He sees that first conversation with each student as essential. “We’re building a relationship. We want you to keep coming back.”
And students come back. They come for sessions on creating a strong LinkedIn profile. They come for résumé critiques.
They come to take the Strong Interest Inventory to get a sense of where their interests and strengths lie. They come to practice mock job interviews. They come for real job interviews with visiting companies—in person and via Skype. Then when they get internship and job offers, they come for advice on which position to take.
Accepting the right offer
That was the focus of a recent conversation in the Career Center, as a student sat down with Mary DeManss, ’85, M.S. ’92, assistant director of career connections, to talk through his options for employment.
Together, they weighed all the pros and cons—thinking beyond salary to consider overall compensation, including overtime and vacation days, as well as the cost of living in the cities where the positions were.
“We talked long- and short-term goals and the growth of the company,” DeManss says. In the end, the student made the decision that he thought offered the most opportunity: the Baltimore-based company that offered less money, but afforded more growth.
The on-campus recruitment program offers campus career fairs. Rather than holding one large fair, the Career Center hosts a series of events throughout the year that feature organizations that naturally align with different academic areas: a Business Career Fair, a STEM Career Fair, a Communication Career Fair, and a Liberal Arts Career Fair.
DeManss also spends time in her role speaking with parents and prospective parents, discussing possible career opportunities for their students. DeManss often shares with them that Loyola graduates do well—Loyola’s unemployment rate is significantly under the national average for college graduates. And she encourages them to take advantage of the resources available on campus.
“The common denominator,” she says, “is that they have to come into the Career Center.”
What recruiters say
When they do, they may be surprised to find that on any given day, employers are in the Career Center conducting interviews for internships and jobs. One week last fall, Under Armour representatives visited just ahead of a Morgan Stanley representative.
“I’m always impressed by the level of students and what they’re working on,” says Abe Yasser, financial planning and analysis (FP&A) senior director, global product and sourcing at Under Armour. He likes finding out what the students are curious about and asking them about their entrepreneurship and study abroad experiences.
“What separates students here at Loyola is they’re multidimensional.”
Yasser interviewed students—including one Skype interview with a student who was abroad—with his colleague Kathleen Lemker Gillenwater, MBA ’11, senior manager of FP&A for North American sales at Under Armour. They visited three schools, including Loyola, with the goal of hiring two interns from each. They shared they are always looking for students who are well-rounded.
“We’re a very team-oriented company,” Gillenwater says. “We call each other teammates. You don’t have to play sports, but participating in extracurriculars really helps establish you.”
Jeff Hickman, manager of Disney campus recruitment, has seen Loyola students succeed in their roles in the Disney College Program.
“The Loyola students who have participated in past programs have truly embodied what is a terrific cast member. They are great with our guests. They work really well with other cast members. Additionally, they bring a high level of critical thinking that enables them to deal with complex guest situations,” Hickman said.
“The value of intellectually nimble and adaptable employees is significant and a must. In a world where companies are looking for talented and versatile individuals, the more tools in the tool belt, the better! And Disney is certainly no different.”
Employers across sectors echo those sentiments about Loyola graduates, speaking to how they apply their education and technical skills to the work they do.
But Deborah Phelps, M.Ed. ’98, is also struck by their commitment to the values they acquire through Loyola’s Jesuit, liberal arts education.
“I find that Loyola students are committed to the ideals set by the beliefs of the University, which emphasizes academic excellence and strong values and commitment,” said Phelps, who is executive director of the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools. “They are poised to become successful, productive citizens in our society and graduate globally competitive as they pursue their professional lives.”
Getting ready to apply
On this busy afternoon in the Career Center, Isabelle Garrity, ’20, has stopped by to ask Eileen Hiebler, ’95, associate director of career connections, for help polishing her résumé and optimizing her LinkedIn and Handshake profiles. The Ridgewood, N.J., resident is majoring in communication with a focus in public relations and advertising, while also pursuing a minor in marketing. Her goal right now is to land a relevant internship.
“I’m in prime time right now,” she says. “I want everything finalized so I can start applying.”
“Do you know how much time an employer spends looking at a résumé?” Hiebler asks her.
“Five seconds?” Garrity guesses.
“Seven,” says Hiebler.
They review Garrity’s résumé closely together, eliminating high school experience and discussing which extracurricular activities are most relevant. Then Hiebler encourages her to share it with others before she starts applying. “We recommend you show it to five to 10 people.”
Outside Hiebler’s office, student career ambassadors are meeting with other students who have dropped in for their own résumé critiques. Sean Cullity, ’20, a finance major from Manhattan—living two blocks from Times Square—is spending his shift in the Career Center meeting with students to offer résumé assistance.
“My main role is helping students create their résumés from scratch,” he says.
Last summer, Cullity had an internship in New York City doing finance and engineering work for a construction management firm. He did calculations for how much cement the firm needed for projects. It’s experience he believes will be valuable to him, even as he’s applying to real estate hedge funds. He keeps that in mind when he works with students who come in to develop their résumés.
“People come in and say, ‘I’ve only been a lifeguard,’ or, ‘I’ve just worked for Chipotle.’ And I say, ‘Don’t think of it like that. Talk about transferable skills. You have had a real job.’ People have to start somewhere.”