Accountancy sophomore Ted Dimiroupoulos doesn’t yet have his BS, but he’s been networking with the “C-Suite.” David Bernbaum, might be just a sophomore in finance, but he got the VIP tour at a global healthcare company. How? Thanks to an innovative job shadowing program in the College of Business, Dimiroupoulos, Bernbaum, and more than 400 freshman and sophomores were matched with 122 companies last year to demonstrate in very concrete ways how classroom skills relate to the workplace.
The Job Shadowing Program helps students explore their career interests by partnering them with business professionals, preferably alumni, whom they follow through a normal day on the job. From a student’s perspective, the chance to spend a day with the chief of a major company or even small business is eye opening. The program also allows employers an early peek into the ranks of potential job candidates, and helps companies to distinguish themselves among students early in their academic studies.
Dimiropoulos said a day spent with Robert W. Baird, an investment firm in Milwaukee, was helpful to learn more about the investment banking career he wants to pursue.
“I met with the managing director of the firm to get a top-down view. He shared a stock prospectus he wrote for a company going public and I sat in on a conference call with the CEO, CFO, and President of a New York company,” Dimiropoulos said.
David Bernbaum visited Cardinal Health during the 2006-2007 winter break. “They had a whole program set up for us and gave us a detailed tour of sales, marketing, and business units,” he said. “We saw the factory and quarantined areas where they develop medical equipment, and even went over their monthly accounting spread sheets.”
One of the major goals of the program is to expose freshmen and sophomores to real world experiences early in their studies.
“We want to get them thinking right off the bat about how their classroom studies can prepare them for a career and where they see themselves eventually,” said Pnina Steiner, the senior director of Business Career Services and co-founder of the program. “When you start early, you’re going to be more informed and marketable.”
An unprecedented 434 students were matched with 122 companies during the 2006-2007 winter break. Assistant Dean Lois Meerdink, who also co-founded the program, said they hope to have 600 students participating next year with even more companies.
“It’s the best endorsement companies could ever have, and far more effective than any advertising,” Meerdink said.
Jill Smart (’81 Business Administration), the chief human resources officer for Accenture, has hosted students in the program for the past two years.
“So far it’s a win-win for everyone involved,” she said. “The students get a first-hand view into our business and also observe us in action, asking questions in real time. What we get out of it is the opportunity to learn more about our future workforce, talking to them and finding out the values they are looking for in a company.”
Daniel Kumm (’01 MIS), an IT specialist for IBM’s Centers for Solution and Innovation, participated in the program for the first time this year. He shared with student participants how his work related to his classroom experience, specifically the College’s Management Information System (MIS) program (now called Information Systems and Information Technology).
“One of the first questions was did I know about the College’s MIS program? and I said, ‘Yes, I went through it and it was one of the main reasons I was hired!'”
“She met with our business analyst, who helps clients identify what they really need, and who makes sure they are on the same page with what we’ll create for them,” said Kumm. “I also made sure she met with my boss, the managing director of the division, so she got an overview of the team hierarchy and a sense of what her career path here would be.”
Sean Bauer (’04 MBA), a market manager for Walgreens Market Strategies, said his experience with the program over the past two years has helped promote the Walgreens’ name on campus. Bauer said that students are often unfamiliar with the breadth of opportunities available with the company.
“Most students are not familiar with the site selection process and how retailers strategize in the marketplace and put up new stores,” he said.
Bauer said he gets personal satisfaction from guiding students, as well as finding top talent. “There is one person who we met at a campus job fair, and after their second job shadow experience at Walgreens we made them an offer. They are starting in June!”
As the number of job shadow student and company participants increases, Meerdink said it enhances other Business Career Service offerings, namely the business career fair and internship opportunities. “We’re seeing more and more sophomores and even freshman participating in the career fair,” said Meerdink. “Companies have told us they were impressed students at various class levels, even the freshmen networking and asking thoughtful questions.”
The next job shadow program will take place during the 2007-2008 winter break. Business Career Services provides an Employee Guide to help companies get started and turn-key materials to craft an agenda for a full-day program. There is no or little cost to the company and students are responsible for travel and other expenses.
For more information, contact the College of Business Career Services at www.business.uiuc.edu/bcs.